Carlos Alcaraz will play Lorenzo Musetti in the Hamburg European Open final following a straight-sets victory over Alex Molcan on Saturday.

The Spanish teenager is targeting a fifth ATP title of the year, which would move him ahead of Rafael Nadal, having already triumphed in Rio, Miami, Barcelona and Madrid.

Alcaraz is set to move into the top five of the ATP rankings for the first time after seeing off Slovakia's Molcan 7-6 (7-2) 6-1 to reach yet another championship match on his debut in Hamburg.

The top seed broke twice in the opening set but was pegged back on both occasions by Molcan, who was striving to reach a third final of 2022 after finishing as runner-up in Marrakech and Lyon.

But the 19-year-old dominated the tie-break, and found another gear to storm into the final as he made it eight successive sets won this week.

"It was tough," Alcaraz said. "Obviously, [Alex] played really well. The first set was really close; I'm really happy to be able to end the first set playing well.

"I couldn't read the drop shots from him. He was better on the drop shots today, so I was a little bit [frustrated] in the first set.

"In the second set, I think he was down a little bit; he didn't play well. I finished the match with a lot of confidence and played very well."

Standing between Alcaraz and another title is Musetti, who will appear in his maiden ATP final after he overcame Francisco Cerundolo 6-3 7-6 (7-3).

The Italian, who is set to climb into the world's top 50 for the first time, had lost six consecutive ATP Tour matches prior to this week.

But the 20-year-old continued his resurgence; ending the Bastad champion's eight-match winning streak by roaring back from 3-1 down in a second-set tie-break.

Meanwhile, Matteo Berrettini and Casper Ruud will target a third title of 2022 when they lock horns in the Swiss Open showpiece.

Berrettini - a winner in Stuttgart and Queen's before a positive COVID-19 test ruled him out of Wimbledon - registered his 12th successive victory, putting former US Open champion Dominic Thiem to the sword 6-1 6-4 in 78 minutes.

Reigning champion Ruud raced past Albert Ramos-Vinolas; winning five out of seven break points in a resounding 6-2 6-0 triumph.

Andrey Rublev crashed out of the Hamburg European Open in straight sets against Francisco Cerundolo, as top seed Carlos Alcaraz cruised past Filip Krajinovic to reach the quarter-finals.

Second seed Rublev was the latest scalp of Cerundolo's fine run of form, the Argentine making it seven consecutive wins by wrapping up a 6-4 6-2 success in just an hour and a half in Germany.

Having furthered his momentum with a second top-10 win in as many weeks, Cerundolo said: "It is the first time it has happened for me. I am playing against the top guys and I am playing well, it is unbelievable."

Cerundolo will face Aslan Karatsev in the last eight after he recovered from a set down to beat Daniel Elahi Galan 3-6 6-3 6-4.

World number six Alcaraz fared better than Rublev, registering a 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 win over Krajinovic to tee up a final-four meeting with Karen Khachanov, who beat Fabio Fognini in straight sets.

Meanwhile, a host of big names including Casper Rudd and Matteo Berrettini reached the last eight of the Swiss Open in Gstaad, as Dominic Thiem continued his revival with a win over Federico Delbonis.

Thiem reached his second quarter-final in as many weeks with an impressive 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 triumph despite letting a 5-2 lead slip in the opener, registering his first tour-level straight-sets victory since May 2021.

Having set up a meeting with Juan Pablo Varillas, the 2020 US Open champion beamed: "I have won two matches which means a lot to me right now, I really need those ranking points. Every match win is something very special."

The Austrian will be joined in the next round by first and second seeds Ruud and Berrettini, who eased past Jiri Lehecka and Richard Gasquet respectively.

Spanish duo Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Pedro Martinez also both progressed to the last eight despite dropping a set, with the latter setting up an enticing clash with Berrettini on Friday.

Pablo Carreno Busta saw his title defence at the Hamburg European Open come to an early end as he crashed out on Wednesday, while Andrey Rublev progressed with ease.

Carreno Busta fell to a 6-3 1-6 7-6 (7-5) second-round defeat against Slovakian Alex Molcan, who progressed to a fourth ATP Tour quarter-final this season.

World number 48 Molcan will next meet Borna Coric after the Croatian eased past Tallon Griekspoor 6-3 6-4, registering back-to-back tour-levels wins for the first time in 17 months.

