Fifth Seed Kasper Ruud kept his nerve in a five-set battle against the home favourite Thomas Paul Friday, punching his ticket into the fourth round of the US Open after a 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-0 win.
Ruud, 10-2 in his last 12 games, is the first Norwegian to reach the round of 16 at Flushing Meadows and is one of four players (Medvedev, Nadal, Alcaraz) who can claim world No. 1 on the Pepperstone ATP rankings 12th September.
“We both played well,” said Ruud. “Whenever someone broke, the other seemed to snap right back, so it was difficult to take the lead and keep going. We were always close to the gate. It seemed like I could only break it if I broke first so that’s not a good sign but in the fifth set I played some of my best tennis this year and the best tennis I’ve played in this tournament.
It took Ruud four hours and 23 minutes to get past the American and emerged the fresher of the two as Paul had his third straight five-set match (d. Zapata Miralles, Korda).
“It’s not everyday that you play four hours on the pitch, but that’s what we train for, we work hard for,” said Ruud. “I’ll try to be fresh for Sunday.”
A crucial turning point in the game came in the third set as the Norwegian saved three straight set points and Paul served 6/5, 40/0 to take a two set lead to one. Ruud clinched the third set in a tiebreak and despite losing the fourth set, he used his fresher legs to pull away in the decider.
Paul, who reached in 2015 US Open Boys singles final (l. Fritz), often worked his way up the field and won 38/62 net points. Ruud had the advantage on longer baseline changes and made 32 fewer unforced errors than Paul’s 82.
Ruud, 23, is having the best season of his career. In June he reached his first Grand Slam final Roland Garros before falling behind Rafa Nadal. With a chance to take first place in the Pepperstone ATP rankings, this season’s success was somewhat unexpected for the Oslo native.
“To be honest, it’s a bit surprising,” said Ruud. “I didn’t think I would be in this situation when we started this year. I don’t feel any pressure, I used it today as motivation to think that maybe this is the only chance in my career to win the tournament and become number 1.”
Ruud, who improves to 41-15 this season, meets the Frenchman Corentin Moutet in the fourth round on Sunday.