World number six Rafael Nadal topples Emil Ruusuvuori to enter the Melbourne Summer Set final, the first since Rome 2021. Next, he faces American sensation Maxime Cressy in the championship match.
Rafael Nadal is back in action at Melbourne Park, contesting the Melbourne Summer Set, an ATP 250 event held in the same scenario as the upcoming Australian Open.
Playing for the first time at tour-level since a lingering left foot injury sidelined him from the tennis courts, Melbourne Summer Set is giving the Spaniard the opportunity to test himself, gaining valuable time on court, ahead of the first major of the season.
On Saturday, the 35-year-old booked a ticket into his career final number 126, emerging victorious at the Rod Laver Arena, defeating World No. 95 Emil Ruusuvuori 6-4, 7-5 in one hour and 56 minutes.
After the match, he outlined: “It’s an important comeback after five months outside of competition, and it means a lot to me to be back in Australia.
“I need to do some things better on court, but it’s step by step. My body is holding up, and that’s the main thing, and I need matches to get back to 100 percent. I know my tennis isn’t perfect, but it’s about being patient and doing my best.”
En route to achieving an 89th career singles title, the top seed hit 24 winners, converting three of his four break-point opportunities.
On Sunday, Nadal will meet American qualifier Maxime Cressy, who became a first-time ATP finalist after edging third seed Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 7-6(9) Saturday.
The 24-year-old dominated the opener with a powerful serve, hitting 17 aces overall.
The unseeded player, set to break into the Top 100 for the first time in his career Monday, came back from a second set tiebreak 3-6 to beat Dimitrov in two hours and four minutes.
Despite the loss, the relentless Bulgarian has continued to show the same good form displayed during the second half of last year, gearing up for his 12th consecutive appearance at the AO.
“I’m very pleased with my tennis,” Cressy said. “Nothing happens by luck. I’ve been working really, really hard with my team on and off the court in this preseason and have big goals. I’m very proud of myself for staying focused the whole tournament so far.”
For his part, Nadal set off his campaign with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis, advancing into the tournament quarter-finals last Thursday, competing in his first ATP event in five months.
His next adversary, Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, withdrew from the match due to a foot injury, sending the Manacor native straight into the semi-final.
Griekspoor later wrote on Twitter: “These are the matches you play for. Sad to pull out with a foot injury… Trying everything to be healthy for AO in 10 days time!”
Nadal and Cressy will face one another for the first time on tour Sunday.
The 20-time grand slam champion made his inaugural official appearance in 2022, Wednesday, playing doubles at the event with Munar.
The Spanish pairing claimed victory over Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry and Sebastian Baez 6-3, 3-6, 10-4; then they decided to retire from the match with Andrey Golubev and Franko Skugor due to fatigue.