Ruud levels the family ledger

Norwegian seventh seed avenges 1995 Ruud Sr defeat by Meligeni Alves' uncle

Casper Ruud / Premier tour Roland-Garros 2024©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

Casper Ruud humbly dismisses suggestions of his name as a contender for his maiden Grand Slam trophy at Roland-Garros, but his form of late would suggest otherwise.

Fresh from his second title of the season in Geneva on clay, the seventh-seeded Norwegian opened his campaign on Court Philippe-Chatrier with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over qualifier Felipe Meligeni Alves on Tuesday.

The Ruud and Meligeni families had history after the Brazilian’s uncle, former world No.25 Fernando Meligeni, defeated Ruud’s father and coach Christian for the Bastad title on clay in 1995.

In a clash of the next generation under a closed Court Philippe-Chatrier roof, Ruud claimed bragging rights to set a second-round meeting with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or Valentin Vachero.

Story of the match

Two years ago, Ruud came into Paris in scorching form on the clay, and last year desperately searching for answers. Both years he made the final.

Despite having worked his way back into contention with a third Geneva title at the weekend – on the back of landing the silverware in Barcelona and a runner-up showing in Monte-Carlo – he had hastily downplayed his chances as one of the favourites.

Casper Ruud, first round, Roland-Garros 2024©️Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Under the closed roof of Court Suzanne-Lenglen on Tuesday, the seventh seed’s tennis did the talking and did little to back up his modest claim.

Meligeni Alves was more frequently sited on the Challenger tour and his Grand Slam journey has been slow and incremental, having only qualified for his first at last year’s US Open, where he also won his maiden main draw match.

Uncle Fernando went on a tear in Paris 25 years ago when he reached the semi-finals and searching for his maiden top-50 win, the next-generation Brazilian needed to take his chances to become the next Meligeni marvel at Roland-Garros.

Casper Ruud, first round, Roland-Garros 2024©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Through the first 40 minutes he did just that, standing toe-to-toe with his more fancied foe, but after a six-minute struggle on serve in the eighth game was finally broken.

Ruud remained stingy on serve and sustained the pressure on the world No.137 with an early break in the ensuing two sets.

Cheered on by a scattering of Brazilians in the stands sporting the blue and yellow ensemble countryman Gustavo Kuerten wore during his run to the title 1997, Meligeni Alves never really faded but never made enough serious inroads on his opponent’s serve to bow out in just under two hours.

Key stats

Ruud extended his winning streak on clay to five matches after his Geneva triumph and improved to a tour-leading 36 match wins this season with his 20th Roland-Garros match win.

He was particularly dominant on serve in the opening set, in which he landed 22 of 24 first serves and won 86 per cent of those points. That effectiveness on his first delivery remained high as he finished up landing 89 per cent, from which he won 80 per cent of points.

Ruud had ample chances to run out a winner sooner had he converted more than four of his 11 break point chances.

With his defeat on debut Meligeni Alves fell to 0-5 against top-50 players.

Ruud’s assessment

Ruud on gaining family revenge: “We talked about it for breakfast, actually. My father, he lost Bastad final one time in his career, so he was never able to win a ATP tournament, and the guy he lost to in the final was Felipe's uncle.

“I think both me and my dad wanted to get some revenge on the Meligeni family. It was worth the wait, I guess. It was many years we had to wait, but we got it today.”

On his first-round level: “It was a good start, level-wise from me. I think I played quite well today – not too many unforced errors, quite steady all the way and just trying to find my groove. I played quite well last week in Geneva and hope I can bring it here also to Paris.

“I think it's been a good season, a good clay season for me. Of course, Madrid and Rome could have gone maybe a little bit better. It was not what I was hoping for but other results went well.

"All in all I'm happy. This is one of the biggest tournaments for me and one of my highlights. I'm always looking forward to it. The last two years have given me, so much here in Paris so I hope I can make it another good year here.”