In a battle between two of the biggest forehands on the ATP Tour, Casper Ruud downed Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6(4), 6-4 on Sunday to kick-start his 2022 Nitto ATP Finals campaign with a win.

Ruud arrived at the Pala Alpitour for his second appearance at the prestigious season finale off the back of a tough run of form. The 23-year-old won just two matches across four tournaments prior to Turin, but he was sharp from the first game as his consistent heavy hitting kept Auger-Aliassime under constant pressure.

“I think this is some of the best level that I have played since the US Open,” said Ruud after the match. “The last couple of months have been a little bit of a struggle, I have to honestly say that, but you have to accept it as well. You will face difficult moments in your career, and maybe these last couple of months was one of those… It doesn’t matter how hard you practise if you don’t win matches, so today was a great win for me.”

A Green Group encounter largely dominated by serve was decided by a few crucial moments. Ruud stayed the more consistent to pull clear in the first-set tie-break after the first five points had gone with serve, while a solitary break in the seventh game of the second set proved enough for the third seed to wrap a one-hour, 51-minute victory in the opening singles match of the week.

Although Auger-Aliassime outhit Ruud by 30 winners to 19, the Norwegian offered his opponent little in his service games. Ruud did not face a break point in the match as he improved his ATP Head2Head record against the Canadian to 3-1.

“Felix has been on a roll this fall and I knew he was going to come out strong,” said Ruud. “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 third-seeded Ruud is looking to progress from the round-robin stage for the second consecutive year in Turin. The Norwegian fell to Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals in 2021.

“I had a great start, just the way I needed to,” said Ruud. “[Winning in straight sets]. The next match is going to be tough no matter who I play, but at least I have a win in the bag.

“I’m not going to try to relax, but I know that I don’t need to sort of stress or try to rush things to try to turn it around, so that’s hopefully a good thing… I’m not going to count on anything, I’m just going to focus on the next two matches and in a way pretend that this never happened. So, I need to bring my A-game in the next two matches as well.”

It was a tough tournament debut for Auger-Aliassime, who was unable to find the level that saw him win 16 straight matches and lift three consecutive ATP Tour titles across October and early November. The 22-year-old Canadian will seek to bounce back in his remaining round-robin matches against Rafael Nadal and Taylor Fritz.

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