Tennis

Carlos Alcaraz will end the year as the youngest number 1 after Rafael Nadal leaves the ATP Finals | carlos alcaraz

Rafael Nadal was knocked out of the ATP Finals after Casper Ruud won the first set against Taylor Fritz in their round-robin match in Turin, also ensuring that Carlos Alcaraz would finish the year as world number 1.

Spaniard Nadal needed to win the tournament to wrest top spot from compatriot Alcaraz, but straight-set losses to Fritz on Sunday and Felix Auger-Aliassime on Tuesday left him needing Ruud to lose in straight sets to keep his hopes alive. The Norwegian, however, won the first set 6-3 against Fritz before securing victory over the American.

The 19-year-old Alcaraz, who is not competing in the tournament due to injury, will be confirmed as the youngest year-end No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

With his 6-3, 6-4 loss to Canada’s Auger-Aliassime, Nadal, the record 22-time Grand Slam champion, has now lost four straight ATP Tour matches for the first time since 2009. Auger-Aliassime, now managed by Nadal’s uncle and long-time mentor Toni, who sat in his box, will face Fritz in their final group match with a chance of reaching the last four.

“I had a match to get used to the conditions and I felt my game was better today, I was hitting accurately and consistently,” Auger-Aliassime said.

It was a disappointing performance from Nadal, who looked rusty having played just one tournament since the US Open.

Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd after the loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada. Photo: Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

“There are a couple of positive things. I was able to play two tournaments in the last three weeks. That’s a positive thing, something I couldn’t do for a while,” Nadal said.

“I don’t think I have forgotten how to play tennis, how to be mentally strong enough,” he continued. “I just need to get back all these positive feelings and all this confidence and all this strong mentality that I need to be at the level that I want to be. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach that level again. But what I have no doubt about is that I am going to die for it.”

Nadal held the advantage at times in the first set and twice threatened to break his opponent, who was defeated by Ruud in his tournament debut on Sunday.
Serving at 3-4, Nadal led 40-0, but a pair of double faults and baseline errors allowed Auger-Aliassime to break.

Auger-Aliassime, who has won four titles this season, sealed the first set with solid dominance and went ahead an early break in the second when Nadal stumbled trying to serve and volley.

Nadal showed a rare flash of brilliance but failed to make any impression as he went down in defeat.

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