TURIN, Italy -- Rafael Nadal's bid to win one of the few titles missing from his glittering career started poorly as he was beaten in straight sets by eighth-seeded Taylor Fritz in their opening match at the ATP Finals on Sunday.
After a close-fought opening set, Fritz dominated the second as the American secured a 7-6 (3), 6-1 victory over the top-seeded Nadal.
"It feels great. I felt like coming out first match, especially for my hopes of getting out of the group, it was going to be really important,'' Fritz said. "I came out and played a great match, and I couldn't be happier.''
Fritz strengthened his grip on the match when he broke Nadal's serve in the fourth game of the second set.
Nadal fought valiantly to stay in the match and managed to save four break points in the sixth game before Fritz prevailed on the fifth time, leaving him to serve for the match. He closed it out when the Spaniard sent a forehand long.
It was only Nadal's second singles match since the US Open as he has struggled with injuries and also became a father for the first time in October.
Nadal has never won the ATP Finals title in 10 attempts. He finished runner-up in 2010 and 2013.
The match was largely dominated by serving, and a solitary break in the seventh game of the second set proved enough for the Norwegian player to secure a 7-6 (4), 6-4 win over the fifth-seeded Canadian.
"I think this is some of the best level that I have played since the US Open," said Ruud, who lost the final at Flushing Meadows to Carlos Alcaraz. "The last couple of months have been a little bit of a struggle, I have to honestly say that, but you have to accept it as well.
"You will face difficult moments in your career, and maybe these last couple of months was one of those. ... It doesn't matter how hard you practice if you don't win matches, so today was a great win for me."