Ruud rolls into second straight final in Paris

 - Dan Imhoff

Fourth seed easily accounts for 22nd seed Zverev to set showdown with Djokovic

Casper Ruud, Roland-Garros 2023, semi-final© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Twice Casper Ruud has been there before – including one on the final Sunday on Court Philippe-Chatrier – only to be denied.

For the second year running, the Norwegian will play for La Coupe des Mousquetaires; his third major final secured following a 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 victory over former world No.3 Alexander Zverev on the warmest evening of Roland-Garros this fortnight.

If he is to break his Grand Slam duck at the third time of asking he will need to negotiate a path past 22-time major champion Novak Djokovic after the Serbian’s earlier four-set triumph over top seed Carlos Alcaraz.

Twelve months after Rafael Nadal coolly dismissed him on a cloudy men’s final day, the Norwegian has resurrected his season with another run to the title match.

“I didn't come into Roland-Garros thinking I was the favourite to reach the final, not at all,” Ruud said. “I was trying to think one match at a time. Let's see how it goes from there.

“I'm always thinking about trying to defend this final spot from last year but, yeah, here we are two weeks later. Hopefully third time can be the charm for me.”

Casper Ruud, demi-finales, Roland-Garros 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

A third straight semi-final in Paris was an achievement in itself for Zverev, following the horror ankle injury, which scuttled his hopes during a closely-fought clash with Nadal at the same stage last year.

The 22nd seed had missed the remainder of last season and his bid to rediscover his best was a work in progress.

A return to the business end on a major stage was cause for optimism.

A first clay-court showdown against Ruud though was largely one-way traffic.

Despite having picked up a title in Estoril to open his clay-court campaign, Ruud was the first to admit he had hardly set the world on fire leading in.

Playing his way into the second week, the fourth seed had shifted up a gear.

For many, one win can turn it all around and for Ruud that came in his impressive ousting of Holger Rune in an all-Scandinavian quarter-final.

Against Zverev, the fourth seed’s first ace consolidated the early break as he jumped to 4-1 in 27 minutes.

It was an assertive start from the 24-year-old, intent on preventing his 198cm opponent from dictating the match on his terms.

With a set in the bag, Ruud’s brick-wall consistency was again rewarded when he capitalised on three straight errors from the German and threaded a forehand pass to break for 4-3.

A two-set lead was in hand after he hammered a forehand winner down the line at the 98th minute and there was no looking back.

Alexander Zverev, Roland-Garros 2023, semi-final© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

When Zverev rolled in a double fault to surrender the double break in the third, the writing was on the wall.

Ruud cantered to the finish line three games later and booked his third final in five majors.

“It's going to be tough. Last year was against Rafa, this year against Novak. What can you say? It's two of the toughest players in history,” Ruud said.

“I'm just going to be the underdog. Like today, play without too many feelings, try to enjoy, smile. Novak is playing to be the greatest.

“Novak is going for his 23rd, I’m going for my first. It's a big difference. We will both give it all.”