Semi-final preview: Ruud v Zverev

Alexander Zverev has been here before. He has become a regular fixture in the Roland-Garros semi-finals - could this be the year he wins one?

 - Alix Ramsay

At least one of Alexander Zverev’s wishes came true this week: he got a straight sets win over Alex de Minaur on Wednesday night. After consecutive five-setters in the previous two rounds, that was a huge bonus.

He has been telling everyone that he is fit enough to stay on court as long as it takes but now and again it is nice not to go the distance. Now comes his second wish: to get to the final at Roland-Garros.

On Friday he will compete in his fourth semi-final and this time, he must feel that he has his best chance.

True, he is playing Casper Ruud who beat him here last summer but, in many respects, that result does not count. The German was still coming back from the ankle injury he sustained in the 2022 semi-final and by the time he faced Ruud he was struggling with a range of physical issues.

This time he is ready; this time he is fully fit and match tight.

“I want to win one,” Zverev said simply. “I want to be in the finals. That's my main focus. I’m happy to be where I am. Casper is a great player. He’s made two finals in a row, third semi-final in a row, that speaks for itself. He's one of the best players on this surface, for sure. I think I have to play my best tennis to have a chance. But I can go five sets again. But I also do know that it's better not to.”

His record against Ruud is played four, won two. The Norwegian might be one of the best clay court players around but, then again, so is Zverev.

Alexander Zverev, quarts de finale, Roland-Garros 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

At first glance, you have to ask why: with his height and his build, he is perfectly suited to the faster surfaces. The slower clay can neutralise the power of the serve that he thumps down from the top of his mighty reach (he stands 6ft 6ins tall or 1.98m).

In theory, this should not be his surface of choice. And with those long legs, he should be more like Bambi on ice skidding across the red stuff.

But Zverev grew up on clay. For such a tall man, he moves extremely well and particularly on the dirt. He never seems to be off balance; he always seems to have time and no matter where his opponents try to place the ball, it invariably lands in his strike zone (that is the advantage of that height).

Add to that the gradual maturing process that comes with age and Zverev, 27, is forming himself into a Grand Slam champion in waiting. Calmer under pressure, more patient in the heat of battle, he knows that this could be his moment.