Rafael Nadal dumped out of ATP Finals as Carlos Alcaraz clinches record-breaking landmark


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Rafael Nadal has officially crashed out of the ATP Finals following his defeat to Felix Auger-Aliassime on Tuesday. Casper Ruud needed to put just one set on the board against Taylor Fritz to confirm the Spaniard’s exit, and it means that Carlos Alcaraz will finish 2022 as the youngest-ever year-end world No 1. 

Back-to-back defeats at the ATP Finals have contributed to a four-match losing streak for Nadal in men’s singles. That stretches back to his agonising US Open round of 16 loss to Frances Tiafoe on September 5, with his last win coming the day before against Richard Gasquet. 

Nadal’s straight-sets loss against Fritz on Sunday was followed up with another convincing defeat against Auger-Aliassime, with the Canadian prevailing 6-3 6-4. After the match, the 36-year-old cast doubt over whether he could hit his former heights, but claimed that he would ‘die for it’. 

The result left his progression to the semi-finals out of his hands, with US Open finalist Ruud only needing a single set against Fritz to send the 22-time Grand Slam champion packing. 

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Sure enough, the Norwegian wasted no time in sealing Nadal’s fate, romping to the first set 6-3. He also won a decisive third-set tie-break to record his second win from two match-ups at the ATP Finals. Nadal and Ruud will face off on Thursday, although pride will be the only thing at stake from the veteran’s perspective. 

To rub salt in Nadal’s wounds, his failure to advance from the group stages rubber-stamped Alcaraz’s status as year-end world No 1. Still six months short of his 20th birthday, the teenager becomes the youngest person to achieve that feat in the sport’s history.

Alcaraz was last in action at the Paris Masters earlier this month, powering past Yoshihito Nishioka and Grigor Dimitrov before retiring from his quarter-final match against Holger Rune. The Spaniard was due to appear at the ATP Finals but he withdrew from the tournament and subsequently ended his season off the back of an abdominal tear. 

It has been a stunning year for Alcaraz, who followed up his impressive French Open quarter-final run with a sensational triumph at Flushing Meadows in September. Three successive five-set marathons en route to the final preceded a comparatively comfortable victory over Ruud to seal his first major crown. 

Alongside his US Open success, Alcaraz added Masters titles in Paris and Madrid to clay event victories in Brazil and Barcelona. He started the calendar year ranked 32nd in the world and he has beaten virtually every big name over the past 12 months to establish himself as top dog. 

Stefanos Tsitsipas was also in with a shout of finishing the year as world No 1 but his opening-match ATP Finals defeat to Novak Djokovic made it an impossible mission. In setting the new record, Alcaraz shattered the old benchmark, set by Lleyton Hewitt in 2001, by a hefty margin of 16 months. 



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