Day 4 diary: Ruud proud of his growing reputation

 - Alex Sharp

A snippet of the action around the grounds you might have missed at Roland-Garros.

Casper Ruud, Roland Garros 2021, second round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Another day, another thrilling collection of contests in Paris.

Here are some storylines that might have flown under your radar on Day 4 on the terre battue.

Soaking up the recognition

Make no mistake about it, Casper Ruud is on a mission at Roland-Garros.

The 22-year-old is the perfect ‘dark horse’ – outside the main contender talk, but producing remarkable results.

The world No.16 arrived at Roland-Garros 15-4 on clay this campaign, lifting the title in Geneva last week to go with his semi-final run in the Monte Carlo Masters and the Madrid Masters.

“It's nice to get some recognition that you had a good clay-court swing. I've won many matches. I've built a kind of clay-court reputation for myself, I guess,” stated the Norwegian, through to a third round tussle with talented Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

“I think this is by far my best clay-court season so far. I think you build some respect in your opponents' minds maybe when you win a lot of matches. When people are facing Rafael Nadal on the clay court, many of them will already think they lost before going out on court because you know how tough it will be.

"If I can maybe achieve a small percentage of that kind of respect he has in every other players, I'm happy with that. I'm not sure if I've come to that point yet."

In case you didn’t know, another Ruud could be on the Tour soon.

“I have two younger sisters. The youngest one, she plays tennis. I think she dreams about maybe becoming a professional also one day. She started maybe a bit too late, in my opinion,” said Ruud, whose father Christian reached world No.39 in the 1990s.

“But she's getting a lot better the last years. She's working hard. I think she didn't enjoy the hard work a couple years ago, but now she's getting more into it, pushing herself very well.

“She's been training also at the Nadal academy for a couple years now. They push her well. She's getting more and more of that Spanish mentality. I think that's good.”

Shot of the day

When a rally ends with both players laughing on either side of the net and the crowd clapping in awe, you no it was no ordinary rally and the winner that ended it was no ordinary shot. Serena Williams earned 'Shot of the day' honours, thanks to this passing shot.

Comeback of the day

Katerina Siniakova is evidently in form having defeated Serena Williams en route to the Parma semi-finals last week.

Over to Roland-Garros and the Czech saved match point down at 1-5 and 3-5 in the deciding set to squeeze past No.29 seed Veronika Kudermetova 7-6(7), 5-7, 7-5.

Siniakova advances to face world No.85 Tamara Zidansek, who backed up her conquering of Bianca Andreescu to brush aside Madison Brengle in straight sets.

They are in the same intriguing quarter of the draw as Polona Hercog (ousting Caroline Garcia), 2019 finalist Marketa Vondrousova, the rejuvenated Daria Kasatkina and in-form Paula Badosa. One will reach the semi-finals!

Even dad had a laugh at that one

No.5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas is flying at Roland-Garros and so is his racquet.

Despite a gallant effort from Spaniard Pedro Martinez, the Greek posted a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 result to book a third-round battle with American John Isner

The 22-year-old enjoyed a mesmerising 26/27 success rate at the net, however it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

His racquet launched from his grasp during one service motion (he still managed the split step after) and his father Apostolos saw the funny side whilst watching in the stands. Check it out below.

“I really like playing in Paris. I feel like the fans have embraced me and have made me one of them. So I’m really glad that my tennis is there, my performance is there,” said Tsitsipas on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, notching up his 18th clay-court triumph of 2021.

“I’m able to deliver not only good tennis, but to help create a good atmosphere on this court.

“Right now it’s a big opportunity, but there are going to be plenty of challenges to overcome to maintain the position I’m in now.”

Marta the master of multi-tasking

There is just too much talent within Marta Kostyuk’s capabilities.

Not only has the Ukrainian teenager dispatched former champion Garbine Muguruza, the world No.81 is now putting us to shame in the gym.

Kostyuk posted a video on Instagram of juggling whilst balancing on an exercise ball. Warning: don’t try this at home!

Swiss delight for quality qualifier

Firing down 53 winners, qualifier Henri Laaksonen clinched the best win of his career on Wednesday with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over No.11 seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

“To be honest, I wasn't expecting that I win today, so first I have to enjoy this one and then I think I have a day off tomorrow,” said the 29-year-old, who was 0-4 on the ATP this season prior to Paris.

“I would say it’s my biggest win, especially because it came in a Grand Slam, best-of-five sets. So those matches, you can be two sets to love up and it can still turn. You have to stay focused and you have to be in the game through the five sets or sometimes three, four, five hours even. I really appreciate the win.”

The world No.150 moves onto his maiden major third round to tackle Japanese talisman Kei Nishikori.

Henri Laaksonen, Roland Garros 2021, second round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Carla and Barty as footballers?

Whilst speaking to after booking her ticket to the third round, the conversation moved on to football for devoted Barcelona fan Kasatkina.

So who would the Russian want on her side in a match?

“Well, obviously Carla Suarez Navarro is very solid. She's very good in soccer. I think Ashleigh Barty. She can do good because she's in many sports," replied Kasatkina.

However, a certain friend might miss out if Kasatkina is in charge.

“I have to choose between skills and friends,” quipped the world No.37.  “That's tough. Some of my friends, for example, Anett Kontaveit, she has no idea how to hit a soccer ball. That's tough to find the balance in these things!”

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