ATP

ATP Finals: Victorious Ruud 'fought fire with fire' to progress

By Sports Desk November 19, 2021

Casper Ruud revealed his approach was to "fight fire with fire" in his huge win over Andrey Rublev at the ATP Finals and is already relishing getting a shot at Daniil Medvedev.

The Norwegian has enjoyed a fine 2021, winning five ATP Tour titles, and has now moved into the semi-finals in Turin on his debut appearance at the prestigious year-ending event.

Ruud appeared to be on the way out when he was trailing by a set and a break against Rublev, having lost all four of the previous meetings between the pair.

But he fought back to win 2-6 7-5 7-6 (7-5) on Friday and extend his impressive season by at least one more match.

"The court is playing very fast and Andrey plays very fast," said Ruud, who triumphed despite only winning 98 of the 208 points played in an intense battle where his Russian opponent also impressed.

"He rips the ball harder than anyone on the tour and serves very well on his first serve. 

"We all want to play under control and with initiative, but it is not easy against Rublev because he makes you run and play defensively all the time. 

"I knew I had to fight fire with fire. 

"On the big points, I think I played quite smartly."

Aside from Ruud, the other three semi-finalists (Medvedev, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev) are all former ATP Finals winners, making this event the first since 1994 where that has happened.

US Open champion Medvedev represents a daunting challenge in the last four for Ruud, who bounced back from an opening Green Group loss to Djokovic by beating alternate Cameron Norrie before his high-quality winner-takes-all clash with Rublev.

"I am looking forward to Saturday already – it is going to be another tough battle," said the 22-year-old after firing down 14 aces in his victory.

"Medvedev is a different kind of player to Rublev. He is one of the best in the world, and he has proven himself as one of the best over the past two or three years. 

"I have played against him a couple of times and lost both, but I know a little bit about what I am going to face, and it is going to be a fun challenge.

"I am just enjoying the moment."

Two of the last three players to reach the last four on debut at the ATP Finals have gone on to win the tournament, Grigor Dimitrov (2017) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (2019).

Ruud will dream of replicating that duo, but Rublev must come to terms with a second consecutive group-stage exit in the ATP Finals.

"It is tough," Rublev said. "Hopefully I can get through it to get a good lesson, which will give me a huge improvement.

"In the moment, I got tight, which is normal. Casper played well. He has a great forehand – one of the best on tour."

Related items

  • Niners' All-Pro tackle Trent Williams 'adamant' he will play in NFC Championship Game Niners' All-Pro tackle Trent Williams 'adamant' he will play in NFC Championship Game

    San Francisco 49ers left tackle Trent Williams is "adamant" he will play in the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams despite a lack of practice time as he deals with a sprained ankle.

    Williams played through the injury as the Niners booked their place in the conference title game with a dramatic 13-10 road win over the top-seeded Green Bay Packers.

    He had missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday but was out on the field, albeit walking slowly, before the Niners made their departure for Los Angeles on Friday.

    San Francisco claimed a sixth successive win over the Rams in the final week of the regular season, coming back from 17-0 down to prevail in overtime, to clinch a place in the playoffs.

    The Niners achieved that feat without Williams, who missed that clash due to an elbow problem.

    All-Pro Williams was not ruled out until the day of the game, and head coach Kyle Shanahan will give him every chance to prove his fitness for this clash with a place in Super Bowl LVI on the line.

    "It's going to be like it was three weeks ago. I feel the same way as I did at the beginning of the week," Shanahan told a media conference.

    "He came out for walkthrough today and Trent is adamant that he's going and he was last time too, which, I believe Trent when he says that he's going to do everything that he can to play.

    "And so I'll be surprised if he doesn't, but I was surprised last time. I was also surprised he was able to finish the game versus Green Bay.

    "So hopefully his mindset will be how his body reacts on Sunday. We know it'll help us a lot, but if not, we'll deal with it." 

    Williams' influence on the Niners' passing offense and their rushing attack cannot be overstated.

    According to Stats Perform data, he ranked fourth among tackles with at least 100 one-on-one matchups in the regular season with a stunt-adjusted win pass protection win percentage of 91.81.

    In double-team adjusted run-block win rate, he was second with 81.56 per cent.

    Colton McKivitz, who filled in against the Rams in Week 18, would likely get the start at left tackle if Williams is unable to play.

  • Colombia enduring wretched goalless run to leave World Cup hopes in doubt Colombia enduring wretched goalless run to leave World Cup hopes in doubt

    Colombia continued their wretched goalscoring run on Friday as their bid to qualify for the 2022 World Cup took another blow.

