Ruud Is Two Wins From No. 1 Ranking After Downing Berrettini

Casper Ruud (photo: Garrett Ellwood/USTA)

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, September 7, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Before Tuesday, Casper Ruud had never advanced past the third round of the US Open. That all changed for the likable World No. 7 from Norway after he dismissed No. 13 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (4), during their quarterfinal-round match on Arthur Ashe Stadium with the roof closed due to rain.

Now, not only is Ruud through to his first semifinal in New York, he’s also just two wins away from achieving the World No. 1 ranking. Throughout his two-hour, 35-minute victory against the World No. 14 Berrettini, the No. 5 seed showed no signs of feeling any pressure. In fact, winning the first two sets so very convincingly, like he did against Berrettini with sublime baseline hitting – he won 75 percent of his first-serve points, finished with 20 winners and converted five of 14 break points – might have contributed to a bit of a third-set lapse. However, Ruud rallied nicely to get to what turned out to be the final set to a tie-break. Then, he thoroughly dominated it.

By the end of the match, although Berrettini fired 13 aces and struck 35 winners, he also committed 39 unforced errors and Ruud outpointed him 106-89.

Following the 23-year-old Ruud’s dream-like start, in which he raced to a 6-1, 5-1 lead within the first hour of the quarterfinal, he commented during his on-court interview with ESPN‘s Pam Shriver: “That was a better start than I think I ever ha before in a match. Everything was going my way, I was hitting all the spots I needed to plus Matteo maybe didn’t serve as well as he usually does. I was able to take care of the chances that I got.

“I got a little bit nervous towards the end of the second set, because things were almost going too well. It’s good, but sometimes you can get over-excited and start to think you can walk on water. … So, I had to calm down a little bit, and luckily was able to serve out the second set and the third set was very tough.”

After stringing together wins over Kyle Edmund, Tim van Rijthoven, No. 29 seed Tommy Paul, Corentin Moutet and Berrettini, Ruud will oppose No. 27 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia, who battled past No. 23 seed Nick Kyrgios of Australia 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-4 later Tuesday evening on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

History-making victory by Jabeur against Tomljanvoic

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who has blazed a trail by being the first Arab woman to win a WTA title, first to be ranked in the Top 50 – she’s currently World No. 5 – as well as first to reach a major quarterfinal and a final, has now become the first Arab and African woman to reach the US Open semifinals in the Open Era.

Tuesday afternoon, with the roof closed on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the No. 5 seed Jabeur, who is ranked No. 2 in this season’s Race to the WTA Finals, defeated unseeded and 46th-ranked Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, 6-4, 7-6 (4), to advance to Thursday’s semifinal round. The 28-year-old Tunisian has now been to the second week of all four majors.

Jabeur, who has amassed 43 wins on Tour this season – second behind World No. 1 Iga Swiatek – will face No. 17 seed Caroline Garcia of France, who defeated No. 12 seed Coco Gauff of the United States, 6-3, 6-4, to reach her first major singles semifinal Tuesday evening on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I believe in myself after Wimbledon,” Jabeur told ESPN‘s Rennae Stubbs during her on-court interview. Earlier this summer, Jabeur lost the 2022 Wimbledon Championships final to Elena Rybakina. “I know that I have it in me to win a [major] final. And here I am in the semifinals.”

Although Jabeur struggled with placing her first serve in play, she won 71 percent of her first-serve points, and hit four aces and 29 winners overall to 30 unforced errors. Also, Jabeur won nearly half of her receiving points and converted five of six break points against Tomljanovic, who earlier in the New York fortnight eliminated 23-time major winner Serena Williams in the third round on Friday. She outpointed the Croatian-born Australian 77-67. Friends off the court, Jabeur and Tomljanovic shared a warm, extended embrace at the net. There were no hard feelings at the end, although there were times during the heat of the battle that Jabeur got a little down on herself.

“Emotionally, it was kind of tough to manage the frustration,” said Jabeur, who tossed her racquet to the ground a few times during the one-hour and 41-minute quarterfinal. “I think I’m going to be fired from my job, as ‘Minister of Happiness’.”

Jabeur apologized to the crowd for her on-court behavior during her on-court interview.

