Rafael Nadal will cherish everything he has achieved in 2022, claiming two Major titles and missing a chance to become world no. 1 at the US Open. Still, the 36-year-old is already thinking about the 2023 season, suffering four straight losses since New York and setting his eyes on a solid return in Australia in January.
Rafa came to the ATP Finals following an early Paris Masters loss, hoping to improve his game and get some rhythm. Instead, the Spaniard is 0-2 in Turin this week following losses to Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Felix was the favorite against Rafa, and he beat a 22-time Major winner for the first time following a 6-3, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 57 minutes.
The Canadian blasted 15 aces and defended all five break points to mount pressure on the other side. The Spaniard gave his best to stay in touch, but he could not follow the rival’s pace. Rafa lost serve away once in each set to propel the youngster over the finish line.
Felix had a massive 31-16 advantage in service winners and built his victory in the shortest range up to four strokes. Nadal played better in the extended rallies, but he could not keep him safe until at least one tie break.
Auger-Aliassime dictated the pace with 29 winners and 23 unforced errors. Rafa failed to impose his serve or forehand, finishing the match with 12 winners and 19 unforced errors. Felix saved two break points in the encounter’s first game, and they stayed neck and neck until 3-3.
Rafael Nadal has turned his focus onto the 2023 season.
The Canadian faced another test in game seven when his volley landed long, offering the Spaniard two more break chances. Felix stayed calm and denied both with forehand winners.
Rafa opened a 40-0 lead in the eighth game before experiencing disaster! He squandered four game points and faced a break chance after the Canadian’s forehand down the line winner. Rafa lost serve after a wayward forehand, and Felix held in game nine for 6-3 in 53 minutes.
Nadal squandered two game points at 1-1 in the second set and offered his rival a break point after a vast forehand error at the net. Rafa saved it before spraying a volley error on the second to fall 2-1 behind. Auger-Aliassime cemented the advantage with a hold in game four and moved closer to the finish line.
Rafa erased a break point in game five and created a break chance in the next one when Felix netted a routine forehand. The Canadian saved it with a powerful serve and held for 4-2. Auger-Aliassime forged a 5-3 advantage with a service winner in game eight and served for the victory in game ten.
Auger-Aliassime wrapped up the tenth game with a service winner to emerge at the top and deliver his first ATP Finals triumph. “I have been through a couple of super-difficult months. I have to turn my focus on the 2023 season in a couple of days; that’s the main goal.
I can’t do anything else but keep working on my game and give myself a chance to make a solid start to the upcoming season. I do not know what can happen in Australia in January; there’s still a month and a half until the first matches.
The previous six months have been challenging, and I have to accept the upcoming challenges. I have to work hard to recover the elements I lost after not being able to practice or compete properly. I have to stay positive and prepare for a bit more of a struggle before I restore my game,” Rafael Nadal said.