The 23-year-old Ruud went down 0-40 on serve at 5-6 and world No. 2 Nadal needed just one chance to seal the set, punching away a volley into an empty court.
It was a similar story in the second set with nothing between the players until Nadal pounced again in the 12th game. Ruud saved one match point, but Nadal clubbed away a backhand winner to finish his season on a high.
“I’ve been practising well, but just not had enough matches to be at the level I need to be, not enough confidence after six tough months,” Nadal said.
“At least I finished with a positive victory which is important. It’s important, the last official match of the season, so I am happy for that. At the end I am happy about that… I was able to win against a great player.”
Ruud still advanced to the semi-finals, but is now 0-8 against opponents ranked in the top three.
Nadal also took the opportunity on Thursday to welcome the decision to grant his Serbian rival Djokovic a visa which will enable him to compete at the 2023 Australian Open, describing it as “the best news possible”.
In a sensational series of events in 2022, Djokovic was detained and deported from Australia over his non-vaccinated status on Covid-19.
He was initially barred by the then-conservative government from returning to Australia until 2025, but Australia’s new immigration minister Andrew Giles said that with a significant easing in pandemic restrictions, the record nine-time champion was now welcome to return.
Nadal, who won the event in Djokovic’s absence, has a men’s record 22 individual Grand Slam titles to the Serbian’s 21, with Australia the next of the four annual Major tournaments.
“I always said the same: tennis is better when the best players are on the court,” said the Spaniard.
“Roger (Federer) is not playing any more. I missed a lot of Grand Slams for injuries. And last year Novak was not able to play there. That’s past. What’s next is Novak will be able to play again.
“That’s the best news possible, especially knowing that now Tennis: Alcaraz hails ‘great achievement’ at finishing youngest ever world No. 1
“(I’m) Happy for him. Happy for the tournament. Happy for the fans. That’s it.” REUTERS, AFP