After losing the first two major quarterfinals of her career – both in 2020, at the Australian Open and Wimbledon – she’s won two in a row. Things are starting to look up for Jabeur.

“I’m just trying to do my job here,” she stressed. “Hopefully, I inspire more and more generations from Africa. It really means a lot to me.”

Garcia flies into semifinals, extends winning streak to 13

Garcia, 28, who was playing in her first major quarterfinal since 2017, extended her current winning streak to 13, which began with her title run at the Western & Southern Open last month. She’s become the third Frenchwoman in the Open Era to reach the US Open semifinals, joining Amelie Mauresmo (2002 and 2006) and Mary Pierce (2005). A win over Jabeur in Thursday evening’s semifinals would make Garcia the first from her country since 2005 to reach the US Open final. She’s also bidding to become the first Frenchwoman to win a major singles title since 2013.

A common thread in both sets against Gauff was Garcia’s ability to break early and she never trailed throughout the one-hour and 37-minute match. She finished with 24 winners to 22 unforced errors and outpointed Gauff 74-65. The 18-year-old American countered with 18 winners but committed 24 unforced errors.

“I don’t know how to describe it. It’s crazy,” Garcia said of her quarterfinal triumph, during her on-court interview with ESPN’s Pam Shriver. “The atmosphere was very, very strong. Obviously, to play an American here is like crazy energy. My head is just buzzing.”

Top seeds Ram and Salisbury, Koolhof and Skupski advance to semifinals

• Defending champions and this year’s No. 1 seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury recovered from losing a second-set tie-break to their opponents, Hugo Nys of Monaco and Jan Zielinski of Poland, and went on to win in three sets, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-4 to reach the men’s doubles semifinal round. Next, they will face 2019 US Open champions and current No. 13 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both of Colombia, who won in straight sets over No. 11 seeds Harri Heliovaara of Finland and Lloyd Glasspool of Great Britain, 7-6 (5), 6-2.

• No. 2 seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Great Britain advanced to the semifinal round with a 6-3, 6-1 win over unseeded Marcelo Demoliner of Brazil and João Sousa of Portugal. They will face No. 3 seeds Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador, who defeated No. 6 seeds  Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both of Croatia, 6-3, 6-4.

Melichar and Perez first into women’s doubles semifinals

No. 10 seeds Nicole Melichar of the United States and Ellen Perez of Australia needed slightly more than three hours (3:03) of court time  on Louis Armstrong Stadium to reach the women’s doubles semifinals. It was time well spent. The American-Aussie duo defeated Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium and Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4.

Melichar and Perez combined to hit 63 winners and outpointed their opponents 126-120.

Tuesday’s outside matches affected by rain

Continuous rain forced the cancellation all scheduled outside matches Tuesday around the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The order of play affected by the inclement weather included all junior boy’s and girls’ singles and doubles matches. One men’s doubles match originally scheduled outside on the Grandstand was later moved indoors. However, one women’s quarterfinal doubles match and two quarterfinal mixed doubles matches were cancelled and rescheduled for Wednesday.

Tuesday’s US Open results

Wednesday’s US Open order of play

By the numbers

• Nick Kyrgios has the most wins (26) since the start of the grass court season going back to the beginning of June. The 27-year-old Aussie came into the US Open ranked No. 25 and is projected to move into the Top 20 at No. 18 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings for the first time since February 10, 2020, when he was ranked 20th.

Caroline Garcia, a former World No. 4, will return to the WTA Top 10 next week following her quarterfinal victory over Coco Gauff. She was ranked as low as No. 79 earlier this year. However, she’s recorded 30 main-draw wins since June – tops on the WTA Tour – and won three tournaments on three different surfaces: Bad Homburg (grass), Warsaw (clay) and Cincinnati (hard court).

“Quotable …”

“I felt like the world stopped. I couldn’t hear anything for a minute. Even shaking [Nadal’s] hand, I don’t even know what I said to him. It was such a blur.”

– American Frances Tiafoe, during his post-match press conference after pulling off one of the biggest upsets at this year’s US Open, a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 22-time Grand Slam champion and four-time US Open titlist Rafael Nadal on Monday.