Tennis: Two-time runner-up Ruud dreams of French Open title

AFP , Sunday 26 May 2024

Casper Ruud said he would love to think 2024 is finally his year at the French Open, but added that Novak Djokovic remained his favourite to win the tournament, which starts on Sunday.

Casper Ruud
Casper Ruud, of Norway, poses with the trophy after beating Tomas Machac, of the Czech Republic, during their Final match, at the ATP 250 Geneva Open tennis tournament in Geneva, Switzerland, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)


Twice a runner-up in Paris, Ruud heads to Roland-Garros on a high after winning the Geneva Open title for a third time -- but said Djokovic, the world number one and defending champion, remained top of the pecking order, despite a shaky season so far.

Norwegian Ruud, the world number seven, beat 44th-ranked Czech Tomas Machac 7-5, 6-3 in Saturday's final to add to the Geneva trophies he won in 2021 and 2022.

Machac knocked out Djokovic in the Geneva semi-finals, with the 37-year-old Serb struggling to find his usual impeccable rhythm.

Ruud, 25, has lost in the last two French Open finals -- including last year to Djokovic.

Asked if he thought this year could be the moment to go one better, Ruud said: "I would love to, and I would love to think that way, but I'm not really expecting that this year is the year I'm going to win it.

"It's so open these days and of course to me, even though Novak has had maybe a tougher year than usual, I would still consider him the favourite. He's arriving there with 24 Grand Slams in the bag."

Rival contenders

Besides Rafael Nadal, who has won a record 14 French Open titles, Ruud said "many have been talking about" Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz for the title -- while Alexander Zverev won in Rome and Stefanos Tsitsipas in Monte Carlo on the clay this year.

Ruud, who won Barcelona on the clay, will face Brazilian qualifier Felipe Meligeni Alves in the first round at Roland-Garros.

Ruud said he was targeting getting through the opening rounds, and taking it from there.

"The goal, like any other Slam, is to reach the second week and from there, typically I've seen that things open up a little bit," he said.

"Maybe you play someone who's tired. If you're physically ready for the second week of a Slam, a lot of good things might happen."

Play 'real matches'

The 28-man Geneva tournament serves as a warm-up before the French Open, the second of the year's four Grand Slams.

Ruud certainly got some practice in for the rigours of five-set Grand Slam matches.

Rain delays meant he played two matches in one day on Saturday, first beating Italy's in-form Flavio Cobolli 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) in a roller coaster semi-final before going on to defeat Machac.

"I wanted to build up some momentum for Paris and I think I've been able to do that and hopefully I can bring it on to Paris," Ruud said.

"Physically it's good preparation, and you look at all the other players in Paris, what do they do in training? They play matches. So why don't you come here and play a real match instead of just practice matches?

"It’s been a great week in terms of winning and also building up the form and the physical aspects for Paris."

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