Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will be able to say that he ended his career by manhandling the Roland-Garros finalist. Even better. Faller of the French in the first round, the Norwegian Casper Ruud qualified, Friday, June 3, for the final of the Parisian Grand Slam tournament, beating the Croatian Marin Cilic in four sets (3-6, 6-4, 6- 2, 6-2). At 23, the right-hander from the North will face his childhood idol and quasi-owner of the place, Rafael Nadal, on Sunday.
“He has been my idol all my life, and this is where we will face each other for the first time”, marveled the winner after the meeting, at the microphone of Fabrice Santoro. Apart from Nadal, the young man has rubbed shoulders with all the best players, and he enjoys meeting on the biggest stage of Roland-Garros the one who won his thirteen finals at Porte d’Auteuil. “It’s the perfect timing, and it was worth the wait. And I hope it will be worth it for him too, he played so many finals heresmiled the Norwegian. But at least this time it will be against a student from his academy. » Because at the end of 2018, struggling to break into the elite, the young man had invited himself to the freshly opened “Rafa Nadal Academy”, established on the native island of Mallorca.
After an early game where Marin Cilic extended the state of grace that has lived in him since the start of the tournament, the Norwegian gradually got his hands on the game. Far from being panicked by the loss of the first round, Ruud gradually reversed the trend. His child’s play on clay – clay – frustrated the Croatian giant: with clockwork regularity from the baseline, this son of a former 39e world relied on his forehand to undermine his opponent. Marin Cilic was wary, however. “I have already played against Casper twice [deux défaites]. He’s one of the best players on the tour, especially on clay. He loves playing on this surface.” he assured before the meeting.
But like the Dane Holger Rune in the previous round, Cilic found himself unable to solve the equation proposed by the world number 8. If the Croatian, one of the most popular players on the circuit, did not lose his temper like the young Dane – who then accused Ruud of talking to him the whole game, denouncing a “unsportsmanlike behavior”which the Norwegian denied – he couldn’t do anything.
Not a “flashy” player
“I didn’t start well, but Marin was playing really well,” exposed Casper Ruud after the meeting, explaining having had to adapt, then having “counterattacked, changed a bit [son] game, and above all raised [son] level of play ».
Not long ago, the Norwegian recognized “not to be a ‘flashy’ player who is going to try huge shots or ‘trick-shots’ all over the place. » The first player from his country to reach a Grand Slam final, he wants to be more down to earth. “Me, my game is to work the opponent, and clay is the surface that best corresponds to this style” he continued, in an interview with the ATP. His secret is above all to never rush.
Patient, Casper Ruud is. Including when it came to waiting for a climate activist, who came to attach herself to the net to protest against the government’s inaction, to be evacuated. “When I was younger, I was more emotional, more negative too, exposed the player. But over the years, I have become more mature. And Rafa is also a perfect example of the behavior to have, to always stay focused on the game.
Asked at the end of his semi-final cut short by the injury of the German Alexander Zverev, his future opponent was full of praise for the one who went several times to his tennis academy in the Balearic Islands. “For me, there is no real surprise, Casper is one of the candidates [aux titres du Grand Chelem]. He’s one of those who can wingreeted Rafael Nadal. Whenever there’s a clay-court event, it’s one of the favorites. It’s not a surprise at all. »
As since the start of the fortnight, Casper Ruud discreetly extended the adventure at Roland-Garros. After a first lap in which his victory was eclipsed by the retirement of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – which he accommodated without worry – and several laps without making a wave, the Norwegian dominated Marin Cilic without losing his temper. A ace (direct service) completed the meeting, after 2 h 55 of play (i.e. less than the unfinished meeting between Nadal and Zverev). And here is Casper Ruud one step away from a first title in the Grand Slam tournament. To achieve this, the task promises to be immense: not only will he have to unbolt the absolute master of the Parisian clay court; but, perhaps harder, he will have to agree to beat his idol.
Roland-Garros: the semi-final between Ruud and Cilic interrupted by a climate activist
The scene left the spectators of the Philippe-Chatrier court stunned. Friday, June 3, the semi-final of Roland-Garros between the Norwegian Casper Ruud and the Croatian Marin Cilic was interrupted for several minutes by the intrusion on the ground of a climate activist. “We have one thousand and twenty-eight days left”, was it written on the t-shirt of the young woman, who attached herself to the net, stopping the game.
“I entered the field because I can no longer take the risk of doing nothing in the face of the climate emergency”claims the activist on the website of his organization, Last renovation, which claims to be “entry into civil resistance” against government climate inaction. Widely booed by the tournament audience, the young woman was gently evacuated by security before the game resumed.