Taylor Fritz upsets Rafael Nadal to kick off Nitto ATP Finals

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

No. 8 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States took down top-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain 7-6 (3), 6-1 on the first day of round-robin play at the Nitto ATP Finals on Sunday in Turin, Italy.

Fritz got ahead 3-0 in the first-set tiebreaker before staving off the 22-time Grand Slam winner. The second set was much neater for Fritz as he won the final five games, though Nadal saved four break points during the sixth game before succumbing on Fritz’s fifth try.

“It feels great. I felt like coming out first match, especially for my hopes of getting out of the group, it was going to be really important,” Fritz said after the match. “I didn’t want to put myself in a position where I needed to win out if I wanted to move on. I came out and played a great match, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Nadal saved seven of nine break points in all, but he never pushed Fritz to break point. Fritz had 23 winners and just 10 unforced errors, while Nadal had 18 winners but 22 unforced errors.

Nadal is now on a three-match losing streak. After Frances Tiafoe eliminated him in the U.S. Open Round of 16, Nadal has played just one other tournament, losing to Tommy Paul in the Round of 32 of the Rolex Paris Masters.

Fritz and Nadal are playing in the Green Group to open the ATP Finals, along with third seed Casper Ruud of Norway and fifth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.

In Sunday’s other match, Ruud got past Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Auger-Aliassime led the first-set tiebreaker 2-1, and after Ruud rallied back with three straight points, he pushed back to tie it 4-4. Ruud won the next three points from there and kept it going in the second set, where he came back from a trio of deficits by breaking Auger-Aliassime’s serve in the seventh game.

“Felix has been on a roll this fall and I knew he was going to come out strong,” Ruud said. “I was playing well, I found some of my best level that I have played in recent months, so I am extremely happy to be able to bring that out here in the finals. I knew if I wanted to have any chance against any of the guys in my group I would have to bring my A-game, and today I was able to do so.”

The Nitto ATP Finals are the season finale for the top eight players in the world. After two groups of four play a single round robin, the top two players from each group will advance to a single-elimination bracket.

Green Group match record (set record, game record)
1. Taylor Fritz 1-0 (2-0, 13-7)
2. Casper Ruud 1-0 (2-0, 13-10)
3. Felix Auger-Aliassime 0-1 (0-2, 10-13)
4. Rafael Nadal 0-1 (0-2, 7-13)

Red Group (will begin play Monday)
No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas
No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev
No. 6 seed Andrey Rublev
No. 7 seed Novak Djokovic

–Field Level Media

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