Dialled-In Ruud Downs Berrettini For US Open SF Spot
Casper Ruud was bidding to reach his maiden US Open semi-final and fighting to keep his World No. 1 hopes alive on Tuesday in New York. Yet the Norwegian showed no signs of pressure in dismissing 13th seed Matteo Berrettini with a statement 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4) quarter-final victory at Flushing Meadows.
Ruud was ruthless on return as he made a dream start on Arthur Ashe Stadium, where he surged to a 6-1, 5-1 lead by frequently cutting through Berrettini’s defences with some sublime clean hitting from the baseline. Although the Italian recovered from a wayward start to find his feet and break Ruud’s serve early in the third set, the fifth seed’s heavy forehand and tenacity around the court proved decisive as he rallied to dominate the third-set tie-break and wrap a two-hour, 35-minute win.
US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 6, 2022
“That was a better start than I think I ever had before in a match,” said Ruud, who had not been past the third round in four main-draw appearances in New York prior to this year. “Everything was going my way, I was hitting all the spots I needed to plus Matteo maybe didn’t serve as well as he usually does. I was able to take care of the chances that I got.
“I got a little bit nervous towards the end of the second set, because things were almost going too well. It’s good, but sometimes you can get over-excited and start to think you can walk on water… So I had to calm down a little bit, and luckily was able to serve out the second set, and the third set was very tough.”
Ruud will take on Nick Kyrgios or Karen Khachanov in the semi-finals. Should he lift his maiden Grand Slam trophy in New York, the Norwegian will rise to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday. He can also take top spot if reaches the championship match at Flushing Meadows and Carlos Alcaraz does not.
“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.”
Ruud deployed plenty of variety to counter Berrettini’s serve in the pair's second tour-level meeting of the season, often varying his return position as he tried to keep the Italian on his toes. He later admitted he was enjoying adjusting his game to the spacious Arthur Ashe Stadium, something he believes will help in the semi-finals as he looks to reach his second Grand Slam final following his run at Roland Garros in July.
“This court allows me to play those deep returns, obviously, because [there is so much space] behind the baseline," said Ruud. "That helps. This court is special, it’s really big, the biggest in the world, so I guess I’m liking playing on it and looking forward to the next match.”
Prior to the match, Ruud had spoken about the importance of countering Berrettini’s serve, and the 23-year-old made the perfect start by breaking twice immediately en route to an early 5-0 lead. The Norwegian stayed rock solid while Berrettini struggled, with the Italian making 13 unforced errors to just two from Ruud as the Norwegian cruised to the opening set.
The confidence was flowing through the fifth seed, who pulled off a stunning defensive tweener lob to stay in the point at 15/0 on the Berrettini serve in the third game of the second set, going on to win it after the Italian netted a forehand. Ruud followed that with a ripped forehand pass on the run to set up a break for 2-1, a lead which soon became 5-1 as Berrettini was unable to keep up with his inspired opponent.
The Italian belatedly started to show some of the form that powered him to the semi-finals in New York in 2019, reeling off three games in a row as the momentum began to shift. It proved too late to rescue the second set as Ruud held on behind his serve to take it 6-4, but the Italian’s forehand began to find the corners and he charged to a 4-1 lead in the third set as the crowd sensed the beginnings of a revival.
Ruud, who finished the match having converted five from 14 break point opportunities, shut Berrettini’s hopes down in clinical style to seal the win. He stayed aggressive behind his forehand to reclaim the break before opening up an unassailable 6/2 lead in the third-set tie-break to improve his ATP Head2Head series lead against Berrettini to 4-2.