Second seed Rublev coasted through his first-round clash with Ricardas Berankis, triumphing 6-3 6-4 as he improved his record at the ATP 500 clay-court event in Germany to 10-2.

"I am happy with my performance. Ricardas is a really tough player," said world number eight Rublev, who is aiming for his fourth title of the season after success in Marseille, Dubai and Belgrade.

"He hits the ball really hard and plays fast, so I had to bring intensity from the first game. I am really happy with how I was serving today and I hit some great shots from the baseline.

"The game he broke me in the second set he played really well. He returned really aggressively and I don’t think I made one first serve. But then I kept [my] focus and broke him straight away again."

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina was another comfortable winner, easing past Jozef Kovalik 6-2 6-2 to set up a quarter-final contest with Lorenzo Musetti, who beat Emil Ruusuvuori 6-4 7-5.

Play was suspended early at the Swiss Open due to bad weather, with Spaniard Jaume Munar downing Alexander Ritschard 6-3 6-3 in the only match of the day to reach the last eight.

That meant top seed Casper Ruud will have to wait until Thursday to face Jiri Lehecka in Gstaad, with third favourite Roberto Bautista Agut also seeing his match with Juan Pablo Varillas pushed back a day.

Casper Ruud was a surprise second-round loser as the Swedish Open defending champion fell to Francisco Cerundolo, while the favourites battled through at the Hall of Fame Open.

Ruud, a French Open finalist and defending champion in Bastad , lacked his usual composure as world number 39 Cerundolo broke him three times to win 6-4 3-6 7-5 on Wednesday.

That marked a first top-10 career victory for Cerundolo after defeating world number five Ruud, guiding him to his first quarter-final appearance at the tournament.

"I'm feeling amazing, I'm really happy," said Cerundolo, whose previous best result was beating world number 24 Gael Monfils. "It's amazing getting my first Top 10 win. It's been the best year so far in my career.

"He's a French Open finalist and was the defending champion here, so it was a big challenge for me and I'm happy to go through."

Aslan Karatsev awaits in the quarter-finals Cerundolo after downing Frenchman Hugo Gaston 6-2 6-4.

Fifth seed Pablo Carreno Busta survived a first-set scare to defeat 2016 champion Albert Ramos-Vinolas 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-5.

The victory was Carreno Busta's 250th tour-level triumph and he will next face third favourite Diego Schwartzman, who overcame Elias Ymer in straight sets.

Third seed Alexander Bublik was made to work for a 6-3 3-6 6-2 second-round victory over Jack Sock in Newport and Andy Murray edged past Wimbledon doubles champion Max Purcell.

Murray needed almost two-and-a-half hours to get the better of Purcell, eventually triumphing 4-6 6-2 6-1 to tee up a last-eight meeting with Bublik.

Fourth favourite Maxime Cressy had little trouble in beating fellow American Mitchell Krueger 6-3 6-4 and will next face Steve Johnson, who progressed past seventh seed Jiri Vesely with a walkover.

Benjamin Bonzi, ranked as fifth seed in the United States, eased past Christopher Eubanks in straight sets, while James Duckworth triumphed 7-5 3-6 6-2 over Quentin Halys.

John Isner joined the list of favourites who made the third round in routine fashion, beating Peter Gojowczyk in straight sets 6-3 7-6 (8-6), before top seed Felix Auger-Aliassime faced some adversity against Jason Kubler following the Australian's strong run into the fourth round of Wimbledon.

Auger-Aliassime has a slight advantage, leading 6-4 3-6 6-5 before play was suspended due to poor light. When play resumes, Kubler will serve with a chance to force a third-set tiebreak.

 

 

Novak Djokovic has slipped to seventh in the ATP Tour rankings despite winning Wimbledon, where ranking points were stripped in this year's tournament.

Players from Russia and Belarus were banned from competing at the third major of the year due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The ATP and WTA retaliated by stripping ranking points from the event at the All England Club, where the likes of world number one Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev did not feature.

Moscow-born Elena Rybakina, who switched to represent Kazakhstan four years ago, lifted the women's title in the singles competition, while Djokovic triumphed for a fourth straight time in the men's event.

Yet, Djokovic has lost 2,000 rankings points – the standard total awarded to a grand slam singles champion – after winning in SW19 last year, with no such rewards available on this occasion.

