Not too long ago many of us thought this cool, amiable solid Norwegian guy was mostly an excellent clay court player, a model of hard working, who deserved his good ranking, around tenth position. The way he outclassed Matteo Berrettini at the US Open, has definitely proved how wrong we were. Matteo did not come up with his best performance, but Ruud played an impressive match all way long.
“The first two sets went much better than I was expecting. Everything sort of went my favour. I was hitting all the spots, all the shots that I needed to. Matteo was maybe not showing the level he typically does,” said Ruud.
“But I think the conditions were a little bit in my favour with the humidity and the roof closed. It made the ball or the court feel a little slower. I felt like I had more time than usual when I play against him. It was a little bit of advantage for me.”
Ruud dominated the first set, prevailing in all domains. Even his service fared better than Berrettini’s.
“I was really bad. I didn’t check my percentage of serve. I didn’t check, like, the stats, but my game wasn’t there,’ Berrettini admitted. “It was he worst day of the tournament probably in the most important moment. I fought through, but it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t feeling my game. I wasn’t feeling my mindset. I think he was feeling really good. Congrats to him. I told him. He also said he played unbelievable match.”
Like in his previous match against Davidovich Fokina, Berrettini was looking stiff: his mighty serve and forehand refusing to flow. Ruud was always in the control of the rallies, where he often caged Berrettini in the backhand corner. With his deep, spinning groundstrokes he was constantly forcing the Italian to hit from far behind the baseline, draining his energy, then not fearing to switch to the forehand, no longer hurtful. Ruud took the set 61, in 28 minutes.
The second set was like a scan of the first and Ruud had two set points to finish it off with the same score. Suddenly, Berrettini shook off the rust, loosened up and started hitting through his shots, finding length and spin with his back hand and his power on the forehand. It wasn’t enough to save the set, which he only partially recovered, losing 64, but the wind was changing.
Indeed, Berrettini broke immediately in the third set. Now Ruud was starting to miss shots. He appeared gripped by anxiety and was playing more cautiously and predictably.
The Italian rose to 3-0 and actually had won six of the last seven games. Now he was holding on in the longer rallies, and, in spite of being forced to hit from far behind the baseline, he was now able to turn them around with his forehand. His serve in turn was ripping Ruud’s racquet from his hands. Leading 5-2 he had two set points on Ruud’s service but missed a forehand and a return. Serving for the set, the score read 30-30 when he chose to come into the net twice after a kick second serve. On both occasions Ruud’s returning and passing skills proved their worth and the number seven in the world bounced back into set.
Ruud no longer let the match slip from his hands, whereas Berrettini didn’t succeed in sustaining his momentum. The tiebreak resembled the first thirteen games of the match, and Ruud imposed his dominance once more in the tiebreak.
“In the third set I was also a little bit fortunate to save some set points and come back and win it on the tiebreak, but very happy to win in three straight sets,” he said
This is Ruud’s second long run in a Slam this year. He also had to pull out of Australian Open the day before the tournament because of ankle injury.
“Not playing a match in Melbourne was a little bit obviously disappointing, but I knew that when Paris came along I was starting to feel better on the clay, especially, and finding my form and was trying to think, you know, there are three Grand Slams left of the year, and let’s try to take the chances I may get.” He reflected.
What’s his secret for success?
“During Paris, something clicked, and I feel like I, this year, have sort of figured out in the better way how to play five sets and knowing that it’s very different from playing best-of-three sets, and it often becomes much longer matches and a lot of back and forth.” He said.
“Also sometimes realizing or knowing that you can sort of let one set go every once in a while to save some energy for the rest of the sets. So I think, yeah, I matured and learned how to play five sets better than I did last year.”
Confidence in his much improved game on hard courts is a key factor too.
“I’m honestly a bit surprised that I made it to the semis here, but I think I have developed my hard court game a lot the last year or two, and I think Miami this year showed me and I proved to myself that I can, you know, beat good players and reach later stages in big hard court tournaments. That has been a sort of confidence booster for myself.”
Anyway, who says that clay court players can’t target the US Open?
“If you look at this tournament, US Open, and a couple of players who have been known as clay court players, let’s say Rafa and Thiem, they have both won here, and Rafa has won it four times. When you look at the Champions Wall in the locker room here, you see there are many different players who have won this tournament. This is a Grand Slam the last 18 or 19 years that had more winners than the rest of them, because I’m not sure why, but there is something special I guess with this place. This year I’m pretty sure there will be new first-time winner here this year also.”
Alexander Zverev Deserves More Respect According To Boris Becker
According to Boris Becker, Alexander Zverev deserves more respect from tennis journalists.
Boris Becker has claimed that Alexander Zverev deserves more respect despite Zverev failing to live up to his potential at Grand Slams.
Zverev has only reached one Grand Slam final in his career despite being a regular inside the world’s top ten as well as performing at regular ATP events.
This season Zverev played a limited schedule after recovering from an ankle injury but still managed to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals.
However most critics have been loud when judging Zverev’s career as it was looking likely that he would be a regular Grand Slam champion.
The German has failed to live up to expectations but former Grand Slam champion Boris Becker believes Zverev deserves more respect.
Speaking to Eurosport Becker also said that Zverev’s father being the coach is a more than successful approach when it comes to the former US Open finalist’s career, “In my opinion, he doesn’t get enough respect from the tennis experts internationally,” Becker explained.
