Ruud, Gauff focus on the future

 - Alex Sharp

The top-10 stars enjoyed runs to the silverware showdown at Roland-Garros 2022

Casper Ruud, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

They're two key contenders and two household names dealing with scrutiny and expectations on a weekly basis. 

Last year's singles runners-up Coco Gauff and Casper Ruud have had a mixed bag of recent results. Time to move on, they are off the mark at Roland-Garros 2023 and only have tunnel vision on Parisian progress.

"I was like 'bleep' the final, this is 2023. That's in the past," said Gauff with a chuckle, summarising her - and probably Ruud's - sentiment succinctly without swearing.

World No.4 Ruud was steady and smooth in a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 passage past energetic qualifier Elias Ymer on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

"It was tough. First match back after one of the best tournaments of my life. Obviously a bit nervous, you have to try to defend what you did last year," revealed Ruud, who faces another qualifier Giulio Zeppieri next.

"I had a great last year reaching the final (defeated by Rafael Nadal). Also, great to play on this historic court. First time I played here was against Roger (Federer), some years ago (2019) and I got my a** kicked. I think we all miss Roger on tour, we hope he's enjoying himself wherever he is."

The Norwegian, undefeated in all six first rounds he has contested here on Parisian clay, feels he's rediscovering patches of his major form which catapulted the 24-year-old into the Roland-Garros and US Open finals in 2022.

"It's more pressure, you have more eyes on you, there are more things to do outside the tennis court. It’s more hectic," said the world No.4, who lifted his 10th career title in Estoril to ignite his clay campaign.

"Everyday there is something to discuss on court, off court. It's changed a little bit, more to deal with. I guess it's a luxury problem to have it means you're doing well.

"I feel like the same person, but I also have more belief in myself. Last year was incredible for me, every time now I play a Grand Slam I know that before I was able to reach the final and I'm going to try to do it again."

Next up on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, Gauff returned to winning ways with a gutsy 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 scoreline facing world No.71 Rebeka Masarova.

The current clay season yielded a 3-3 record prior to Roland-Garros, well below the American's usual title challenging, but Gauff is developing a 'move on' approach when results aren't running in her favour. It all started in Paris. 


"The journey to the final (last year) I learned a lot, and I think I took a lot more relaxed approach to that tournament last year. It's not easy for me to find it every tournament, so after that final I think I learned to enjoy the moment more," recalled Gauff, referencing her 6-1, 6-3 defeat to Iga Swiatek.

"Honestly, I lost that final, and for a week or two, I really thought it was the worst thing ever, thought all these things.

Cori Gauff, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

"I would say I am my biggest critic. Really, anybody on my team would say this. I need to speak more positively about myself, and it's something I'm continually continuing to work on.

"I tried it today, it worked, so I'm going to just keep going on and try not to be the reason why I lose and let the reason be my opponent, not myself."

Like most contenders, the 19-year-old admits nerves are an additional obstacle for the opening round of a Grand Slam. Once the first hurdle is cleared, then it's a matter of proving you deserve the trophy.

Initial nerves erased, a morale-boosting win, talk of 2022 is definitely off the Gauff agenda.

"You guys ask me questions, did the finals make me feel more pressure? At first I was like, 'I have to match last year's result, blah, blah, blah, or do better,'" said the American, who takes on world No.61 Julia Grabher in the second round.

"I'm like, it's over, what can I do about it? Then with the first set (against Masarova), it's over, what can I do about it? You have the choice to dwell on it or reset, and I chose to reset.

"I think for the most part, as long as I keep moving forward, even though there is going to be some setbacks, I had setbacks this year, I had setbacks even last week, and I'm going to have setbacks in the future, but I think for the most part as long as I keep moving forward I should be okay."