Ruud's historic run continues

The No.8 seed is the first Norwegian man to reach this stage in tournament history

Casper Ruud Roland-Garros 2022 huitièmes©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT
 - Stephanie Livaudais

One of the ATP tour’s best clay-courters in recent years, No.8 seed Casper Ruud finally reached his long-awaited first Grand Slam quarter-final with a rock-solid performance at Roland-Garros on Monday.

The 23-year-old Norwegian player became the first man from his country to reach the last eight in Paris in the tournament’s history, after taking down Hubert Hurkacz 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 over two hours and 31 minutes on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

A match-up against either last year’s finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas or Denmark’s Holger Rune awaits Ruud in the next round.

Story of the match

If Ruud stood any further back to return serve on Suzanne-Lenglen, he would have found himself shoulder to shoulder with the lines people and ball kids. As it was, they regularly had to duck out of the way when the 23-year-old took a big swing at the ball.

Ruud must have done his homework, or read the Infosys Stats on Hurkacz: the towering Pole was the only player in the fourth round who had yet to drop his serve. Hurkacz had saved all five break points he faced across three matches, holding firm in all 43 previous service games.

The match was barely five minutes old when Ruud had snapped that streak.

The Norwegian set the tone by breaking serve early, hanging deep behind the baseline for first-serve returns and stepping in almost inside the court to attack any second-serves that came his way.

Casper Ruud, Roland Garros 2022, fourth round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Ruud broke Hurkacz two more times en route to taking the first set, and reeled off three games in a row to start the second set with the lead.

By the time Hurkacz finally found his footing on Suzanne-Lenglen, alarm bells must have been going off in the 25-year-old Pole’s head.

He switched tactics in the third set and dialed up the first-serve even more – winning 83% of those points. He also followed it into the net, where he outplayed Ruud with a series of crisp volleys for the crucial break of serve at 4-2.

Hurkacz carried the momentum into the fourth set, and took his first lead of the match with a break of serve for a 2-1 lead. But Ruud responded emphatically, by going back to the basics: he raised his level and reeled off four games in a row to reestablish his dominance, breaking twice more on his way to victory.

Hubert Hurkacz, Roland Garros 2022, fourth round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Key stats

Hurkacz might have come in boasting the best service stats of anyone in the round of 16, but on Monday, Ruud had his number.

The Norwegian’s game plan was simple: neutralise the Pole’s booming delivery and capitalise on any opportunity to pull him away from the baseline. Ruud executed both tactics in style.

Ruud’s ultra-defensive return position allowed him to get his racquet on Hurkacz’s big first serves, and he stepped in to attack during second serve points too. He was greatly rewarded in the opening stretches, with Hurkacz winning just one point from 11 behind his second serve in the first set.

While Hurkacz, a seasoned doubles player, edged the stats sheet in terms of overall net points won – 64% (25/39) to Ruud’s 63% (19/30), it was Ruud who dominated the front court during the second and fourth sets. The Norwegian won 70% of net points in the second set and 86% during the tightly-contested fourth set to hold off his opponent’s momentum.

The Norwegian also kept his scorecard neat and tidy, firing 42 winners and just 19 unforced errors, compared to Hurkacz’s 46 and 39.

Casper Ruud, huitièmes de finale, Roland-Garros 2022©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

What the players said

Ruud was quick to give credit to his opponent, who in the past had struggled to put together clay-court wins. Last year, Hurkacz went 1-4 on European clay courts, but improved tremendously this season to reach back-to-back quarter-finals in Monte Carlo and Madrid during the buildup to Roland-Garros.

“Hubert has… become a dangerous player on all surfaces, and especially here on clay where, when the sun is out, it’s quite fast,” Ruud told Mats Wilander during the on-court interview.

“He has a dangerous serve and the goal today was to try to get as many returns back. I did very well in the first two sets, I made him play a lot of points and I was able to run around with my forehand and control many points.

"He raised his level a little bit in the third, and one little poor service game from myself and then you have the break against you.

“It turns around quick in tennis. It was looking quite dark in the fourth set too, but I was able to break him back a couple of times.”

Already the best performance for a Norwegian player ever at Roland-Garros, Ruud’s victory marked a major milestone in his own personal history: the 23-year-old will now compete in his first Grand Slam quarter-final on Wednesday.

“It’s been one of the goals for me this year, to try to reach the quarter-final of a Grand Slam,” he said. “I don’t know why, but suddenly when I came here this year I feel a little bit more experienced playing five sets.”

“It’s like I’ve become a year older than before,” Ruud added, tongue in cheek. “Strange how time flies.”