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PREVIEW: 2022 ATP Tour – Nitto ATP Finals – Ruud v Fritz

Damien Kayat previews the Nitto ATP Finals match between Casper Ruud and Taylor Fritz on Tuesday, November 15 2022.

Casper Ruud - ATP Tour
Image COpyright - STeve Haag Sports

Damien Kayat previews the Nitto ATP Finals match between Casper Ruud and Taylor Fritz on Tuesday, November 15 2022.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

2022 ATP Tour
ATP Finals
Pala Alpitour, Turin, Italy (Indoor Hardcourt)
Selected Group Match – 15 November

Casper Rudd (3) 21/20 | Taylor Fritz (8) 15/20

This should be a fascinating match between two players who absolutely sailed through their opening matches. Casper Rudd has proven to be something of a revelation this year. I was quite critical of him over the past 18 months, stating that much of his success had been relegated to pretty 2nd rate clay-court events. I saw him as another Diego Schwartzman (unable to bridge that gap between clay and harder surfaces).

But the Norwegian has proved me wrong in stunning fashion this year. He lost in both the Roland Garros and US Open finals. He further highlighted his progress as a hardcourt player with a run to the Miami Open final. I don’t think I have ever seen such vast improvement in a player in such a short space of time. His serve was an obvious area of vulnerability last year. Now it is a real weapon that helps him control the tempo of matches.

He never came into this year’s finals in the greatest of form. But it’s likely that he was purely conserving his energy after a gruelling campaign. He dismantled Felix Auger Aliassime with a virtually flawless display, hitting 19 winners and just five unforced errors. That’s about as flawless as you can reasonably expect.

And he has shown his proficiency on these fast Turin surfaces- reaching the semi-finals in his debut appearance last year. Despite reaching a load of big finals this year, Rudd will still be desperate to claim that first huge title. With Carlos Alcaraz Garfia absent this year, Rudd could stand a brilliant chance of claiming this year’s ATP Finals title.

Fritz- like Rudd- also came into this event with fairly tame form. He actually came in as the first alternate following the late withdrawal of World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz Garfia.

He became the first American since John Isner in 2018 to reach the ATP Finals. Much like Rudd, Taylor Fritz didn’t face one breakpoint during his opening round rout of Rafa Nadal (the 2nd time he beat the Spaniard this year). The glamourous 25-year-old American looks born for these lightning Turin surfaces.

He served amazingly, barely giving the undercooked Nadal a sniff. And he just wore Nadal down with a barrage of monstrous forehands. He smacked 23 winners to only 10 unforced errors.

He won a staggering 60% of points on Nadal’s 2nd serve. That gives you an indication of the level of aggression necessary to prosper on these courts. But he also won a simply staggering 88% on his own 2nd serve. That’s ridiculous.

The speed of the surface really allowed him to get some pop off that kicker 2nd serve. And a man with his serve could go very far this week. He plays a no-nonsense brand of indoor tennis that can leave opponents slightly shellshocked.

He will look to keep the rallies short, breaking up the rhythm that is a hallmark of the Rudd game.

Verdict: Rudd to win in three sets at 7/2

This will be the first career meeting between these two (with the winner likely ensuring semi-final qualification). I think this could be a mini-classic. Fritz will utilize the exact same blueprint that he used against Nadal.

But I think it’s fair to say that Nadal was nowhere near his best the other day. Rudd will be far more defensively sound. Also, I think Rudd will win far more cheap points on both his serves. Still, you can expect a really tight match between the raw power of Fritz and the consistency of Rudd.

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