Casper Ruud plays in a crescendo and overcomes Cilic to reach French Open final - UBITENNIS
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Casper Ruud plays in a crescendo and overcomes Cilic to reach French Open final

After winning the first set in the manner of his previous matches Cilic runs out of steam and gives way



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By Kingsley Elliot Kaye 

The second Roland Garros semi-final was a double-face match.  In a confrontation between two players whose game revolves around their forehand, especially the inside-out, and relentless pacing and footwork, it was the younger who prevailed in the long run, and quite vehemently, 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-2. Ruud’s high rotation spin was expected to be tougher to master than the flatter groundstrokes of Cilic’s previous opponents, Rublev and Medvedev, but it was some surprise that the Croatian’s capacity to move in and reap comfortable points off his forehand came unstuck after losing the second set.     


”I played a really solid first set and served really well and mixed it up nicely. I played aggressive off the ground.  I have to say that somewhere there in the second set, you know, just things started to turn around a bit.  At the end of the second set, start of the third, there was just a little bit of a difference,” admitted Cilic

The first six games went with serve.  Although Cilic had to save two break points after missing two smashes and throwing in a double fault in the fourth game, he ended up holding serve well supported by his mighty and angled first service.

Ruud instead missed two first services at the start of the seventh game, and Cilic rose to 0-30 with his effective aggression on the Norwegian’s second service, a little too tame. Then he adjusted his return to the first serve of Ruud as well and ripped the break in a flash. 

Serving for a 5-3 lead he suddenly lost control of his forehand, and had to save another break point, but he got away with it. An ace and a winning serve consolidated his margin.

In spite of the odd unforced error, Cilic was overpowering Ruud, taking command from the first shot, also with his weaker groundstroke, his backhand. He reached set point on Ruud’s service and danced leftward to hit his inside-out forehand and seal the first set.

 From the very start of the second set Ruud appeared resolved to swing the script around, raising first serve speed and length as well as trying to find depth and greater lift off both groundstrokes so as to move his opponent to and fro.

“I was too defensive. I figured I had to step up a little bit, counterattack and hit faster shots,” said Ruud.

The strategy yielded revenues when Cilic concentration slipped in the second game and he actually lost service, too often missing the target off his forehand.

“It was unfortunately a little bit of a drop in the level comparing to these last 10 days. It might be due to just a little bit more emotional drainage from the last match,” Cilic said, while giving due credit to his opponent.
“And, you know, today it was obviously a big task to play Casper, who is definitely in great form.”

However Cilic instantly rebooted and Ruud had to stave off a break point in the third game by  stealing his opponent’s tactics: service out wide to set up a forehand winner. A dropshot did the rest of the job and he raced to 3-0.

Ruud was able to keep up consistency and served for the set 5-4. 

He tightened up, though, and missed three forehands. He had to save two breakpoints with forehand winners to recover to deuce. Then an ace, his fifth in the set followed by a backhand down the line and he was back even.

Cilic started the third set still trying mounting up pressure but too many errors were seeping in. Then came the rally of the match. Cilic finalized constant pressure with a first forehand inside-in and a second one inside-out, but the Norwegian erected a solid defence and then fired a backhand winner down the line. Cilic robustly saved second break point, but immediately conceded another unforced error. When he hit a smash way out or the first time in the match Ruud was leading.

Cilic’s tennis was now longer flawless. Mental energy was thinning and fatigue was eroding his footwork. Ruud took a second break with an exquisite sliced backhand passing shot.

The match was most unexpectedly interrupted due to a court invasion by a young woman who chained herself to the net. The incident brought no damage, yet some concerns may be raised about the efficiency of the French Open security services.

When the match was resumed, Cilic earned two break points to get back into the set but failed to convert. It felt like the last fling.

Ruud served at 5-1. He missed his first two set points and had to erase a break point on the way to settling the matter 6-2.

He drummed on with such momentum at the kick off of the fourth set: he first sprinted after a dropshot and earned a break point, then he broke after landing a fabulous inside-in forehand  directly off the return.

By now Ruud was returning Cilic’s blunted and no longer angular serve with ease. He conquered three break points for a double break and converted the second when a Cilic slammed a dejected forehand into the net.

Shortly Ruud was serving for the match. He was by no means overwhelmed by tension and held to love, with an ace, a domain in which he had most surprisingly outclassed Cilic, 16-10, proving his worth off return as well.  

