Nadal sees off Ruusuvuori in Melbourne to set up final against Cressy

Aug 7, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Maxime Cressy of the United States plays a shot against Feliciano Lopez of Spain in first round qualifying play for the National Bank Open at the Aviva Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 8 (Reuters) - Top seed Rafa Nadal held off a resurgent Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland on Saturday to earn a 6-4 7-5 win and book his place in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set 1 ATP 250 event, where he will take on American qualifier Maxime Cressy.

The Spaniard, playing his first competitive tournament since August, was given a stern examination by the dogged Ruusuvuori before coming out unscathed in just under two hours at the Rod Laver Arena.

Both players were solid on serve in the opening exchanges before Nadal's superior quality shone through as he secured a crucial break in the ninth game, eventually closing out the set with ease.

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Ruusuvuori never allowed Nadal to settle in the second set, matching him from the baseline with a string of searing winners.

The world number 95 broke back at 3-5 but was left to rue a number of break point opportunities as Nadal did enough to secure the win.

"It's an important comeback. Starting another season here in Australia, it means a lot," said Nadal. "Of course, I need to do things better on court ... but it's step-by-step."

Asked how his body was coping, the 20-times major winner added: "Good. Let's see tomorrow ... the body is holding well. I need these matches to improve. It's about being patient and trying my best every single time."

Former world number three Grigor Dimitrov was handed a 7-5 7-6(9) defeat by the big-serving Cressy, who fired 17 aces past the Bulgarian and won when he converted his fourth match point to advance to the final.

"I'm very pleased with my tennis," said Cressy. "Nothing happens by luck. I'm very proud of myself for staying focused the whole tournament so far. I played incredible today..."

Unseeded Cressy dominated the opening set but was drawn into a battle in the second set by his more experienced opponent.

Dimitrov's tenacity denied Cressy on match point three times before he eventually succumbed, handing the American an 11-9 win in the tiebreak when he steered his shot wide.


Second seed Simona Halep beat China's Zheng Qinwen 6-3 6-2 to set up a meeting with Veronika Kudermetova in Sunday's final of the women's Melbourne Summer Set 1.

The former world number one was rarely troubled by the hard-hitting Zheng and will meet third-seeded Russian Kudermetova following top seed Naomi Osaka's withdrawal from their semi-final with an abdominal strain. read more

"It's a great feeling to play in the final of the first tournament of the year," said Romanian Halep.

"I think I played well today, we both played really well and it's nice to see I can start this year pretty well because last year was not that easy."

In the Melbourne Summer Set 2 tournament, Amanda Anisimova reached the final with a comprehensive 6-2 6-0 win over number three seed Daria Kasatkina.

The 20-year-old American will take on Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who beat American Ann Li 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3.

"I had a slow start yesterday (in the quarter-finals) and me my and team talked about it a little bit because I don't want that happening again," said Asinimova.

"So we just went out in the warm-up, had a little bit more of an intense warm-up today and I came out playing really well, so I'm really happy with how I played today."

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Reporting by Michael Church and Dhruv Munjal, Editing by Lincoln Feast and Ken Ferris

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