Eurosport tennis expert and seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander believes rising Norwegian star Casper Ruud has what it takes to test Roger Federer in their third-round clash at the French Open.
Ruud has been identified as one of the rising stars of the game, as he looks to follow in the footsteps of his father Christian by enjoying a successful career on the ATP Tour, and Wilander suggests the big moment 20-year-old Casper craves could arrive against the 20-time Grand Slam king Federer.
“This has been a breakthrough season for Casper Ruud,” says Wilander. “I like the progress he has taken. He’s building, he lives in Majorca, he practices with Rafa Nadal which has got to help so much. That would be invaluable to see Rafa up close and deal with that in practice. I think Casper is a serious threat going forwards and is a serious threat to Roger Federer.
“The locals are already calling it the biggest match in Norwegian tennis history. Bigger than some of his father’s matches. I think the good thing for Casper is that he’s playing Federer and not Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
“Everyone that follows tennis knows that Casper is in with a chance, especially if it’s on clay. This is over five-sets and 37-year-old Roger Federer is here for the first time in a while. This is the kind of match that if he wants to go further and reach the top of the game then this is one he has to win.
“That might be putting too much pressure on him, but if you are looking at him being up there with Sascha Zverev and the young guns, well beat Federer at the French Open then. It’s a golden opportunity for him.”
Wilander went on to suggest Djokovic is the only man who can stop Nadal claiming a 12th French Open title this year, as he feels the Spaniard is looking invincible on clay once again.
“Novak Djokovic is hitting the ball very well at the moment, he’s very comfortable on the court and he seems very hungry to get onto the ball,” he added.
“Confidence is key, he’s getting used to the surface, the conditions and the tennis balls – it’s a matter of him stepping in. He is also throwing in the odd drop shot or two to keep his opponents guessing.
“When he hits a heavy backhand on clay it’s a weapon, he can create angles. The conditions don’t really make that much of a difference to him, it’s just the backhand is good and heavy and the forehand is good and dry.”
“It is important for him to have comfortable early-round wins. I think Rome took a lot out of him, he played three days in a row…and then a week off is sometimes not enough. The first week is important for him to gain a lot of confidence, but at some point, he needs to be tested, if not a match then maybe a set or two.”
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