Rafael Nadal kicked off his South American Tour with a 7-6, 6-2 triumph over his good friend Casper Ruud in Buenos Aires' Arena Parque Roca. Rafa and Casper fought at the ATP Finals last week and did not have time to rest and embrace the holidays.
Two good friends took a plane and went to Buenos Aires for the first stop of their South American swing, setting the second clash in Chile in two days. Nadal and Ruud met twice on the Tour this year, with Rafa scoring a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 win in the Roland Garros final and a 7-5, 7-5 victory at the ATP Finals.
The Spaniard overcame a slow start against the Norwegian in his first Buenos Aires match since 2016 and dominated set number two to emerge at the top. Rafa served first and closed the encounter's opening game with a serve &volley combo.
Casper clinched the second game with an ace down the T line to add his name to the scoreboard. Ruud missed a routine volley at 30-30 in the third game, and Nadal closed it with an ace for 2-1. The Spaniard hit a backhand crosscourt winner in the fourth game and earned two break points.
Casper stayed calm, denied them and closed the game with a service winner. Rafa faced two break points in game five. He saved the first with a smash winner and netted a volley on the second to fall 3-2 behind. Nadal painted a volley winner in game six for 30-30 and fired a forehand crosscourt one for a break chance.
Ruud denied it with a beautiful smash winner, saved another and brought the game home with an unreturned serve for 4-2. The Spaniard grabbed the seventh game at love with a mighty forehand crosscourt winner and seized the first break point in game eight with a forehand crosscourt winner.
Rafa took the ninth game at 15 with an unreturned serve and created a set point on the return at 5-4. Casper saved it and held with a backhand crosscourt winner that locked the result at 5-5.
Rafael Nadal made a winning start in South America.
The Spaniard saved a break point in game 11 with a routine winner at the net, and the Norwegian claimed the next one with an ace for a tie break.
Ruud forged a 3-0 lead with a backhand cross court winner and stood two points from winning the set at 5-3. Casper had two set points at 6-4, but it was not to be for him. Rafa saved the second with a service winner for 6-6 and created a set point with a service winner.
Nadal missed a forehand from an ideal situation before saving a set point with an ace at 7-8. The Spaniard clinched the breaker 10-8 with a smash winner at the net for a massive boost. Rafa held after deuce in the second set's second game and clinched a break in the next one when Casper netted a forehand.
Ruud sprayed another wayward forehand in game five to experience the second straight break and fall 4-1 behind. Nadal came from 30-0 down in game six and placed a slice winner to bring it home and move closer to the finish line.
Casper served well while trying to stay in the set in game eight, and it was Rafa's turn to seal the deal in the next one. At 15-0 in game eight, Nadal blasted a jumping forehand down the line winner, firing one of his fastest forehands in a career! Rafa held at love with a service winner to celebrate the win ahead of their second duel in Chile in two days.