That meant the Serbian has dropped from third place to seventh, his lowest position since August 2018 when he fell to 10th.

Djokovic moved within just one major title of Rafael Nadal's record of 22 grand slams, and the Spaniard has jumped up one spot to third.

Medvedev and Alexander Zverev are unmoved as the respective top two after losing just 180 rankings points in the latest edition. Both missed Wimbledon, with the Russian banned and the German still injured.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud and Carlos Alcaraz make up the top six after climbing a place each, while Rublev, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jannik Sinner are the trio behind Djokovic.

Nick Kyrgios appeared in his maiden major final against Djokovic at Wimbledon as world number 40, the lowest-ranked grand slam male finalist since Marcos Baghdatis (54) at the Australian Open in 2006.

Just a day later Kyrgios has dropped five places to 45th in the rankings, losing 90 points from his third-round berth last year. If the ban was not imposed, the Australian would have broken into the top 20.

Cameron Norrie is another loser from the ranking points fallout. His run to the semi-finals at the London major would have seen him climb to eighth, but instead he has to settle for 11th.

Ugo Humbert was not entirely prepared for his second-round match with third seed Casper Ruud at Wimbledon but still upset the French Open finalist.

Humbert arrived for Wednesday's contest without his racquets, apologising at the ball toss.

The Frenchman was soon provided with his essential equipment to a round of applause from the crowd but still took some time to get going on Court 2, losing the opener.

Humbert weathered that setback, though, and replied in impressive fashion, emerging a 3-6 6-2 7-5 6-4 winner for his third consecutive victory against top-10 opponents on grass.

"I love to play on grass. I have played a lot of good matches," Humbert said.

"I think about the match last year against [Nick[ Kyrgios. It was a big battle. I won Halle, so I think I play very nice [on grass] because of my serve, and my backhand is very great."

He added: "It is a big victory. [Ruud] played very well the last few years, so I am very happy."

Top seed Casper Ruud suffered a shock first-round exit at the Queen's Club Championships, going down in straight sets to British ATP Tour debutant Ryan Peniston in west London.

The French Open runner-up struggled to get going as he fell to a 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-2) defeat to the world number 180, who was backed by a boisterous home crowd throughout.

Ruud struggled from the off as Peniston forced four break points in the Norwegian's first service game, and his miserable outing was rounded off when his opponent raced into a 5-1 lead before serving out a second-set tie-break.

After claiming the scalp of the world number five, Peniston told the BBC: "I can't really believe it. It feels like a dream. It doesn't feel real.

"I think I've been playing well. Casper is an unreal player and he did so well at the French Open, so I knew it was a tough ask. Four or five years ago I was sitting in the crowd just watching so to be here now is just unreal."

Ruud was not the only big name to fall at the first hurdle, with fifth seed Diego Schwartzman going down 6-1 6-4 against big-serving Sam Querrey to become the fourth of the top five seeds to fail to reach the round of 16.

Second seed and defending champion Matteo Berrettini is the exception after faring much better against another home favourite, cruising past Dan Evans 6-3 6-3, while Stan Wawrinka downed Francis Tiafoe 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-5), and Denis Shapovalov's clash with Tommy Paul was suspended by darkness at one set apiece. 

Elsewhere, world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas progressed through his opening match at the Halle Open, beating Benjamin Bonzi 7-6 (7-1) 1-6 6-3 to set up an enticing last-16 clash with Nick Kyrgios, who bested Daniel Altmaier 6-3 7-5.

Fourth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime also progressed after being taken to three sets, beating Marcos Giron 6-3 5-7 6-3.

Meanwhile, defending champion Ugo Humbert will face a tough round-of-16 match against fifth seed Hubert Hurkacz after the Pole overcame Maxime Cressy 6-4 4-6 6-4. 

Never meet your heroes. Casper Ruud was setting himself up for a fall when he described Rafael Nadal as "my idol for all my life" heading into Sunday's French Open final, and when that fall arrived it was spectacular.

Ruud versus Nadal on Court Philippe-Chatrier was a classic mismatch on paper, and on clay.

The fanboy stood no chance, swept away 6-3 6-3 6-0 as Nadal landed Roland Garros title number 14, an absurd feat of sporting staying power, becoming the oldest men's singles champion at the Paris grand slam, moving to 22 majors, two clear of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

If Ruud needs a little consolation, the great Federer, at the peak of his powers, only took four games off Nadal in the 2008 final.

