SF Preview: Ruud & Khachanov Chase History In New York
The Norwegian demonstrated his title credentials when he dispatched Italian Matteo Berrettini in straight sets to record his 43rd win of a standout season. With confidence high and the No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Ranking within reach, the fifth seed looks like a major threat on the hard courts in New York.
However, having never been beyond the third round in four previous appearances at Flushing Meadows, Ruud admitted he was not expecting his success in New York this fortnight.
“I'm honestly a bit surprised that I made it to the semi-finals here,” Ruud said following his victory against Berrettini. “But I think I have developed my hard-court game a lot the past year or two, and I think Miami this year showed me and I proved to myself that I can beat good players and reach later stages in big hard-court tournaments. That has been a sort of confidence booster for myself.”
Ruud advanced to the final on hard courts in Miami in April, before he reached the semi-finals in Montreal last month. Having demonstrated his pedigree on the surface, the 23-year-old will be aiming to raise his level further when he faces 27th seed Khachanov on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Ruud, who reached his only Grand Slam final at Roland Garros in June, leads the 26-year-old 1-0 in their ATP Head2Head series.
The task at hand will not be easy for the Norwegian, though, with Khachanov in the form of his life. The 26-year-old eliminated Montreal champion Pablo Carreno Busta in the fourth round before he powered past Australian Nick Kyrgios in a five-set thriller to reach his maiden Grand Slam semi-final.
The four-time tour-level titlist has climbed to No. 18 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings due to his run at Flushing Meadows and could jump to No. 11 if he wins his first title since 2018 and other results go his way.
Khachanov reached his career-high of World No. 8 in July 2019 after winning the Rolex Paris Masters, an ATP Masters 1000 event, the previous November.
“It’s one more step forward,” Khachanov said after his win against Kyrgios. “I'm really, really happy I could do it. Also I had to face and to beat Nick, who is playing [some] of the best tennis. It obviously was a tough match to kind of approach before. I just did it. I did the step forward. I made my first semi-final, so it's pretty simple in my head. I'm just really happy.”
If Ruud lifts the trophy on Sunday, he would become the first Norwegian man to climb to World No. 1 since the Pepperstone ATP Rankings were established in 1973. The nine-time tour-level titlist began the US Open at No. 7 but has a clear path to top spot following Rafael Nadal’s defeat against Frances Tiafoe. Read More On Battle For World No. 1.
“I don’t want to think too much about it, honestly,” said Ruud on the race for No.1. “It’s something that of course all young players dream about, so if I’m in a position to do it, let’s see if I can accomplish it… Of course, it’s a little bit of extra motivation to dig in, and even if you’re down on the score, to keep fighting. You never know what’s going to happen and if I’m very, very lucky I can leave New York as World No.1. So I’m trying to go for it of course.”
With the pressure on, all eyes will be looking at the 23-year-old Ruud as he looks to pass the Khachanov test and make more history in New York.