Sunday 1/16/22
SPORTS

Nadal in Melbourne final as legend bids to stretch trophy streak

The 35-year-old Mallorcan looked set for a routine win but dropped serve at 5-3 in the second set, allowing world number 95 Ruusuvuori a path back into the contest
08 January 2022, Australia, Melbourne: Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori during their men's singles match on Day 6 of the Melbourne Summer Set tennis tournament at Melbourne Park. Photo: James Ross/AAP/dpa.
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Finland's Emil-Ruusuvuori during their men's singles match on Day 6 of the Melbourne Summer Set tennis tournament at Melbourne Park. Photo: James Ross/dpa.

Rafael Nadal fended off a battling Emil Ruusuvuori to reach the Melbourne Summer Set final as the Spanish veteran bids to land the 89th singles title of his stellar career.

Nadal, who has won at least one ATP Tour tournament in every season from 2004 onwards, will look to extend that streak into a 19th year after scoring a 6-4, 7-5 win in the Rod Laver Arena.

He has not captured a title in Australia since 2009, when he landed his only Australian Open triumph to date by beating Roger Federer.

Nadal will be a strong favourite against American qualifier Maxime Cressy in Sunday's final, despite being made to work hard to see out victory over 22-year-old Ruusuvuori.

The 35-year-old Mallorcan looked set for a routine win but dropped serve at 5-3 in the second set, allowing world number 95 Ruusuvuori a path back into the contest.

It provided Nadal with a test of resolve that he came through, tying up victory in an hour and 56 minutes, an encouraging sign as he continues to battle for full sharpness after a near five-month absence.

Nadal acknowledges he may not have long left in tennis, and he wants to make the most of the opportunities that remain.

'Passionate about tennis'

"I just love what I'm doing," he said in an on-court interview. "I always feel passionate about the sport in general and I feel a very lucky person that I can live from one of my hobbies, tennis.

"I know it's not forever and it's not a job I'm going to do for 50 years, but I want to enjoy it as much as I can while I still have the chance."

The foot injury that caused the 20-time grand slam winner to curtail his 2021 season in August has not prevented him finding winning form this week and now Paris-born Cressy awaits, with the 24-year-old world number 112 enjoying a remarkable week.

Cressy was a 7-5, 7-6 (11-9) winner on Saturday against Bulgarian third seed Grigor Dimitrov, serving 17 aces on the way through to his first ATP Tour final.

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