Former world no. 1 tennis star Rafael Nadal has further delayed his comeback after pulling out of the upcoming Qatar Open.
Casper Ruud of Norway continued to excel at Roland Garros with the 23-year-old advancing to his first Grand Slam final, defeating Marin Cilic of Croatia 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 to set up a title clash with Spanish stalwart and winner of 13 French Open titles Rafael Nadal.
Prior to his French Open run to the final, Ruud had never reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal and his run to the final in Paris will see him rise to a career-high of world No. 6 on the ATP Rankings.
The eighth seed will face Nadal, winner of a record 21 Grand Slams, for the first time as he bids to deny the Spaniard a record-extending 14th Roland Garros crown and 22nd Grand Slam singles title.
Ruud has trained at Nadal’s academy in Mallorca since September 2018, adding to the intrigue ahead of the title clash, according to atptour.com.
“It is amazing. He is the last player of the Big 3 and the very top players in the world I have never played against,” Ruud said of Nadal after securing a place in the final.
“So I guess this is perfect timing and worth the wait. To finally play him in a Grand Slam final will be a special moment for me. Hopefully a little bit for him as well.
“He (Nadal) has played so many finals, but at least he is playing a student from his academy this time. So it is going to be a fun one hopefully,” added Ruud.
“It was a great match (against Cilic) from my side,” Ruud said. “I didn’t start the greatest, but Marin also played well in the first set. I was too defensive and then I was able to break him in the second set and that got me going again. From that break I played some of my best tennis this year. Serving well, playing aggressive, So I am super happy with my performance today.”
Ruud improved to 3-0 against Cilic in their ATP head-to-head, with one win each year since 2020. Following the victory, Ruud rises above Carlos Alcaraz to No. 6 in the ATP Live Rankings. He is now projected to reach a career-high in Monday’s ATP Rankings.
An eight-time tour-level titleist, Ruud’s best performance at a major prior to his run at Roland Garros this year came at the Australian Open in 2021 where he reached the fourth round.
Cilic was bidding for his fourth major final and had the opportunity to become the fifth active man to reach the final of all four Slams. The world No. 23 would have been the lowest-ranked Roland Garros semi finalist since No. 25 Robin Soderling of Sweden in 2009.
(Inputs from IANS)