Match Report

Ruud Races Past Zverev, Returns To Roland Garros Final

Norwegian to meet Djokovic in Sunday’s championship match
June 09, 2023
Casper Ruud improves to 22-11 for the season by defeating Alexander Zverev on Friday to reach the final at Roland Garros.
Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Casper Ruud improves to 22-11 for the season by defeating Alexander Zverev on Friday to reach the final at Roland Garros. By ATP Staff

Emulating past successes is never easy, but Casper Ruud made it appear so on Friday at Roland Garros.

The Norwegian charged to his third championship match in the space of five Grand Slam events with a seemingly nerveless 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 semi-final victory against Alexander Zverev at the clay-court major. Ruud, who was a finalist in Paris a year ago and at the 2022 US Open, delivered a performance full of his trademark clean baseline hitting to overwhelm Zverev and wrap a two-hour, nine-minute triumph on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

“Honestly I just went out there and tried to play without too many feelings, without thinking too much,” said Ruud in his on-court interview. “If it’s towards the end of the tournament, everyone here playing today has done well anyway. So I tried to play without pressure, without thinking too much, and not to play with too much emotion, if that makes sense.

“Today just went really well. From the beginning to the last point everything was going my way, luckily, and I’m just very happy to win this match.”

Ruud converted six of 10 break points he earned to book his spot in Sunday’s championship match, where he will play for his maiden major title. His opponent there will be two-time champion Novak Djokovic, who earlier defeated Carlos Alcaraz 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1.

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Ruud arrived at Roland Garros with a modest 16-11 record for the year, but had shown recent signs of being back to his best after a difficult start to 2023. The 24-year-old lifted his 10th ATP Tour title in Estoril in April and reached an ATP Masters 1000 semi-final in Rome in May, and he has continued his resurgence in Paris by dropping just two sets en route to his third major final.

“I didn’t come into Roland Garros thinking I was a favourite to reach the final,” said Ruud. “Not at all. I was trying to think one match at a time, and let’s see how it goes from there.

“Obviously I [thought then that I] would love to be back in the final like last year, and I [was] always thinking about trying to defend this final spot from last year, but here we are, two weeks later. It’s been two very fun weeks here in Paris, just as fun as last year, and hopefully the third time can be the charm for me.”

Ruud was 83rd in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin after his third-round exit in Miami in April, but he has now surged to eighth as he chases a third consecutive appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals.

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The dominant feature of his performance against Zverev was his sheer relentlessness in making his opponent play. Ruud made just 19 unforced errors across the three sets, compared to 37 for Zverev, and his rocket forehand was the key weapon behind his final tally of 25 winners.

Zverev dropped his opening service game of the match but immediately responded with a break of his own in the third game for 1-2. That was as good as it got for the German, who did not break his opponent’s serve again. Ruud notched another break in the next game and was hugely effective at blunting the 22nd seed’s booming delivery with some razor-sharp returning throughout.

A solitary break in the seventh game was enough for Ruud to seal the second set and he raced to victory from there as a tiring Zverev struggled to stick with his opponent. The fourth seed cruised to the third set without facing a break point to complete his triumph and level his ATP Head2Head series with the German at 2-2.

“[I’m] very disappointed with today, because I think you can lose but the game just was not there at all,” said Zverev after falling at the semi-final stage for the third consecutive year at Roland Garros. “[It was] a big difference unfortunately to the previous matches, but that's the way it is. He played well. I played very, very much below average. That's how it goes.”

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