GENEVA/WASHINGTON, May 20, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)
World No. 8 Casper Ruud of Norway has yet to drop a set at this week’s Gonet Geneva Open in Switzerland’s second-largest city. There’s a good reason behind the defending champion’s steady performance, too. He’s very much at home on clay – and has the trophies to back it up, too.
After arriving in southwestern Switzerland following a semifinal run in Rome last week, Ruud has become the first player to advance to multiple Geneva title matches since Swiss star Stan Wawrinka won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.
On Friday, the second-seeded Ruud tamed the big serving of World No. 18 and fourth seed Reilly Opelka of the United States, winning 7-6 (2), 7-5 in 90 minutes on Center Court of Tennis Club de Genève Eaux-Vives. The gentle American giant managed just 12 service aces off Ruud, won just 67 percent of his first-serve points – well below his season average of 81 percent – and never earned a break point against the Norwegian. Meanwhile, Ruud dropped just five points on his first serve. He won 89 percent (41 of 46) of those points and broke Opelka once. Ruud outpointed his opponent 75-60 in collecting his 23rd win of the 2022 season and improving to 10-5 on the current European clay swing.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 20, 2022
Last year, Ruud beat Denis Shapovalov to win the Gonet Geneva Open trophy, one of his four clay-court titles he garnered in 2021. On Saturday, he’ll try for back-to-back title wins when he faces No. 79 João Sousa of Portugal, who defeated No. 75 Richard Gasquet of France, 6-2, 6-2, in the other semifinal match.
“I am looking forward to the final tomorrow,” the 23-year-old Ruud said after beating Opelka for the fourth time in his career and improving to 4-0 lifetime. “It was a tough match today against Opelka like it always is. The serve he has is incredibly difficult to return here, with the altitude. I was able to take the small chances I had and I feel like I served well and was solid, with not too many mistakes. That is key in matches like this.”
Ruud, who has one previous title win this season, which came at Buenos Aires on clay in February, has won five of the last six ATP 250 clay-court events he’s entered. He’s 42-17 against Top 100 players in the past 12 months. Ruud will go up against the 33-year-old Sousa, who reached his 12th ATP Tour final – and sixth on clay – with his easy victory over Gasquet. However, it’s Sousa’s first final on clay since 2018, when he won the title at Estoril in his home country.
Sousa outpointed Gasquet 68-42 during their 75-minute semifinal. The Portuguese veteran won 73 percent (38 of 52) of his service points and backed it up by winning 52 percent (30 of 58) of his return points. Sousa converted four of 10 break-point opportunities and saved all four break points he faced.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 20, 2022
Around the Geneva Open
Saturday’s doubles final will match No. 1 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both of Croatia, against unseeded Pablo Andújar of Spain and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands.
Mektic and Pavic defeated Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic and Hunter Reese of the United States, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (6), in an hour and 58 minutes, while Andújar and Middelkoop were successful in defeating João Sousa and Francisco Cabral, both of Portugal, 6-4, 6-4, in just 64 minutes.
The Croatian pair, Mektic (ranked 6th) and Pavic (ranked 4th), are coming off a title run at Rome last week and have dropped just one set this week in Geneva.
By the numbers
Casper Ruud is the first player to make multiple Geneva Open finals since Stan Wawrinka (2016-17 champion). He’s won five of the last six clay-court ATP 250 tournaments he played in.
“Reilly with the serve and the altitude, it is tough to return his serve. But I will do my best and see how I can do. I always enjoy playing against Reilly. He is a similar age to myself and it will be another battle against him and hopefully it will be a good one.”
– No. 1 see Casper Ruud, as quoted by the ATP Tour website on facing semifinal opponent Reilly Opelka.