“It was a great match from my side. I didn’t start very well but Marin played very well in the first set.  I was able to break him in the second set and that got it going. From that game I played some of the best of this year, playing aggressive, serving well. I’m super happy with my performance,” Ruud reflected.

Asked about his next match, against Nadal, whose academy he joined in 2018 he said:  “Playing against Nadal will be a very special moment for me, and a little bit for him as well. He’s played so many finals, but at least he’s playing a student from his Academy this time. It’s going to be fun.”


The Year-End Rankings: The Rise Of Alcaraz And The Eternals, Djokovic and Nadal

Image via ATP Twitter



By Roberto Ferri

Let’s start our last article on the ATP rankings by quoting the words which are said to be the last of emperor Augustus: “The play is over, applaud”.


We cannot but applaud Novak Djokovic, six-time ATP Finals winner just like Roger Federer. And we applaud the season, which, for good or ill, has been unique. Just consider the most striking events: Carlos Alcaraz rising to No. 1, Roger Federer’s retirement, all the issues involving Djokovic and the Wimbledon affair.  

The top positions of the ranking have been significantly impacted by Djokovic’s absence from two Majors (Australian Open and US Open), four Masters 1000 (Indian Wells, Miami Open, Canadian Open, Cincinnati) and by ATP’s decision to not award points for Wimbledon.

If we compare the ATP rankings published after the ATP Finals in 2021 and 2022, this fact is clearly noticeable. 

22 NOVEMBER 2021

19Bautista AgutSpain2260
20Carreno BustaSpain2230

14 NOVEMBER 2022:

13Carreno BustaSpain2495

Novak Djokovic ended 2021 with 4720 points more than Carlos Alcaraz; also Medvedev and Tsitsipas earned more points than the Spaniard, who would not have reached 7000 points even counting the 135 points he wasn’t awarded at Wimbledon.

A few comments on the 2022 rankings:

  • Casper Ruud, the ATP Finals finalist, concludes his excellent year in third place, overtaking Stefanos Tsitsipas with an impressive final rush.
  • Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are the only top 10 players born in the 80s; the other 8 were born in the second half of the 90s.
  • Cameron Norrie and Pablo Carreno Busta are the survivors of the lost generation, born between 1990 and 1995 and that was most overpowered by the Big Four dominance. 
  • Only North America, beyond Europe, is represented at the very highest: Auger Aliassime, Fritz, Shapovalov and Tiafoe.
  • Holger Rune has gained 92 positions since the start of the year. Carlos Alcaraz “just” 31.
  • A final note: Kei Nishikori ends 2022 without a ranking. Does this suggest he’s going to retire?


Owing to earned and dropped points, as well as results in the Challenger events, five players in the top 100 have achieved their career highest this week:

Emil Ruusuvuori – 40

Quentin Halys – 64

Christopher O’Connell – 79

Roman Safiullin – 89

Nuno Borges – 91

A special applause for the 20-year old Ben Shelton, a bright prospect for USA tennis, who has made his debut in the top 100. Thanks to his victory in the Champaign-Urbana Challenger he’s now ranked 97.

Is that all? Not yet! Just a quiz for everybody: which was the last year which saw the first two places in the rankings occupied at the end of the season by two players of the same nationality?

That’s really all for now. We’ll be back in 2023.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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ATP Finals Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Casper Ruud in the Championship Match



Novak Djokovic on Saturday in Turin (

The biggest ATP non-Major final of 2022 takes place on Sunday in Turin, Italy.


2022 has been a bizarre year in the career of Novak Djokovic.  It started with his deportation from Australia, forcing the unvaccinated Djokovic to miss the first Major of the year.  That would be one of six prominent events that Novak would miss this season due to COVID-19 entry rules (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open).  Yet Djokovic was still able to accumulate a record of 41-7, and win his 21st Slam at Wimbledon.  He is now 17-1 at indoor ATP events this fall, and will end the year as the World No.5  With a win on Sunday, he would tie Roger Federer for most all-time ATP Finals titles.

2022 has been a groundbreaking year in the career of Casper Ruud.  He had already established himself as a top 10 player, but prior to this season, was predominantly thought of as a clay court specialist, with five of his six ATP titles coming on that surface.  Yet that all changed this season, starting in Miami when he reached his first Masters 1000 finals.  Casper would go on to also reach his first two Major finals, in Paris in New York.  He is now 51-21, and into his fourth big final of the year.