This is not the 2008 Nadal though. This is Nadal at 36 years and two days old, a player who needed a doctor at his side during the past fortnight to allow him to step on court.

Nadal has a foot problem that is said to be incurable, but thankfully it is treatable.

"We played with no feeling on the foot," Nadal told Eurosport. "We played with an injection on the nerve so that the foot was asleep, so that's why I was able to play."

While the foot was sleeping, the rest of Nadal's body was picking up the slack.

Ruud was six years old in 2005 when Nadal won his first French Open, and 17 years later he had the best view in Court Philippe-Chatrier of the Spaniard again in full flow.

This was his first match against Nadal, although they have often practiced together at the Spaniard's academy in Mallorca, where Ruud has done much of his learning. Here was another lesson.

Nadal loves a mid-afternoon match with the roof open, and a warm day in the French capital only enhanced his sense that the place was feeling like home.

He was on top without being masterful in the opening set, simply doing enough against the first Norwegian man to reach a slam final.

Trumpets blared Y Viva Espana when he wrapped that one up, then delivered a fanfare as Nadal strolled back onto court for the start of the second set.

He receives the first-class treatment in Paris, with the king of Spain, Felipe VI, on hand to witness the king of clay scale his latest career height.

There was perhaps brief concern for his royal highness when Ruud broke Nadal's serve early in the second set to eke out a 3-1 lead, but he needn't have worried.

Ruud won a 19-shot rally to earn three break points, and that was followed by a double fault from the favourite.

Nadal later called that game "a disaster", but he should probably let it go.

Armed with a 3-1 lead in that second set, it was imperative that Ruud should build on that.

He didn't win another game.

When Nadal swatted away a forehand to bring up a break point in the second game of the third set, he had Ruud right where he wanted him, and a vicious backhand out of the Norwegian's reach secured a seventh successive game.

Number eight followed, and then a ninth as the clean winners flowed from Nadal's racket. The winners and the games kept coming.

The contest had moved into mercy-killing territory. Make it quick Rafa, as painless as possible, don't drag it out.

When he fizzed a backhand down the line on match point, way out of Ruud's reach, it was all over. Two hours and 18 minutes was all it took. With a little less of his familiar between-points faffing, Nadal might have had it done inside two hours.

He lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires with the gusto of a man who had never held it before, and that in itself spoke volumes for this achievement.

Nadal's Roland Garros record now shows 112 wins and just three defeats, and this was a 63rd title on clay – a 92nd title overall. What a career.

Andres Gimeno, also from Spain, was 34 years, 10 months and one day old when he captured the 1972 French Open title, and until Sunday he was the oldest men's champion at this event.

Nadal spoke afterwards of his determination to keep playing, keep "fighting". He wants to wring every last ounce of strength from a body that is letting him know that retirement cannot be far away, and he is getting incredible bang for his buck just now.

Which is why we can now look at Wimbledon, and pose the question: can he do this again on grass?

And if at this point you are thinking, 'surely not', just remember what he has achieved in Melbourne and now in Paris this year, and ask yourself instead: why ever not?

Rafael Nadal claimed the 14th French Open title of his astonishing career and vowed he would "keep fighting" to earn even more success.

There had been speculation during this Roland Garros fortnight that Nadal could retire if he landed the trophy, a record-extending 22nd men's singles grand slam.

Yet the 36-year-old, who has won two majors this year despite being hampered by a long-bothersome foot problem, is determined to play on until his body refuses.

He thrashed Casper Ruud 6-3 6-3 6-0, reigning in Paris once again, some 17 years after his first triumph. Watched by the king of Spain, Felipe VI, Nadal was again sensational on the red clay, becoming the oldest champion.

"For me personally, it is very difficult to describe the feelings that I have," Nadal said.

"I for sure never believed I'd be here at 36 being competitive again, playing in the most important court of my career once again. It means a lot of energy to try to keep going."

Nadal told the crowd: "It's unbelievable to play here with your support. I don't know what can happen in the future, but I'm going to keep fighting to try to keep going."

Addressing Ruud, Norway's first men's grand slam singles finalist, Nadal said: "I want to congratulate you for an amazing career you are having, and this two weeks is a very important step forward, so I am very, very happy for you and for all your family. I'm very happy for you and wish you all the very best for the future."

