GSTAAD/WASHINGTON, July 23, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)
At times throughout his career, Spanish left-hander Albert Ramos-Vinolas has seemed lost on the tennis court, sometimes losing more than winning. Yet, somehow, he always comes back – back to red clay. It can be European clay, South American clay, doesn’t matter. He’ll be there – and chances are good he’ll be in the chase for a trophy at the end of each week.
Clay is where the soft-spoken, 34-year-old Ramos-Vinolas – a Spaniard born in Barcelona with deep-set brown eyes – is at home and plays his best tennis. There’s a certain comfort level when he’s competing on clay that he seems to enjoy the most.
Ramos-Vinolas is 17-12 on clay this season (compared to 17-16 on all surfaces). Lifetime, he’s 258-285 on all surfaces. Ramos-Vinolas has won four clay-court titles: Bastad in 2016; Gstaad in 2019; Estoril in 2021 and earlier this year at Cordoba. He was a Roland-Garros quarterfinalist in 2016 and achieved a career-high ranking of World No. 17 after reaching the finals of the Monte-Carlo Masters in 2017.
— Córdoba Open (@CordobaOpen) February 7, 2022
“I was almost lost, and somehow I came back. I cannot be happier,” Ramos-Vinolas said, after he won his fourth career ATP Tour title at the Cordoba Open in Argentina back in early February with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Chilean Alejandro Tabilo. It was a match in which he overcame a break deficit in the second set and a double break deficit in the final set to pull out the title victory. A year earlier, Ramos-Vinolas lost 6-0, 2-6, 6-2, in the title match of the same tournament to Juan Manuel Cerundolo, which gave the Argentine teenager his first ATP Tour title experience.
Ramos-Vinolas, whose baseline game is comparable to fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal, is one of four former EFG Swiss Open champions who have advanced to Saturday’s semifinal round at Gstaad in the Swiss Alps. The No. 4 seed, who won the Gstaad title in 2019 over Cedric-Marcel Stebe of Germany, saved a match point during a third-set tie-break and went on to beat 118th-ranked Chilean qualifier Nicolas Jarry, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (8), in two hours and 50 minutes on Roy Emerson Arena as dusk set in Friday evening.
The last semi-finalist of the day: @albertramos88 👏
— ATP Tour (@atptour) July 22, 2022
A counterpuncher who relies plenty on heavy topspin, Ramos-Vinolas eventually wore down Jarry by the end of their quarterfinal.It was the 17th win on clay this season for Ramos-Vinolas, ranked 40th, who saved match point at 7-8 during the third-set tie-break against Jarry to set up his semifinal showdown against defending champion and top seed Casper Ruud of Norway. He’s 1-2 against Top 10 players this season.
Although Ramos-Vinolas leads the head-to-head with Ruud 4-2, the World No. 5 has won the last two meetings between the two, including a 2020 semifinal meeting on clay at Santiago, Chile, and in the first round at the Wimbledon Championships on grass last month.
“Everybody knows how well Casper has done in the last couple of years,” Ramos-Vinolas said during an on-court interview Friday evening after beating Jarry. “We know each other a lot. He has a method and a purpose. [Saturday], I will try to do my best, as always, and try for another chance to play a final here.”
Looking back, Friday’s last eight triumph over Jarry improved Ramos-Vinolas’ win-loss record in quarterfinal matches this season to 4-0. Although he’s only 1-2 in semifinal matches this season, Ramos-Vinolas has reached 11 ATP Tour title matches. He’s also finished each of the last 11 seasons (2011 through 2021) ranked in the Top 100. So, there’s a certain consistency to how Ramos-Vinolas approaches his game and how well he’s able to perform.
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After recording wins this week over 19-year-old Swiss wild card Dominic Stricker and Jarry, both which went three sets, Ramos-Vinolas said of this week’s Gstaad experience: “It’s not easy to play here [because of the altitude]. I’ve had great opponents. I’m happy with my game.
“Today, it was a big win for me,” Ramos-Vinolas added. “I didn’t touch the ball for a lot of games. It was difficult to return. The balls were so fast and bouncing so high. It was a crazy up and down match. At the end, I won. I beat a great opponent.”
If things don’t always go Ramos-Vinolas’ way on the court – and he’ll be the underdog against Ruud Saturday – he finds ways to make things better. He slows a match down to a pace and rhythm he’s comfortable with. It’s what he’s done his entire career that began when he turned pro in 2007 and he’s gotten wiser as he’s aged.
Although Ramos-Vinolas is three years removed from his 2019 title run in Gstaad, this time, he’s brought along his family – wife, Helena, and two young daughters – to enjoy the journey. Win or lose, it’s on to Kitzbühel, Austria for the next tournament – on clay, of course. Ramos-Vinolas wouldn’t want it any other way.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) July 22, 2022