SF Preview: Unfinished Business For Ruud, Zverev at Roland Garros
Both Casper Ruud and Alexander Zverev stood on the brink of glory last year at Roland Garros before their campaigns came to sudden ends against Rafael Nadal. Ruud was swept aside by the Spaniard in a straight-sets final after Zverev suffered a gruesome ankle injury deep into the second set of what was already an epic semi-final against the eventual champ.
This season, both Ruud and Zverev muddled through largely middling results before peaking in Paris. Ruud's best result is a title at the ATP 250 in Estoril, but he had notched consecutive wins at just one other event prior to Roland Garros, reaching the Rome semis. Zverev entered the major with a 16-14 record on the year, his best results coming in semi-final runs in Dubai and Geneva.
"I think it's great to see Sascha back," Ruud said. "I think both for him and me, this is our biggest result this year, reaching the semi-final. I think we will try to play with shoulders down and just try to enjoy it.
"It's been a tough year for Sascha, and he has fought his way back, and he is back in the semi-final here. The beginning of this year for me has not been great, so it's great to get a good result here for me."
Since Zverev made his return from injury to the ATP Tour in January, he has had this event circled.
"It was definitely a tournament that I marked on my calendar this year," the German said after his four-set quarter-final win against Tomas Martin Etcheverry. "I'm happy to be playing the way I'm playing here in Paris. I'm extremely happy with how things are going, but as I said, the tournament is not over yet. There are still potentially two very, very difficult matches ahead, and I'm looking forward to that."
The 22nd seed said it was a special moment when he returned to Court Philippe Chatrier for the first time this season, given what happened against Nadal one year ago. But now that he is in the rhythm of the tournament, the injury no longer occupies his mind.
"I don't think about it anymore. I'm going on court to win tennis matches," he said, adding that he truly began to play pain-free when the ATP Tour's European clay swing started in April.
Similarly, Ruud has said he does not carry the weight of his final defeat to Nadal, such is his respect for the 14-time Roland Garros champion. But after what he called his "biggest win of the year" against Holger Rune in an all-Scandinavian quarter-final, the Norwegian finds himself on the brink of another final.
While Ruud and Zverev have played just three times before, they have made a habit of meeting on the biggest stages. All three of their previous matchups came at the ATP Masters 1000 level, with Zverev winning two straight-setters in 2021 (Cincinnati, Paris) and Ruud triumphing in three in 2022 (Miami).
Their Roland Garros showdown will be their first meeting on clay. An intriguing tactical battle awaits, with Ruud set to test his steady, probing game against the power and length of Zverev, whose tennis has proven more mercurial.
Expect both to be at their best on Friday.
"I think we will both just try to enjoy the moment," Ruud said. "We would both love, of course, to be in the final on Sunday, so we're going to give it all and we're going to be ready to hopefully put on a good match."