Sunday’s action in Turin starts at 4:00pm local time with the doubles championship match, featuring Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (4) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2).  Both teams are an undefeated 4-0 this past week.  This is Ram and Salisbury’s second consecutive year in the final, having lost a year ago to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.  Mektic won this title two years ago alongside Wesley Koolhof, while this is Pavic’s first appearance in the final of this event.  These teams have not met since the semifinals of this tournament last year, when Ram and Salisbury prevailed.

Casper Ruud (3) Novak Djokovic (7) – Not Before 7:00pm

Ruud is 3-1 this past week, with his only loss coming in a dead rubber against Rafael Nadal.  Prior to his three top 10 victories across the last seven days, Casper only had two all season (Zverev, Auger-Aliassime).  And he is yet to win a title above 250-level in his career, with the aforementioned three losses this year in big finals.  Ruud was a semifinalist here a year ago in his ATP Finals debut.

Djokovic is an undefeated 4-0 this week, which includes an arduous effort to defeat Daniil Medvedev on Friday in a dead rubber.  Novak is now 10-3 against top 10 opposition in 2022, having taken nine of his last 10 against the top 10.  He is 4-2 in finals this year, though he lost his most recent one, two weeks in Bercy, to Holger Rune.  Djokovic is an eight-time finalist here, though he hasn’t won this title since 2015.

Djokovic has played a lot more tennis across the last two days than Ruud.  On Friday, Novak spent over three hours on court, while Ruud had the day off.  But Djokovic still looked plenty fresh for his semifinal on Saturday against Taylor Fritz, and was able to prevent the American from extending that tight contest to a third set.  Novak is 3-0 against Casper, which includes a straight-set victory at this same event a year ago.  And considering Ruud’s poor record in significant finals, Djokovic is a considerable favorite to win his sixth title at the ATP Finals on Sunday.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP Finals: Fritz Close But No… Final, Djokovic Advances

Novak Djokovic beats Taylor Fritz in two tie-breaks and is just one win away from his sixth title at Nitto ATP Finals



Novak Djokovic - 2022 Nitto ATP Finals Turin (photo Twitter @atptour)

[7] N. Djokovic b. [8] T. Fritz 7-6(5) 7-6(5)


Even when physically not at his best, Novak Djokovic can still count on his incredible ability to play the most effective tennis in the most important moment. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if the opponent misses an easy shot while attempting to close out the set, but the pressure Djokovic puts on whomever is on the other side of the net makes even the easiest shot look a little bit harder.

The former world no. 1 has put together a clinical display of efficiency during the first semifinal of the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin edging Taylor Fritz by two points in the tie-breaker of each set to reach his eighth finals in the end-of-year Championship.

It was not the best Djokovic, and it was not the best match: lots of errors on both sides, and a huge opportunity for Fritz to take the match to the distance when he served at 5-4 in the second set and then missed an easy backhand sitter to go a set-point up at 40-30, blaming an idiot spectator who indeed shouted in the middle of the point, when he really should have been able to put away that point blindfolded.

Fritz did not start the match in the best possible way: 10 unforced errors during the first five games, a break conceded at love at 2-2 and Djokovic appeared destined for a relatively quiet afternoon. But it was not going to be that easy: errors started flowing also on the Serbian side, and Fritz was able to equalize at 3-3. A tie-break was then needed to decide the winner of the first set, and the deciding point was a laser forehand down the line by Djokovic who swept point and set at 6-5 and headed off to the toilet for a comfort break after taking a one-set advantage.

But the break did not do him much good: unforced errors kept coming from the baseline, and Fritz blitzed 2-0 up with a break. At 4-3, the American wowed the Italian crowd with a magical backhand stop-volley to recover a service game where he found himself down 0-30, but when it was time to serve out the set, he missed that easy backhand we described earlier to give Djokovic another chance to close out a match in two sets.

And another chance is the last thing Djokovic should be gifted, although on a day like today, with Christmas time upon us, gift trading became the thing of the match. Two great points at 4-4 in the tie-break warmed the 12,000-strong crowd at Pala Alpitour to what could have possibly been a great end of the set, but Djokovic first earned a match point to be played on his serve with a good action from the baseline closed by a volley and then squandered it all with a very unusual unforced error on a routine backhand. But on his second match point, just a minute later, Fritz badly missed an inside-out forehand putting an end to the match and gifting Djokovic a chance to win his sixth title at the Nitto ATP Finals, the first in Turin.

On Sunday he will face either Casper Ruud or Andrey Rublev: he has never lost to Ruud in three previous matches (3-0) and the only time he did not beat Rublev (2-1) was last spring in Belgrade in the final of the tournament organized by his family.

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