    Reinaldo Rueda's side were stunned by Peru in Barranquilla as an 85th-minute goal from Edison Flores secured a 1-0 win for the visitors.

    Colombia had 30 shots to Peru's four, with 2.35 expected goals to their opponents' 0.36, and had more than five times as many touches in the opposition box. Somehow, they failed to make their dominance count.

    The result means Colombia have now gone six games in a row without scoring, with Paraguay also enduring the same barren run. It is the second-longest run of matches without a goal in the history of South American World Cup qualifying.

    It also leaves them in sixth place in the standings after 15 games, with Uruguay two points ahead and Peru three above them. Only the top four – presently Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Peru – will automatically qualify for the finals in Qatar.

    Colombia, whose only goals since September 10 last year came in a 2-1 friendly win over Honduras this month, will face Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela in their final qualifying matches.

  • Why the Rams have leapfrogged the Chiefs as Super Bowl favourites Why the Rams have leapfrogged the Chiefs as Super Bowl favourites

    There wasn't much value in being the favourite in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.

    Three of the four underdogs, the Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams, prevailed to progress to Conference Championship weekend.

    An incredible overtime win over the Buffalo Bills saw the Kansas City Chiefs, the sole favourite to prevail, join them in moving one game away from the Super Bowl.

    Despite a victory in a game many have already labelled as the best playoff game of all time, the Chiefs' position in the Super Bowl odds by Stats Perform's rest-of-season projection has gone down, with the Rams leapfrogging them and taking their spot as the team most likely to lift the Lombardi Trophy on February 13.

    So how has a week of action in which the Chiefs were victorious flipped the odds against Kansas City?

    Hollywood ending in store for LA?

    Rest-of-season or, in this case, postseason projection, projects every future game to give a predicted win percentage for each team across its remaining games. Rather than being a simulator of future games, the projections are calculated by looking at each team's quarterback and QB efficiency versus expected – performance in terms of yards added in expected passing situations – as well as team values for pass protection/pass rush, skill position players/coverage defenders and run blocking/run defense.

    For the playoffs, the projection has been used to calculate each team's odds of winning a home game against every postseason team, with those predictions then used to forecast each franchise's chances of reaching and winning the Super Bowl.

    Last week, prior to the Divisional games, the Chiefs were given a 27 per cent shot to win the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons, just ahead of the Rams on 26.3 per cent.

    Following their respective victories, the Chiefs are viewed as having a 37.84 per cent chance of taking the silverware back to Missouri. The more likely outcome, at least according to ROS, is that the trophy stays at SoFi Stadium with the Rams, whose odds of winning it for only the second time in franchise history have ballooned to 38.21.

    It is not a huge margin between the two, but the change at the top is enough to raise eyebrows given how devastating the Chiefs were on offense in defeating the Bills.

    But the Rams' position as the new Super Bowl favourite is more a reflection of the potential opponents, rather than a commentary on the merits of the respective teams.

    Another nail-biter for the Chiefs

    Kansas City already has experience of one nerve-shredding Super Bowl with an NFC West opponent, coming back from 20-10 down in the fourth quarter to beat the 49ers two years ago in Super Bowl LIV.

    And ROS expects either a meeting with the Rams or a rematch with the Niners to be similarly tense.

    The Chiefs would not be considered favourites in a home game with the Rams, Kansas City given just a 45.2 per cent chance to triumph.

    That number improves significantly in a matchup with the 49ers, against whom the Chiefs have 58.2 per cent odds of winning a home game.

    It is still not an overly decisive margin, however, and pales in comparison to the Rams' prospects of beating the alternative AFC representative, the Bengals.

    Cincinnati would have just a 16.8 per cent shot of winning a road game with Los Angeles, and those odds improve to just 19.8 per cent in a home game.

    In other words, while a close game likely beckons for the Chiefs regardless of who wins the NFC Championship Game, an upset win for the Bengals in Kansas City would make the Rams or the Niners (72.1 per cent home game, 67.2 per cent away game) clear favourites to win the Super Bowl on the neutral field site at SoFi Stadium.

    The Bengals' status as rank outsiders even after making it this far is in part based on the struggles of an offensive line that ranked 25th in Stats Perform's pass protection win rate and allowed nine sacks in the Divisional Round win over the Tennessee Titans.

    San Francisco (first), Los Angeles (second) and the Chiefs (15th) each ranked in the top half of the NFL in pass-rush win rate, meaning Cincinnati will be at a clear disadvantage in the trenches in the AFC Championship Game and in a potential Super Bowl matchup.

    The 2021 NFL season has been full of surprises, but the numbers clearly point to the Rams playing in a home Super Bowl against the Chiefs. 

    So, is everybody ready for Niners-Bengals?

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.