Until 2022, Casper Ruud had never been beyond the fourth round of a Grand Slam event. Until this year, he’d never made it past the second round at the US Open in five attempts. Now he’s through to a second Grand Slam final in the space of three months.
The 23-year-old, runner-up at Roland-Garros in June, made more history for Norway as he beat Russian Karen Khachanov, the No 27 seed, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 on Friday to move into the final of the US Open, improving his chances of leaving New York as the world No 1.
“After Roland-Garros, of course I was extremely happy,” said Ruud, who plays either Carlos Alcaraz or Frances Tiafoe in Sunday’s final.
“But I was also humble enough to know that it could be my the only Grand Slam final of my career. So to be in another one three months later, it’s beyond words”.
Ruud won 20 of 23 points at the net and in the second set, he didn’t drop a single point on serve.
Should Alcaraz reach the final, then the winner of Sunday’s title showdown will be No 1. If Tiafoe beats Alcaraz, Ruud will take top spot no matter what happens in the final.
Epic rally wins Ruud first set
The first set was nip and tuck early on, with Khachanov, in his first Grand Slam semi-final, grabbing the first break to lead 4-3.
But No 5 seed Ruud broke straight back and when it got to a tiebreak, he stepped it up again, winning a 55-shot rally to take the first set and stamp his authority on the match.
Ruud rewarded for aggressive intent
In the big moments, Ruud was the more aggressive and with the momentum of that first set behind him, he ripped Khachanov apart in the second set.
The Norwegian didn’t drop a single point on serve in the entire set and the wind seemed to have completely gone out of Khachanov’s sails as he went two sets to love down.
To his immense credit, Khachanov didn’t let his head drop, though, fist pumping early in the third set to show Ruud he was still there, mentally.
And it paid off as he stayed with Ruud throughout the set, with scoreboard pressure working in his favour in the end as he broke to cut the deficit in half.
But it was just a false dawn for Khachanov, who immediately became passive again at the start of the fourth set, allowing Ruud to take control again.
The Norwegian missed two break point chances in the first game but didn’t miss two games later, thumping an unstoppable forehand down the line to get the vital break.
A second break, for 4-1, gave him a nice insurance and when he served for it at 5-2, there was no faltering, a deft drop shot clinching victory and a place in his second Grand Slam final.
“This match today was another great one from my side,” Ruud said.” I think we were both nervous in the first set, it was a bit up and down (but) you’ve got to take into account it was probably the biggest match of both of our careers.
“Second and fourth set I played phenomenal, third set Karen stepped it up, but I’m so happy.”
Ruud is through to the final having dropped four sets.
He opened his campaign by beating Briton Kyle Edmund (6-3, 7-5, 6-2), then took out Dutchman Tim van Rijthoven (6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4), American Tommy Paul, the No 29 seed (7-6 (3), 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-0), French lucky loser Corentin Moutet (6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-2) and Italian Matteo Berrettini, the No 13 seed (6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (4)).
Khachanov, ranked No 31, dropped at least a set in all his previous rounds. He beat American Denis Kudla (3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2), Brazilian Thiago Monteiro (6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4), Jack Draper (6-3, 4-6, 6-5 ret.), Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, the No 12 seed (4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3) and then Australian Nick Kyrgios, the No 23 seed (7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-4) to reach the semis.
New York City (Grand Slam), other semi-final result (USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, hard, USD 40.560.000):
- Carlos Alcaraz vs. Frances Tiafoe (play later Friday)