Nadal praised his family and support team for giving him strength when times have been tough. He looked in intense pain recently in Rome, but Nadal has come back to take his career to new heights.

"It's completely amazing the things that are happening this year," said Nadal, who won the Australian Open in January. "Without you, nothing of this will be possible without any doubt.

"Especially in the very tough moments that we went through in terms of injuries. If I don't have a great support from the team – family, everybody that has been next to me – nothing of this would be possible because I would be retired much before, so many, many thanks for everything."

As Nadal considers whether he could push for a calendar grand slam by targeting Wimbledon and the US Open, Ruud will reflect on a tough first grand slam final experience.

Ruud idolised Nadal from a young age and in recent years has trained at the Spaniard's Mallorca academy.

Runner-up Ruud said: "The first thing and the most important thing is to congratulate Rafa. It's your 14th time here, a 22nd all-around in grand slams. 

"We all know what a champion you are, and today I got to feel how it is to play you in a final, and it's not easy, and I'm not the first victim. I know there have been many before."

At that point, the crowd bellowed "Ruuuuudddd", the shout that sounds like a boo but is wholly affectionate. They have taken Ruud to their hearts, and once Nadal retires he may well have his own glory days on the Paris clay.

"To you, Rafa, your team, your family, you've taken me into your academy with open arms," Ruud added. "We all hope you will continue for some more time."

Rafael Nadal emphatically sealed a record-extending 14th French Open title with an imperious straight-sets victory over Casper Ruud on Sunday.

Fifth seed Nadal was relentless as he took his record tally of grand slam titles to 22 with another domineering display, beating Ruud 6-3 6-3 6-0 to reign yet again on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Amid uncertainty over how long the 36-year-old Spaniard will be able to continue playing, he did not resemble a man who has been struggling with a foot injury as he outclassed Ruud in the Norwegian's first major final.

Ruud was no match for his idol, who won 11 games in a row to secure back-to-back grand slam triumphs and maintain his perfect record in championship matches at Roland Garros.

Nadal struck an early blow when he broke with a majestic cross-court forehand winner on the run for a 2-0 lead, but he gifted the eighth seed an immediate break back with a couple of double faults before missing a forehand.

Ruud was unable to build on that, spraying a wild forehand long and seeing another bounce before crashing into the net to go a break down at 3-1.

Nadal darted in to put away a backhand winner to go 5-2 up and fired down three excellent serves in a row to wrap up the set.

Ruud got himself out of a hole by saving three break points before holding in the first game of the second set and the sprightly Scandinavian broke to love for a 3-1 lead, Nadal ending a poor service game with a double fault.

There was a sense of deja vu when Nadal broke straight back, letting out a roar after Ruud looped a backhand into the tramlines and the Mallorca native led 4-3 when a lob from the underdog landed long.

Nadal was shifting through the gears, disdainfully swatting away forehand winners to get a packed crowd purring as he won a fifth game in a row to take the second set.

A prowling Nadal continued to dominate, racing in to put away another winner for a 2-0 lead in the third set and showing no mercy on a player who has trained at his academy but was not made to feel so welcome by one of the all-time greats in Paris.

Ruud had no answer to the brilliance of Nadal as he was swept aside in the most one-sided of third sets, the champion putting him out of his misery with a backhand winner.

Rafael Nadal versus Casper Ruud has the air of one of sport's great mismatches ahead of the French Open title match.

Nadal's record at Roland Garros is spectacularly intimidating as he bids for a record-extending 14th title on the Paris clay, having won all 13 of his past finals.

In sharp contrast, Ruud has never played a grand slam final. Nor until this week had he played a semi-final at this level, or a quarter-final.

Nadal will be chasing a 22nd title at the majors on Sunday, and Ruud a first; and yet there are factors that offer the underdog hope, not least the fact the favourite is pushing his body into a new fresh hell every time he steps onto court.

Coach Carlos Moya told ATPTour.com that Nadal, hampered by a long-bothersome foot problem, was carrying "a lot of wear and tear".

"But it's the final push," said Moya, anticipating one last gargantuan effort from the man who turned 36 this week.

"So far, Rafa has done an astonishing job of surviving without playing his best tennis."

Ahead of what could be a far tighter final than Saturday's one-sided women's showpiece, Stats Perform assesses the form and the stakes affecting both players.


One last swing at glory for Nadal?

