Casper Ruud said he believes reaching the final of this year’s Roland-Garros is the best achievement of his career.
The Norwegian was beaten 7-6 (1), 6-3, 7-5 by Novak Djokovic on Sunday as the Serb made history by winning his 23rd Grand Slam title.
Norwegian managed to step up under pressure and defend his final points from last year
But despite the disappointment of missing out on a first Grand Slam, the 24-year-old said he was hugely proud of his achievement.
“I think this is maybe the most important final that I reached, honestly,” said the Norwegian, who followed up his runner-up showing here last year by reaching the final at the US Open.
“Because first time was, yes, very cool. But here I sort of proved that whatever happened last year is just not like a one-time case. Even for next year when we come back to Roland-Garros, people are going to look, 'Oh, Casper didn't just make one final but he made it twice'.
“Probably going to plant some respect in my opponents' eyes and hopefully I can build on that, and one day I'm gonna try to obviously aim for a Slam title.
“That's my biggest goal, my biggest dream in my career and in my life. It's been close, but close but no cigar, so I'm going to keep working and try to get it one day.”
Ruud has now lost all three of his Grand Slam finals but could consider himself a little unlucky to have faced some of the game’s biggest names.
While Djokovic played Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his first Slam final, Rafael Nadal played Mariano Puerta, and Roger Federer beat Mark Philippoussis, Ruud has had to play Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz and now Djokovic.
But Ruud said he didn’t consider himself unlucky.
“It's not something I've thought too much about,” he said. “I mean, obviously anyone you play in a Grand Slam final is going to be a good player. But the three players I've played is just; Rafa going for, at the time, the record for 22, and then Carlos who was just on fire in New York, and then here, Novak, going for 23. I played very tough players, as you say.
“There have been other maybe players in the final, also in the last years, that have maybe been more -- what should I say? -- playable or beatable, because these guys know what to do.
“I can't just sit and make excuses, but let's see what the future holds.”
Ruud said the 4-2 game in the first set, when he was broken, was perhaps the key to the match.
“That was unfortunate,” he said. “I was some deuce here and there, and then finish with a really long rally where I missed the overhead, which was sort of a bit devastating.
“I was still leading. I don't think I lost because of that. But it would be nice to sit down and have 5-2 and then there is new balls obviously. So that was tough. But, Novak just stepped up in the tiebreak, sort of played too good there in the beginning especially and had a big lead early and I couldn't recover.
“A bit disappointed I wasn't able to keep it closer in the beginning of the second. He pulled away too early and I wasn't able to recover. Then third set was close. Didn't really have too many chances myself, but I just tried to hold my serve, stay in there and see what happened.”
Ruud has lost all five of his matches with Djokovic in straight sets and said he felt he was a little unfortunate to run into him when he was fully motivated to win.
“I feel like I played him many times where he's like the best version of himself, where he's just really locked in, and doesn't give you much,” he said. “He makes it very tough to win every point against him, he reads the game very well, it's tough to find winners against him.
“Just all credit and honour to him for how good he is. I gave it my all, but it wasn't enough.”
Ruud came into the tournament a little concerned about trying to defend the points he earned from reaching the final 12 months ago.
But the Norwegian said he was pleased with how he handled the situation.
“It was a nice two weeks and nice experience to be able to perform under pressure,” he said.
“I think I have learned that, you know, best-of-five sets on clay, for the future as well I'm gonna try to be a tough player to beat.
“I'm just going to try to be there, stay there, play every point in the right way, and if I have to make it physical, I'll try to make it physical for my opponents.
“I think I've learned that last year was just not a coincidence and that I can hopefully have more nice experiences here in Roland-Garros in the future.”