Paris, Jun 3 (EFE).- Casper Ruud cruised into his first French Open final with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 semifinal victory Friday over Marin Cilic and now will prepare for the ultimate test in tennis – a final showdown against Spanish all-time great and 13-time champion Rafael Nadal.
Earlier in the day, the fifth-ranked Spaniard advanced to the championship match when third-ranked German Alexander Zverev suffered an injury late in the second set and was forced to retire.
Unlike in his quarterfinal victory over Danish teenager Holger Rune, the Norwegian started slowly against his big-hitting Croatian opponent.
Ruud lost his serve for the first time to fall behind 4-3 and then let the first set slip in away when he was broken once again two games later.
Although he bounced back quickly to record his first service break of the match, the world No. 8 nearly squandered a chance to finish off that set when serving at 5-4.
Facing a 0-40 hole, Ruud needed to produce something special and he did.
When he needed it most, the Norwegian struck a series of winners to reel off five points in a row, clinch that game and even the match at a set apiece.
He then rode that momentum to grab an early lead at the start of the third set and never looked back.
Ruud completely dominated sets three and four, not dropping his serve once in his final eight service games and winning nearly half of the Croatian’s service points.
“It was a great match from my side. I didn’t start the greatest but Marin also played very well in the first set,” the Norwegian said afterward.
“I was too defensive and then I was able to break him in the second set. That got me going a little bit. From that break I played some of my best tennis this year, serving well, super aggressive, so I’m super happy with the performance today.”
By reaching the final, Ruud achieved the latest in a series of milestones for himself and Norwegian tennis this fortnight.
The son of Christian Ruud, who played on the ATP Tour in the 1990s and reached the fourth round of the Australian Open in 1997, Casper earlier this week became the first player from his country reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal and then semifinal.
But his biggest task lies ahead on Sunday against Nadal, whose record haul of 13 titles at Roland Garros is the most by any male or female at a single Grand Slam event.
Earlier Friday, the fifth-ranked Nadal was leading Zverev 7-6 (10-8), 6-6 when the German world No. 3 badly sprained his ankle and was unable to continue.
The two players had spent more than three hours on court to that juncture of the match, which was notable for an extremely large number of service breaks (10 overall, five by each player).
“It’s not easy and beautiful to talk after what happened,” Nadal said afterward. “Only thing that I can say is I hope he’s not too bad. Hopefully it’s just the normal thing when you turn your ankle, and hopefully nothing’s broken.”
Nadal, who celebrated his 36th birthday on Friday, will take a mind-boggling 111-3 record at the French Open into Sunday’s final. EFE