“They’re all talking about the young three or four, but don’t give Zverev, Medvedev or Rublev enough respect. He’s playing with his fist in his pocket a little bit, wants everyone show that he is not a thing of the past, but that his best time is yet to come.
“Surely his father knows best what is good for his son, but if you look into the box at the competition, you can also see changes.”
Becker has followed Zverev for most of his career so knows that the best is yet to come from the German.
Alexander Zverev will look to prove himself next season when he starts his 2024 season when he represents Germany at the United Cup.
Juan Carlos Ferrero Analyses Key Areas For Carlos Alcaraz’s Development
Juan Carlos Ferrero has outlined the next steps in Carlos Alcaraz’s development.
Carlos Alcaraz’s coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero has analysed the key areas for the Spaniard’s development heading into the 2024 season.
The former world number one’s season has come to an end after a successful year which saw him win the Wimbledon title as well as winning two Masters 1000 titles.
Alcaraz capped off an incredible season by reaching the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
However there is a long way for the Spaniard to go if he wants to consistently go toe-to-toe with Novak Djokovic.
Speaking to Marca Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero spoke about the Spaniard’s development and said that Alcaraz is too emotional, “Be more regular in games, not open doors. Sometimes there are mistakes and it is something that we have to improve a lot,” Ferrero commented.
“Although it is true that he opens doors, he always competes well and at the highest level. He knows it, the other day he already said that Novak doesn’t give you one. He has to improve his decision making and he will achieve that with experience. Carlos is very emotional and that sometimes helps him and other times not so much.”
It’s clear Alcaraz’s high-quality is there but to consistently do it against Djokovic is another task altogether as the Spaniard looks to go from strength-to strength next season.
One area that is clearly a priority for Alcaraz is physical conditioning especially considering what happened against Djokovic at Roland Garros earlier in the season.
Ferrero said that will be a clear focus heading into 2024 but couldn’t guarantee that Alcaraz will play a tournament before the Australian Open, “Because of the year and the fatigue he has been in, what he needs is rest and disconnecting for 8-10 days with his friends,” Ferrero stated.
“From there, the thinking must go back to working really hard, strong and well to start very strongly in Australia. One can never be sure of that. Sometimes you play a tournament and it doesn’t go well, you left home too early. There are many ways of thinking.
“This year we haven’t played Australia and he finishes number two. That means there is no urgency to play a tournament early. Carlos is a player who enters competition quickly, you don’t usually see him without rhythm.
“Although it is true that he becomes more dangerous from the round of 16, from the quarter-finals. I am confident that the two exhibition matches and the training sessions will help us play a good tournament.”
Alcaraz will be looking to play the Australian Open which starts on the 15th of January after the Spaniard missed last year’s tournament due to a leg injury.
Australian Open Chief Confident Nadal Will Play But Kyrgios’ Participation Uncertain
The tournament director of the Australian Open says he is ‘certain’ that Rafael Nadal will play at the Grand Slam even though the Spaniard has yet to outline his comeback plans.
Craig Tiley told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday he hopes to receive some clarity over Nadal’s intentions in the next couple of weeks but is confident he will play. However, the tennis official had previously claimed in October that the former world No.1 had already committed to play in the event before his team denied that statement.
Nadal, who has won 22 Grand Slam titles, hasn’t played a Tour match since his second round defeat at the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury. He was originally expecting to take an eight-week break but the recovery didn’t go to plan and he ended up having surgery. In May he confirmed that he will take an extended break from the sport to heal his body and admitted that retirement next year is a possibility.
“Rafa has been training, I follow him closely, probably every day because he’s a massive drawcard for us,” the Reuters News Agency quoted Tiley as saying.
“He wants to play, he’s obviously planning on playing. It all depends on how he pulls up.
“Hopefully in the next week or the next two weeks, we get some specific confirmation of that. I’m certain Rafa will be here because he’s not going to want to miss the opportunity to repeat what he did a couple of years ago.”
Earlier this month Nadal confirmed that he intends to return to the Tour but admits that he will continue to experience a degree of pain. Although he has yet to give any information about which tournament he will begin his comeback at. The 2024 season begins during the first week of January.
“I’m well, training, and happy. I’m at a good stage of my life,” atptour.com quoted Nadal as telling reporters in Barcelona.
“Until now I didn’t know if I would play tennis again someday, and now I genuinely believe I will. I’m still not ready to say when, but I’m able to train increasingly longer, and the progress is good.’
Will Kyrgios play?
Another player Tiley is eager to welcome back is home player and former Wimbledon Finalist Nick Kyrgios who has only played one Tour-level match this season due to injury. He underwent knee surgery in January and then tore a ligament in his wrist during the summer. As a result, the Australian currently doesn’t have an ATP ranking due to his inactivity.
“We have spoken to Nick, and he obviously wants to do the best he possibly can to give him the best chance to play in January,” Tiley said of Kyrgios.
“Whether he’s playing, whether he’s doing something else, Nick will be here in January and to get him to play will be great. But we’ve got to take it as it comes and he’s got to make sure he takes care of his health …”
Kyrgios recently worked as an analyst for the Tennis Channel during this year’s ATP Finals in Turin and gave a brief update on his ongoing recovery during a segment.
“After last year, I had such a great year, and I’m so hungry to get back out there,” the 2022 Wimbledon finalist commented.
“So I’m doing everything I can to get back out there. Obviously, you know how injuries are every day, just doing the rehab, doing the gym work.”
The Australian Open will begin on Sunday 14th January. Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka are the defending champions.
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