US Open SF preview: Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov follow storyline in New York | ATP Tour

Kasper RuudThe quest for a first Grand Slam title will culminate on Friday when he goes to court Karen Khachanov in the semifinals at the US Open.

The Norwegian demonstrated his title credentials as he dispatched Italians Matteo Berretini in straight sets to record his 43rd win of a stellar season. With confidence high and No. 1 on the Pepperstone ATP rankings within reach, the fifth seed looks like a major threat on the New York hard courts.

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However, Ruud, who had never progressed past the third round in four previous appearances at Flushing Meadows, admitted he did not expect his success in New York over those two weeks.

“To be honest, I’m a bit surprised that I made it into the semifinals here,” Ruud said after beating Berrettini. “But I think I’ve developed my hard court game a lot in the last year or two and I think Miami showed me this year and I proved to myself that I can beat good players and get to later stages in big hard court tournaments. It was kind of a confidence boost for me.”

Ruud reached the final on hard courts in Miami in April before reaching the semifinals in Montreal last month. After demonstrating his pedigree on the surface, the 23-year-old will look to raise his level further when he meets 27th seeded Khachanov Arthur Ashe Stadion. Ruud, who reached his only Grand Slam final Roland Garros In June, the 26-year-old leads 1-0 in her ATP Head2Head series.

However, the task at hand won’t be easy for the Norwegian as Khachanov is in the form of his life. The 26-year-old eliminated the champions from Montreal Pablo Carreno Busta on the fourth lap before passing Australian Nick Kyrgios in a five-set thriller to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.

The four-time tour-level champion has climbed to No. 18 on the Pepperstone ATP Live rankings as a result of his run at Flushing Meadows and could jump to No. 11 if he wins his first title since 2018 and other results go his way.

Khachanov reached his career high of world No. 8 in July 2019 after winning Rolex Paris Mastersan ATP Masters 1000 event, last November.

“It’s another step forward,” Khachanov said after beating Kyrgios. “I’m really, really happy that I was able to do it. Also, I had to face Nick and beat him who is playing [some] of the best tennis. It was obviously a difficult match to approach before. i just did it I took the step forward. I reached my first semifinal so it’s pretty easy in my head. I’m just very happy.”

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Marin Cilic‘s loss in the fourth round against Carlo Alcaraz in the early morning hours of Tuesday ensured that there would be a Grand Slam winner in New York for the first time this year.

If Ruud lifts the trophy on Sunday, he would become the first Norwegian to climb to world No. 1 since the Pepperstone ATP rankings were launched in 1973 US Open in 7th place but has a clear path to the top spot following Rafael Nadal‘s loss against Frances Tiafoe. Read more about the battle for world number 1.

“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.”

Under pressure, all eyes will be on 23-year-old Ruud as he seeks to pass the Khachanov test and make more history in New York.

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