Melbourne, Jan 8 (IANS): Top seed Rafa Nadal defeated Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland on Saturday to book his place in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set, where he will face American qualifier, Maxime Cressy.
The Spanish superstar, in only his second match since August 2021, drew on his big-match experience to battle past Ruusuvuori 6-4, 7-5 in one hour and 56 minutes semi-final clash.
Pressure mounted on Ruusuvuori in the first set, which ended with a double fault and a forehand error. Nadal broke clear for a 5-3 lead in the 69-minute second set when Ruusuvuori made another groundstroke error, but the 22-year-old bounced back immediately.
Nadal regained his composure and the match ended with the Finn making a forehand error.
"It's an important comeback after five months outside of competition and it means a lot to me to be back in Australia," said Nadal, who last played at the Citi Open in August 2021.
"I need to do some things better on the court, but it's step by step. My body is holding up, and that's the main thing, and I need matches to get back to 100 percent. I know my tennis isn't perfect, but it's about being patient and doing my best," he added.
Earlier, Cressy continued his dream run and knocked out former World No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 7-5, 7-6(9) in two hours and four minutes.
The 24-year-old Cressy, who is already assured of his place in the Top-100 of the ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday, recovered from 3/6 in the second-set tie-break and closed out on his fourth match point. He struck 17 aces and saved all five break points he faced.
Cressy, will be now appearing in his first ATP Tour final. This week, he has also beaten Australian qualifier Rinky Hijikata, second-seeded compatriot Reilly Opelka (including two match points saved), and Jaume Munar.
Meanwhile, top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski will take on sixth seeds Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi in the Melbourne doubles final on Sunday.
Koolhof and Skupski knocked out third seeds Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2, 6-4 in 68 minutes, while Nedovyesov and Qureshi overcame Ricardas Berankis and Denys Molchanov 6-2, 6-2 in 57 minutes.