Ruud Riding High: Norwegian tops Dimitrov in San Diego to reach first hard court final

Norway’s Casper Ruud continued his breakout season on Saturday in San Diego, as he battled past Grigor Dimitrov in three sets to reach his first career final on a hard court.

Casper Ruud at the Laver Cup in Boston

Count the wins (46-12) and look at the ranking (10, from 27 at the end of 2020) – it’s easy to see that Norway’s Casper Ruud is having an excellent season in 2021. And he’s doing it, for the first time, on multiple surfaces. In 2021 Ruud has fine-tuned his game on the hard courts and the results show that he is making rapid progress.

His latest victory was further proof: a dogfight from start to finish with an in-form Dimitrov, who showed stellar tennis but couldn’t keep up the pace down the stretch as Ruud pulled away and won four of the final five games to lock down the 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory.

Dimitrov, playing his first ATP semi-final of the season, capitalized on five of his six break opportunities and nearly had the match turned around mid-way through the third set, but Ruud drew the line in the sand and made one final push to eke out the victory.

“I just tried to hang in there and in the end it was so close, like many matches are, and I’m very happy and lucky to be able to come through today,” Ruud said. “Matches like today make me believe that winning tournaments is possible. Tomorrow I will come out with all the energy I have left.”

Learning to win on hard courts

Having never played an ATP semi-final on hard court prior to this week, Ruud reached his first career ATP hard court final on Saturday to set a final with Cameron Norrie at the San Diego Open. The world No 10 has now recorded 16 wins on hard courts this season, a number that matches his total of wins on the surface from the start of his career through the end of 2020.

  • Ruud on hard courts, before 2021: 16-27
  • Ruud on hard courts in 2021: 16-5

Another interesting statistic: After today’s win over Dimitrov Ruud improved to 7-3 against the top-50 on hard courts in 2021, which compares favorably to the 2-14 record he held against the top-50 on hard courts prior to 2021.

Ruud, who has already won titles in Kitzbuhel, Gstaad, Bastad and Geneva on clay in 2021, will bid to become the first ATP player to win five titles in 2021 on Sunday.

Add it all up and you have a player that has top-5 potential and looks to be in very good position to qualify for this year’s ATP Finals at Turin. Ruud is currently in 8th place, which is actually 7th due to the fact that Rafael Nadal will not play again this season.

Race to Turin, total points as of Saturday

  1. Djokovic, 8370
  2. Medvedev, 6380
  3. Tsitsipas, 5470
  4. Zverev, 4915
  5. Rublev, 4120
  6. Berrettini, 3955
  7. Nadal, 2985
  8. Ruud, 2825
  9. Hurkacz, 2775
  10. Sinner, 2405
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