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“The biggest win of the year for me” – Ruud’s season finally clicks into gear with return to a Grand Slam semi-final

Casper Ruud earns what he believes in his best win this season, given the struggles the Norwegian has endured throughout the first half of the year

Ruud, Roland-Garros, 2023 Ruud at Roland-Garros, 2023 JB Autissier / Panoramic

There will have been those in the tennis world who were pondering whether Casper Ruud‘s breakthrough season in 2022 was, in fact, a one-year wonder.

After a stellar season in which he reached two Grand Slam finals, the ATP Finals final and reached No 2 in the world, this year his form has faltered alarmingly.

The arrival of the clay-court season – the surface on which Ruud is most comfortable – did not quite provide the kick-start to his season that the Norwegian was hoping for. Despite winning an ATP 250 title in Estoril, the former world No 2 then suffered yet another series of concerning early losses prior to the French Open.

Ruud finds form at Roland-Garros, when he needed it most

However, great players find form at the most important moments. With confidence shaken, and no run of results from which to draw momentum, Casper Ruud has stepped up and he has delivered at Roland-Garros 2023.

I was very happy with fighting sort of back, after losing the third set, and the fourth and getting that one break. I served great when I had to in the fourth.

Casper Ruud

His latest win – a quarter-final victory over the immensely dangerous young Holger Rune – served as the exclamation mark to the statement Ruud has been putting out across his fortnight in Paris this year.

“Very happy. It’s for sure maybe the biggest win of the year for me considering how the year has been, so very happy with it,” the current world No 4 said in his post-match press conference.

Ruud went on to inadvertently sum up his own recent form when asked to explain his opponent’s slow start to their match.

“Yeah, it’s tough to explain. That’s how tennis and any I think sport that contains ball is sometimes. Sometimes you just maybe are not feeling it. Sometimes it goes this much out. Other times it goes this much in.”

Ruud gracious in victory

Despite a somewhat spiky relationship in the past, Ruud was typically gracious in victory, with encouraging words for his young opponent.

“He plays aggressively. He plays fearless. Some days he will play wonderful, and he will hit some of the most beautiful winners, some of the most beautiful dropshots that any player can hit.

“Some days, some evenings like today, he will be a bit, I don’t know, uncoordinated or do more mistakes than usual.

“But he is young. He will learn. He is one of the youngest guys on tour. He is one of the best in the world already, so he has 15 years to improve and improve and improve.”

Casper Ruud at 2023 Roland-Garros
Casper Ruud at 2023 Roland-Garros Image Credit: AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Ruud demonstrates Grand Slam mentality with Roland-Garros run

It is worth remembering that Ruud himself is hardly a veteran. Having only turned 24 at the end of last year, he has his best years on the tennis court ahead of him.

This tournament has been a stark reminder of all those who needed it of the sheer talent that the Norwegian possesses.

But, more pertinently, it demonstrates a mental fortitude that has so far been a question mark for Ruud. Having lost three career-defining finals last year, then struggled hugely with his form this year, there was a genuine doubt about whether the world No 6 had it in him to bounce back.

Those doubts have been firmly put to bed at this year’s Roland-Garros.

The greatest players find a way to peak at the Grand Slams, regardless of current form. Ruud has now shown he has that ability.

As the Norwegian himself explained, “What it takes, I don’t know, to do well at the Grand Slams? It just takes physical and mental sort of focus and you have to stay there for a long time.

“You have to know that every match can be long, and I think that’s what I was ready for today.”

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