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‘Playing Rafa at Roland-Garros is the biggest challenge in tennis’ – Ruud ready to play his idol

There can’t be anything more exciting and overwhelming than playing a first Grand Slam final against your idol

Casper Ruud Casper Ruud signs autographs after his semi-final win against Marin Cilic (Fotoarena/Panoramic)

Rafael Nadal will play for his 14th Roland-Garros title on Sunday, and the man standing in his way is one of his academy visitors. That means Casper Ruud is well aware of what it is going to take to beat his idol on his beloved Parisian clay.

“To play Rafa in a Roland Garros final is probably the greatest challenge there is in this sport,” he told a press conference after beating Marin Cilic in the semi-final. “I believe he’s 13-0 in the finals, so just shows that it might sound like an impossible task. But of course I will give it a shot like the other 13 people before me have done. It’s obviously going to be tough. We all know what a great champion he is and how well he plays in the biggest moments and the biggest matches.

“I’m just going to try to enjoy it. I will be the underdog, and I will try to, you know, tonight and tomorrow night dream about great winners and unbelievable rallies, because that’s what it’s going to take if I want to have any chance, and I will need to play my best tennis ever.”

Ruud: I’ll give it a shot at the title

The 23-year-old pointed to his performance in the third and fourth set against Cilic as evidence that he is coming into form at just the right time – and also revealed that he is well aware of the illustrious men who have tried to beat Nadal in a French Open final previously.

“I think I could probably tell you all the finals and who he has played and who he has beaten, because I watched them all on TV,” he added.

“It’s going to be amazing to be there myself when you have seen players like, start with Puerta, Federer, Djokovic, Thiem, all the guys who have played him in a finals, Wawrinka. So to be a part of that group myself is something I can always brag about after my career.

“Hopefully, like I said, I will of course give it a shot at the title, and would be nicer to be able to brag about the title as well after my career.”

Ruud: Nadal’s always beaten me in practice

And although they have never met on the tour, they know each other from practice in Mallorca; Ruud even joked about his head-to-head with his mentor.

“He always pretty much has always beaten me! There’s been some close sets, 7-6, 7-5, but it always goes his favour. But it’s because we are playing in [his] academy and I want to be nice to him…when you are the guest you need to give him some — to be a nice guest! No, I’m just kidding.

“Of course it will be, like I said, challenging. He has beaten me pretty much all the times in practice. I will try to figure something else out than in the practices, how to beat him. Like I said, I will just enjoy the moment. This is a special occasion for both of us. He’s playing for his 22nd. I’m playing for my first.

“Big contrast, but like I said, I’m the underdog and we will just enjoy the moment.”

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