Thursday OOP: qualifying continues
Martin Klizan and Bernard Tomic join the Norwegian in the final round following a big day of qualifying action.
Norwegian 19-year-old Casper Ruud moved a step closer to making his Roland-Garros main draw debut, 17 years after his father Christian played his final match on tour on the Parisian clay.
Ranked 158th, Ruud maintained the form which had taken him to a pair of clay-court Challenger finals leading in to Roland-Garros, posting his second straight-sets result in as many matches on Wednesday.
Colombian 21-year-old Daniel Elahi Galan was his latest victim.
“It’s been two good matches, four good sets, I haven’t dropped one yet. It was a big test today, especially the last one,” Ruud said of the 6-2 6-4 victory. “I felt it was almost over when I had 4-1 and a double break. But he fought back and played some good points but I also stepped up my level at the end.”
The teenager made his Grand Slam debut at this year’s Australian Open, where he reached the second round. While it came on a different surface, the result only bolstered Ruud’s belief that was where he belonged.
“When it’s a Grand Slam, it’s a bit different for all the players, especially with me, where I’m used to playing Challengers, it’s quite a big difference,” he said. “I think a lot of those in qualifying are in the same situation, dying to make the main draw.”
The Norwegian will face Frenchman Alexandre Muller for a place in the main draw.
Meanwhile, a win over Novak Djokovic on clay last month couldn’t have come at a better time as the perfect catalyst for a Martin Klizan resurgence.
That career-best result over the former world No.1 was reward for the long road back after six months out of the game rebuilding a torn calf muscle.
Continuing his comeback in second-round qualifying action at Roland-Garros on Wednesday, the former world No.24 found himself staring down the highly touted 18-year-old Miomir Kecmanovic – the youngest Serb since Djokovic to crack the top 200.
And for a set and a half it looked as though Klizan was about to be knocked off the Cloud 9 he was floating on after his Djokovic-slaying run to the quarter-finals in Barcelona.
There was a spark in his opponent’s game that did not go unnoticed by the more experienced Slovak.
“I was a very tough match. This guy is very young and has a good perspective. I didn’t expect that fight but he was playing great,” Klizan said.
“I was down 6-7, 1-4 and he was serving 40-0 so I was almost on the plane. I think if he’s going to continue working hard he’s going to be a great player for sure.”
Eventually it was Klizan who ground out a 6-7(1) 7-6(5) 6-3 result, much to the delight of his raucous fan base in the stands on Court 6.
Now just one match win from contesting his seventh straight Roland-Garros main draw, Klizan’s excitement was palpable given the injury he had nursed for more than a year.
“Half this year I was out injured. It was a very tough time for me to come back,” he said. “In Barcelona I played great matches and that gave me a lot of confidence and it showed me that my hard work was worth it.
“I had worked constantly well without any issues so it showed me this was a good way to play and to practise and to continue.”
In another result, Australian former world No.17 Bernard Tomic continued his revival on his least-preferred surface, posting his sixth straight win on clay.
The 25-year-old was on song throughout an imposing 6-3 6-1 victory over Brit Jay Clarke and comes off a straight-sets routing of Darian King in the opening round.
Tomic won four matches to reach the recent clay-court Challenger final in Aix-en-Provence. The final, which he lost to compatriot John Millman, was contested on an indoor hard court due to persistent rain.