Ruud v Rune: Things we learned

Norwegian No.4 seed is back in the semis with four-set triumph over 20-year-old Dane

Casper Ruud, quarts de finale, Roland-Garros 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Courtney Walsh

A finalist at Roland-Garros last year, Casper Ruud’s fondness for Paris continues with the Norwegian booking a spot in a semi-final against Alexander Zverev on Friday.

For the second straight year, the No.4 seed proved too strong for Denmark’s Holger Rune in a quarter-final on Court Philippe-Chatrier when victorious 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 on Wednesday night.

“He was trying to reach his first semi-final and I was hungry to get back into the semi-final again. Luckily it panned out well for me,” Ruud said.

The 24-year-old claimed his most recent meeting against Zverev, in Miami in three sets last year.

Ruud's resilience

The ability to thrive in the best-of-five format set Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer apart from some incredibly talented players over the past two decades.

Also a finalist at the US Open last summer, Ruud is producing his best in the elongated format as well.

After an outstanding 2022, the Norwegian struggled to find his rhythm in the infancy of this season, though he did win a title on clay in Estoril in April. 

Perseverance is an important trait. Ruud ran into some form in Rome recently and has found peak form again at Roland-Garros, as evidenced in his toughness against Rune. 

With the crowd yearning for a long match on Wednesday, they rallied behind Rune as he attempted to come back from a steep 1-6, 2-6 deficit. Ruud was unfazed though when Rune grabbed the third set, biding his time and striking at the right moment in the fourth to secure the victory.

Casper Ruud, quarts de finale, Roland-Garros 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

The Danish desire

Overwhelmed in the first hour, Rune was in a desperate position and needed a spark.

Despite the trying circumstances, his determination remained and he turned this into a proper quarter-final. 

When the No.6 seed seized a service break for a 2-0 lead in the third set with a bounce smash, the crowd came to life.

Walking back to the baseline, Rune waved his arms in the air and put a hand to his ear, encouraging the crowd to offer even more support.

The show of resistance did not change the result but offered an insight into the Dane.

If the 20-year-old is to become a Grand Slam champion, learning how to weather testing moments and turn them to his advantage is part of the process he will go through.

Holger Rune, Roland-Garros 2023, quarter-final© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Rune seemed emotionally and physically spent

Rebounding from an emotionally draining match is a tough task for the most experienced players, let alone a 20-year-old still building strength and endurance.

Rune’s triumph over Argentinian Francisco Cerundolo in a deciding super tiebreaker on Monday lasted only 39 minutes longer than Ruud’s straight-sets defeat of Nicolas Jarry.

But the contrast in emotional intensity in the respective fourth round matches was stark. 

To say the Dane was flat early against Ruud is an understatement. In a horror opening set, he served five double faults and made 18 unforced errors, giving the advantage to his rival. 

As Ruud said: “Luckily for me, the first two sets, he probably was not feeling it too well. But he fought back.” 

Holger Rune, Casper Ruud, quarts de finale, Roland-Garros 2023 ©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Managing a schedule to prioritise peaking for Grand Slams is a critical skill for every contender and it will be interesting to see the tack the Dane takes in the future. 

Leading into Roland-Garros, the electric world No.6 had played 26 tournaments over the past 12 months, which is the most of any player in the top 10.

He has also played 20 matches on clay since the start of April. His successful title defence in Munich and finals appearances in the Monte-Carlo and Rome Masters were impressive. 

But it also meant he had played a substantial amount by the time he arrived in Paris. To beat the best, even the most talented need to be at their peak and Rune fell short on the night.

Ruud braced for big battle against Zverev

Ruud was sitting in the Roland-Garros locker rooms preparing for his semi-final against Marin Cilic last year when Zverev badly injured his ankle against Rafael Nadal.

The Norwegian star, who lost his first two matches against Zverev before claiming a win over him in Miami 2022, is impressed by the German’s return to the last four.

“It's so great to see him back in the semi-final again. He's had a really tough year since a year ago,” Ruud said on court. 

“I think it is going to be a good match. We're going to give it our all, both of us, and let's see how it goes.”