Kasper Ruud offered to reach his maiden US Open semifinals and is struggling to keep his world No. 1 hopes alive in New York on Tuesday. Still, the Norwegian showed no sign of pressure as he dismissed the 13th seed Matteo Berretini with a 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4) quarter-final win at Flushing Meadows.
Ruud was reckless on the return as he made a dream start Arthur Ashe Stadion where he took a 6-1, 5-1 lead, breaking through Berrettini’s defenses frequently with great clean shots from the baseline. Although the Italian recovered from a botched start to find his feet and break Ruud’s serve early in the third set, the fifth seed’s heavy forehand and tenacity on the court proved crucial as he rallied to take the tiebreak of the to dominate the third set and make a two-hour, 35-minute win.
“It was a better start than I think I’ve ever had in a match,” said Ruud, who had finished third in four main draw appearances in New York earlier this year. “Everything went as I wished, I scored all the points I needed and Matteo maybe didn’t serve as well as usual. I was able to take the chances I got.
“Towards the end of the second set I got a little nervous because it was going almost too well. It’s good but sometimes you can get too excited and think you can walk on water… So I had to calm down a bit and luckily I was able to serve the second set and the third set was very tough. ”
Ruud takes over Nick Kyrgios or Karen Khachanov in the semifinals. Should he lift his first Grand Slam trophy in New York, the Norwegian will climb to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP rankings for the first time on Monday. He can also take first place if he reaches the championship game at Flushing Meadows and Carlo Alcaraz Not.
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“To be honest, I don’t want to think too much about it,” Ruud said of the race for the number 1. “Obviously it’s something that all young players dream of. So if I’m able to do it, let’s see if I can pull it off… Of course it’s a bit of extra motivation to get involved, and even if you do we’re down the score to keep fighting. You never know what’s going to happen and if I’m very, very lucky I might leave New York number one in the world. So of course I try to try.”
Ruud used variety to counter Berrettini’s serve in the pair’s second tour-level meeting of the season, often varying his return position as he tried to keep the Italian on his toes. He later admitted he enjoyed adapting his game to the spacious Arthur Ashe Stadium, something he believes will help in the semifinals if he wants to compete in his second Grand Slam final after his run Roland Garros in July.
“Of course I can play these deep returns on this pitch because [there is so much space] behind the baseline,” said Ruud. “This helps. This pitch is special, it’s really big, the biggest in the world, so I think I like playing on it and I’m looking forward to the next game.”
Ahead of the game, Ruud had discussed the importance of breaking Berrettini’s serve and the 23-year-old got off to the perfect start, claiming two straight breaks en route to an early 5-0 lead. The Norwegian remained rock solid while Berrettini struggled, with the Italian making 13 unforced errors to just two from Ruud as the Norwegian drove for the opening set.
Confidence flowed through the fifth seed, who produced a stunning defensive tweener lob to stay in the point on Berrettini’s serve in the third game of set number two at 15/0, winning it after the Italian netted a forehand . Ruud followed with a shrewd forehand pass on the run to set up a break at 2-1, a lead that soon became 5-1 as Berrettini was unable to match his inspired opponent.
The Italian belatedly showed some of the form that took him to the semi-finals in New York in 2019, reeling off three games in a row as the momentum began to shift. It proved too late to salvage the second set as Ruud held serve to make it 6-4, but the Italian’s forehand started to find the corners and he took a 4-1 lead in the decider when the Crowds felt the beginnings of a revival.
Ruud, who ended the match after converting five of 14 break point opportunities, dashed Berrettini’s hopes of a sure win. He aggressively stayed behind his forehand to win back the break before forging an unassailable 6/2 lead in the third set tiebreak to take his lead to 4-2 in the ATP Head2Head series against Berrettini.