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Ruud Rises Above Cilic Into First Slam Final

  • Posted: Jun 03, 2022

Ruud Rises Above Cilic Into First Slam Final

Norwegian projected to rise to career-high of World No. 6

Casper Ruud continues to thrive in his maiden trip deep into the second week of a Grand Slam. The 23-year-old advanced to his first major quarter-final earlier this fortnight — becoming the first Norwegian man to reach that stage — and is now through to the final after a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory against Marin Cilic in Friday’s semi-finals.

The eighth seed will face Rafael Nadal for the first time in Sunday’s final as he bids to deny the Spaniard a record-extending 14th Roland Garros crown and 22nd Grand Slam singles title. Ruud has trained at the Spaniard’s academy in Mallorca since September 2018, adding to the intrigue ahead of the championship match.

“It is amazing… He is the last player of the Big 3 and the very top players in the world I have never played against,” Ruud said of Nadal in an on-court interview. “So I guess this is perfect timing and worth the wait. To finally play him in a Grand Slam final will be a special moment for me. Hopefully a little bit for him as well.

“He has played so many finals, but at least he is playing a student from his academy this time. So it is going to be a fun one hopefully.”

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After Cilic powered through the opening set behind two late breaks, Ruud began a methodical comeback that picked up steam as the match progressed. The Croatian dominated the early rallies, winning and losing points on his own terms, before Ruud gained traction behind his high-rpm ground strokes.

After spending much of the opening set on defense, the Norwegian began to pull his opponent around by finding the corners with heavy spin. After an early break in the second, he served out the 6-4 set by winning five straight points to escape a 0/40 hole, finding several big serves and forehands during what proved to be the crucial moment of the contest.

The story of the match can be tracked by the winners-to-unforced errors counts for both men. After Ruud struck just three winners (and five errors) in the opening set, he hit 16, 12, and 10 in the final three, outpacing his error count by a healthy margin in each. Cilic produced a plus-four ratio in the opening two sets but a minus-nine mark in the last two.

“It was a great match from my side,” Ruud said. “I didn’t start the greatest, but Marin also played well in the first set. I was too defensive and then I was able to break him in the second set and that got me going again. From that break I played some of my best tennis this year. Serving well, playing aggressive, So I am super happy with my performance today.”

The only thing that could stop Ruud’s momentum was a protestor who locked herself to the net with the Norwegian leading by a double break in the third set. But after a brief delay during which both players left the court, he finished the job at 10:15 p.m., closing out the win in just under three hours.

He improves to 3-0 against Cilic in their ATP Head2Head series, with one win each year since 2020. Following the victory, Ruud rises above Carlos Alcaraz to No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. He is now projected to reach a career-high in Monday’s Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

An eight-time tour-level titlist, Ruud leads the ATP Tour in clay wins (66), titles (seven) and finals (eight, including Roland Garros) since the start of 2022. But he had not yet been able to translate that success to the Grand Slams, where a 2021 Australian Open fourth-round run was his previous best result. Ruud entered this Paris fortnight with a 7-4 record at Roland Garros and three straight third-round exits. He can match his previous wins total with a victory against Nadal on Sunday.

Cilic was bidding for his fourth major final and had the opportunity to become fifth active man to reach the final of all four Slams. The World No. 23 would have been the lowest-ranked Roland Garros semi-finalist since No 25 Robin Soderling in 2009.

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Nadal: 'Physically I'm OK' After 'Surviving' SF

  • Posted: Jun 03, 2022

Nadal: ‘Physically I’m OK’ After ‘Surviving’ SF

Spaniard advanced after Zverev retirement

Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev did not complete two full sets in Friday’s semi-finals — with the German retiring with an ankle injury — but they still battled for more than three hours under the closed roof on Court Philippe Chatrier. That puts Nadal’s time on court at 11 hours and 46 minutes across his past three matches.

“Physically I’m OK,” Nadal, who turned 36 on Friday, said in his post-match press conference. “Normally my problem is not the physical performance.”

