Casper Ruud back to his best as he gains Rome last four

Casper Ruud

Fourth seed Casper Ruud overcame Francisco Cerundolo 7-6(5), 6-4 to advance to the Rome Masters semi-finals.

Ruud has reached the last four at the Foro Italico in each of his last three visits to Rome. He is set to take on Holger Rune, who earlier in the day defeated Novak Djokovic in a stunning upset.

Ruud had lost two consecutive matches to Cerundolo, including a loss in straight sets in Barcelona not too long ago.

However after two hours and five minutes, the 24-year-old exacted retribution on the Roman clay.

“I’m just very happy to play good tennis and be in the semi-finals,” Ruud said in his on-court interview. “It’s going to be a very, very fun one, hopefully.”

The finalist for the 2022 Roland Garros has just begun to find the kind of form he displayed in 2022. In Estoril, he won his first ATP Tour championship of the year, now in Rome his win over Cerundolo puts him two wins away from his maiden ATP Masters 1000 triumph.

“Tennis is a strange sport, as we all can tell. And I think I’ve really lived through it the last 12 months or so, some of my best moments of my career and some tougher losses in the past couple of months,” Ruud said.

“But here we are back in Rome and I feel great. I know that I’ve had success in Italy before in my career, here [I made] two times [the] semi-finals, Turin last year was amazing for me… It’s something in the food maybe, I don’t know.”

Ruud had to put in a lot of effort to win on the Italian clay, thanks to Cerundolo matching him at every turn. Both players struggled to get an advantage in rallies, committing a lot of unforced errors (47 for Cerundolo and 28 for Ruud).

The battling duo were satisfied to spar and probe from beyond the baseline trading heavy bombs back and forth. With 14 break points, Ruud had more possibilities on returns, but Cerundolo stopped 11 of them.

Ruud made the crucial play at 4-4 in the second set after just escaping a difficult tie-break. The Norwegian served to seal the match after Cerundolo’s bold inside-out forehand missed wide.

He expects his match against Rune to be another massive test.

“He’s improved so much. I played him a couple times in 2021 and a couple of times in 2022, and his improvement is just really, really good,” Ruud said.

“You can see that his confidence is good on court and [he] really deserves [to be] where he is at the moment.

“He has big goals for his career and is going through one goal by another so I’m just going to try to think about what I’ve done well against him before — I have a winning record against him. Tennis is always open, it’s never over until it’s over, and I’m just going to try to fight.”