Ruud Extends Run Of Good Form, Beats Felix
Casper Ruud got off to a strong start against Felix Auger-Aliassime on Tuesday and didn’t look back at the Mutua Madrid Open. The Norwegian, who has reached four straight ATP Tour quarter-finals (or better) this year, knocked out Canadian No. 15 seed Auger-Aliassime 6-1, 6-4 in one hour and 31 minutes on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium.
“I am very happy with the way I played," said Ruud. "I will take all the Masters 1000 wins I can get. I played solid and steady today. Madrid is a little bit different to other clay-court events because of the high bounces and altitude. I hit with good length and I served unbelievably well today. I have been working a lot on my serve recently, so it's nice to see it's coming together a little bit. I hope I can keep my level high.”
Ruud, a semi-finalist at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (l. to Rublev) and at last week’s BMW Open in Munich (l. to Basilashvili), will now prepare to face Japanese lucky loser Yoshihito Nishioka. The 22-year-old, who did not face a break point, is now 7-2 on European clay this year.
"I think that I have proved myself in Rome [last year] and in Monte-Carlo that I can play at a high level," said Ruud. "To reach the semi-finals in Madrid, I will have to play well again. I have a lot of motivation to play well throughout the clay-court season."
Ruud capitalised on errors from Auger-Aliassime to break twice – at 2-1 and at 4-1 – in the first set. The World No. 22 completed the 34-minute opener with a big forehand winner. Ruud saved two break points at 2-2 in the second set, then clinched the seventh game after Auger-Aliassime struck a forehand approach into the net. Ruud closed out the pair's second ATP Head2Head meeting on his fifth match point.
Auger-Aliassime, who is now 12-8 on the 2021 season, reached the Murray River Open final (l. to Evans) in February.
Nishioka replaced last week’s Millennium Estoril Open runner-up Cameron Norrie in the main draw after the Briton withdrew from the clay-court tournament due to a foot injury. Nishioka won 30 of 34 first-service points to beat Serbia's Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 6-4 in 78 minutes.
Later in the day, Benoit Paire struck 14 aces past Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, last week’s BMW Open titlist, 6-4, 7-5 in 73 minutes. The Frenchman will now play Stefanos Tsitsipas, the recent Monte-Carlo champion (d. Rublev) and Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell runner-up (l. to Nadal).