His comments bode well for his bid for a record-extending 14th Roland Garros title and 22nd Grand Slam singles title. Nadal is also seeking to become the oldest champion in the clay major’s history. Victory in Paris would see him claim the Australian Open and Roland Garros titles in the same season for the first time.

“Of course today the conditions have been very hot, super humid. I know from experience that when these conditions happen, I suffer a little bit more in terms of physical… Have been a lot of up-and-downs during the match, but a good level of tennis with great points. But of course when the ball is slow, conditions are very heavy with big humidity, then physically you suffer more than with dry conditions.”

Nadal opted not to keep a second ball in his pocket when serving for much of the match, repeating a strategy he used at the Australian Open to prevent the balls from picking up moisture from his shorts and becoming even heavier.

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The Spaniard, who sympathised with Zverev following his unfortunate injury, also credited the German for his high-level effort and called his backhand the Tour’s best.

“He started the match playing amazing, honestly. Have been a miracle that first set,” said Nadal, who clawed back an early break and erased a 2/6 deficit in the opening tie-break. “But I was there fighting and trying to find solutions all the time.”

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Nadal Advances To Roland Garros Final After Zverev Retires

Nadal was frustrated by both Zverev’s game and the Chatrier conditions, explaining that he “was not able to create the damage” that he wanted in some of the slowest conditions he’s played in at Roland Garros.

“My ball was not bouncing as usual here, no?” he explained. “So with that conditions, I was not able to push him back. He was able to hit a clean ball all the time, so [I] was surviving. A lot of surviving moments during that match.”

The Chatrier roof was open for the day’s second semi-final between eighth seed Casper Ruud and 20th seed Marin Cilic. Nadal will be hoping that is the case again for Sunday, regardless of opponent. His coach, Carlos Moya, was spotted enjoying the open air as he scouted Nadal’s potential final opponents.

Nadal has climbed to No. 4 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings this fortnight and is guaranteed to extend his lead in the ATP Race To Turin.

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Murray Levels Up On The Grass With Nakashima Win

  • Posted: Jun 03, 2022

Murray Levels Up On The Grass With Nakashima Win

The Briton has not dropped a set on the week

Andy Murray extended his perfect record to six sets played and six sets won this season on grass courts, but he beat a different class of opponent Friday in his latest outing at the Surbiton Trophy.

The top seed at the ATP Challenger Tour event in his home nation, Murray defeated #NextGenATP American Brandon Nakashima, 6-4, 7-6(1), to advance to the weekend’s semi-finals. One break was enough for the former World No. 1, who fired 11 aces and saved the only two break points he faced. 

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In a tightly contested match, Murray edged the fifth-seeded Nakashima in win rate on both first serve (82% to 79%) and second serve (56% to 54%). It was the pair’s first professional meeting.

Murray powered past Jurij Rodionov and Gijs Brouwer in the opening two rounds, winning a pair of tie-breaks against the 26-year-old Dutchman Brouwer on Thursday. He next faces another American, seventh seed Denis Kudla, who scored a 6-4, 7-6(4) victory against Aussie Max Purcell in the quarter-finals.

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Nadal Advances To Roland Garros Final After Zverev Retires

  • Posted: Jun 03, 2022

Nadal Advances To Roland Garros Final After Zverev Retires

German suffers ankle injury

Rafael Nadal advanced to his 14th Roland Garros final Friday in dramatic circumstances when a serious ankle injury to Alexander Zverev halted their epic battle on the eve of a second-set tie-break, in a match that had already lasted more than three hours.

Under the roof on Court Philippe Chatrier, one of the matches of the season was cut short at 7-6(8), 6-6, when the German had to leave the court in a wheelchair after he badly rolled his right ankle when moving to his right when tracking down a Nadal forehand deep behind the baseline.

