Rafael Nadal held off a late surge to beat Finnish rising star Emil Ruusuvuori, 6-4, 7-5, and reach the 126th ATP final of his career at the Melbourne Summer Set.

The Spaniard is now a win away from the 89th ATP title of his career.

“Starting another season, especially here in Australia, means a lot to me. I’m happy to be back,” Nadal said in his on-court interview. “Of course I need to do some things better on the court, but after a while of being here it’s step by step.”

Earlier this week, Nadal had some issues closing out another player, Ricardas Berankis, in his opening match—he watched a 6-2, 5-2 lead become 5-all in the second set before dispatching the Lithuanian qualifier, 6-2, 7-5.

And his semifinal victory over Ruusuvuori was a little bit of deja vu, as a 6-4, 5-3 lead closed in to 5-all in the second set. But he held and then broke one last time to put away the 22-year-old after an hour and 55 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who’s playing his first ATP event in five months this week, was asked afterwards how his body is holding up.

“Good,” he replied. “After a while you’re always a little bit more worried about what can happen, but things are going well, and my body is holding.

“I need matches like today, and to play with the best attitude possible, even if sometimes the tennis is not perfect. I’ve been through this process a couple of times so I know how to do it. It’s about patience and trying my best every single moment.”

And on how he feels about being back in Australia? “Of course, no one player can have a different plan in January, because here is great,” he said.

“We’re playing in one of the best tournaments in the world.”

Nadal finished the match with 24 winners to 21 unforced errors, and he converted three of his four break point opportunities.

Nadal has an 88-37 career record in ATP finals.

Nadal has an 88-37 career record in ATP finals.


Awaiting the No. 1-seeded Spaniard in Sunday’s final in Melbourne will be No. 112-ranked American qualifier Maxime Cressy, who’s taken out the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds—Reilly Opelka and Grigor Dimitrov—en route to the first ATP final of his career. He had never even been to an ATP semifinal before this week.

Cressy will also be going for his first Top 10 win against the No. 6-ranked Nadal. He’s played players in the elite twice before, falling to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the 2020 US Open and Alexander Zverev at the 2021 Australian Open.

Nadal and Cressy will be playing each other for the first time.