The 20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal is through to his 126th ATP final in Melbourne following a 6-4, 6-7 triumph over the young Finn Emil Ruusuvuori in an hour and 56 minutes. Nadal and Ruusuvori had never played before, but they know each other well.
The Finn trained with the Spaniard in Mallorca during the off-season in 2019 and 2020, gathering experience and forging his path towards the top-100. Emil reached his fourth ATP semi-final in Melbourne and gave his best against world no.
6, losing serve three times while converting one out of six break chances. Thus, Nadal is through to the title clash against the first-time ATP finalist Maxime Cressy, seeking the 89th ATP trophy and battling in at least one final for the 19th consecutive season.
In the opening game, Rafa defended two break chances to avoid an early setback and get his name on the scoreboard. There were no deuces or break chances in the next eight games, as they both served well and kept the returners empty-handed.
Rafael Nadal will seek the 89th ATP title on Sunday.
Nadal fired a forehand down the line winner in the third game, and Ruusuvuori locked the result at 2-2 with an unreturned serve. Rafa opened a 4-3 lead with a backhand winner in game seven but without chances on the return in the next one, as Emil held at love for 4-4 with an ace.
The Spaniard secured the ninth game with a hold at love after a thrilling forehand volley winner at the net and grabbed a break a few minutes later to steal the opener. Ruusuvuori lost focus in that tenth game and handed the set to his opponent after a forehand mistake.
Nadal held at 15 in the second set's opening game with his first ace before Ruusuvuori clinched the second with a volley winner at the net for 1-1. Rafa brought the third game home with a perfect drop shot winner and defended a break chance at 2-2 with another to keep his serve intact.
Nadal earned a break chance in game six with a forehand crosscourt winner, and Ruusuvuori erased it with a well-constructed attack to stay in touch with a great rival. Rafa grabbed a break in game eight following the rival's loose backhand and served for the victory.
Instead of bringing the encounter home, Nadal got broken at 30 after a cheap forehand mistake to keep the youngster in contention. Rafa saved a break point at 5-5 and created a match point with a forehand winner while returning in game 12. The Spaniard converted it when Emil sprayed a backhand mistake to seal the deal and advance into the final.