Zverev cried in pain following the fall and had to be assisted into a wheelchair by the physio and Nadal, who quickly made his way round the net to help support the 25-year-old. Cleary in agony, the World No. 3 returned to court on crutches several minutes later to shake the hand of the umpire. He received a standing ovation from fans and a hug from Nadal, who is now one win away from capturing a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam trophy.

<a href=''>Rafael Nadal</a>, <a href=''>Alexander Zverev</a>
Photo Credit: Getty Images

“Very tough and very sad for him,” Nadal said on-court after the match. “Honestly, he was playing an unbelievable tournament. He’s a very good colleague on the Tour. I know how much he’s fighting to win a Grand Slam, but for the moment he was very unlucky. The only thing I’m sure is that he is going to win not one — more than one. I wish him all the best and very fast recovery.”

Zverev had been playing bold, brilliant tennis. He held four set points in a dramatic first-set tie-break before Nadal produced a jaw-dropping combination of offense and defense to claim the opener. The intensity did not drop in a pulsating second set that reached another tie-break before a match that promised to become the best of the year was cruelly truncated.

<a href=''>Alexander Zverev</a>
Photo Credit: TOMAS STEVENS/AFP via Getty Images

The injury has robbed Zverev of his chance of rising to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings by winning his first major.

“It has been a super tough match, over three hours and we didn’t even finish the second set. It’s one of the biggest challenges on the Tour today when he’s playing at this super-high level, to play against him,” Nadal added. “Difficult to say a lot of things today, the situation. Of course for me, as everyone knows, to be in the final of Roland Garros for another time is a dream, without a doubt.

“But at same time, to finish that way… I have been there in the small room with Sascha before we came back on court, and to see him crying there is a very tough moment, so all the best to him.”

<a href=''>Alexander Zverev</a>
Photo Credit: Getty Images

In a three-hour, 13-minute physical clash, both players looked to dictate with their heavy-hitting as they pulled each other around in front of a vocal crowd.

The Spaniard, who is celebrating his 36th birthday, rallied from a break down in the first set as he overcame an early attacking bombardment from Zverev by hanging in points and finding greater depth and weight on his groundstrokes. Nadal then saved four set points in the tie-break, battling back from 2/6 to clinch a mammoth first set after one hour and 31 minutes.

The 91-time tour-level titlist then showcased his fighting qualities in the second set, rallying from 3-5 in the second set to force what would have been another tie-break. Devastatingly for the German though, he could not continue after suffering an injury to his ankle in the last point of the 11th game of the second set. The injury brought an early end to a match that was on course for being one of the best of the season.

<a href=''>Rafael Nadal</a>
Photo Credit: Getty Images

The fifth seed is aiming to capture his 14th Roland Garros crown and record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title this weekend at the clay-court major. If Nadal overcomes Casper Ruud or Marin Cilic in final on Sunday, he will eclipse countryman Andres Gimeno and become the oldest champion in tournament history.

The World No. 5 defeated long-time rival Novak Djokovic in a Roland Garros 4-hour, 10-minute thriller to improve to 29-30 in their ATP Head2Head series and set the 10th meeting with Zverev.

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Zverev, who lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals last season, was looking to become the second German man to reach the Roland Garros final in the Open Era, joining 1996 runner-up Michael Stich.

Last month, Zverev advanced to the championship match in Madrid, before he enjoyed a run to the semi-finals in Rome. The German also reached the last four on clay in Monte Carlo in April. Meanwhile, Nadal is 29-3 on the season, having captured crowns at the Australian Open, Melbourne Summer Set and Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC. The 91-time tour-level titlist, who holds a 111-3 record at Roland Garros, has never won the Aussie Open and Roland Garros titles in the same season.

Did You Know?
The last retirement in a Grand Slam semi-final or final came at the 2018 US Open, when Nadal retired against Juan Martin del Potro after the second set, with the Argentine leading their semi-final clash 7-6, 6-2. The last retirement at a Roland Garros semi-final or final came in 2006, when David Nalbandian retired against Roger Federer during their last four encounter. The Swiss star was winning 3-6, 6-4, 5-2 at the time.

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