It has long been the case that Nadal has nothing left to prove. Yet it is the Spaniard's instinct to want to push himself to new heights, and his quarter-final win over Novak Djokovic encapsulated that drive.

"All the sacrifices and all the things that I need to go through to try to keep playing really makes sense when you enjoy moments like I'm enjoying in this tournament," Nadal said after booking his place in the final. He was the beneficiary of Alexander Zverev's injury-forced retirement in the semi-finals, and now a first career match against Ruud awaits.

Should Nadal win, at the age of 36 years and two days, he would become the oldest men's singles champion at Roland Garros in history, surpassing his compatriot Andres Gimeno, who was 34 years, 10 months and one day old when he captured the 1972 title.

No other man in history has reached double figures for titles at a single grand slam, with Novak Djokovic's nine Australian Open wins the next most in a major. Across his 13 previous Roland Garros finals, Nadal has dropped only seven sets.

Given his injury problems, it is highly possible this will prove to be Nadal's final French Open. He has an astonishing overall record of 332-34 in sets won and lost at Roland Garros, emerging victorious from 111 of his 114 matches.

If Ruud looks too closely at Nadal's career numbers, they might become dizzying. The veteran has won 62 of his 91 titles on clay, once enjoyed an 81-match winning streak on the surface (2005-07) and has spent a record 871 consecutive weeks inside the ATP top 10, from 2005 to the present day.

He has never won the Australian Open and French Open in the same year, so that is now achievable, given his success at Melbourne Park in January, when he nudged one clear of Djokovic and Roger Federer on the all-time list of most men's singles slam wins.

"We haven't spoken about number 22," said Moya. "Obviously, it's on the horizon, but that would add pressure to Rafa. It's not necessary."


Would it be Ruud to crash the party?

Nadal said Ruud's run has been "not a surprise at all", and there were some experts who fancied the Norwegian to come through the bottom half of the draw before the tournament began, albeit with most making Stefanos Tsitsipas a likelier finalist.

A curiosity is the fact Ruud has trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca since 2018, and he has often practised with Nadal. This, though, is their first encounter in competition. The last first-time meeting in a men's French Open final came in 1997 when Gustavo Kuerten beat Sergi Bruguera.

Ruud, 23, would be the youngest men's singles grand slam winner since 20-year-old Juan Martin del Potro beat Roger Federer in the 2009 US Open final. That was a sensation of a result, with the Argentinian ending Federer's five-year reign in New York, and Ruud may find some encouragement from such an upset.

Ruud leads the ATP Tour since the start of the 2020 season in clay-court wins (66), finals (nine) and titles (seven), yet all of his eight career titles have come at ATP 250 level, a relatively low tier of the professional game where the biggest names rarely compete.

He stepped up by reaching the final of the Miami Open, an ATP 1000 tournament, in April, but was beaten to the title by Carlos Alcaraz.

Sunday's challenger from Oslo, whose father and coach Christian Ruud was an ATP top-50 player in his mid-1990s prime, is a former junior world number one.

He has now become Norway's first grand slam finalist and must tackle arguably the most daunting challenge in the men's game.

Nadal said of Ruud on Friday: "I think in the academy we were able to help him a little bit. I like to see a good person achieving his dreams. I'm happy for him, I'm happy for his mom, dad.

"I know them very well. They are a super healthy family and great people. As always, I am super happy when I see these great people having success."

Nadal did not go on to say he would disbar Ruud from his academy should there be a shock outcome on Sunday.

Perhaps the thought of Ruud winning simply never crossed Nadal's mind.

Casper Ruud knows he will have to play his "best tennis ever" if he is to have "any chance" against his idol Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.

Ruud defeated Marin Cilic 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-2 in his semi-final on Friday to join Nadal in the Roland Garros decider.

This will be Ruud's first grand slam final, while Nadal is preparing for his 30th – and 14th in Paris alone.

Each of the previous 13 on the red clay have ended in Nadal wins, and his opponent is well aware of the task before him.

"To play Rafa in a Roland Garros final is probably the greatest challenge there is in this sport," Ruud said. "I believe he's 13-0 in the finals, so that just shows that it might sound like an impossible task.

"But of course I will give it a shot like the other 13 people before me have done.

"It's obviously going to be tough. We all know what a great champion he is and how well he plays in the biggest moments and the biggest matches. I'm just going to try to enjoy it.

"I will be the underdog, and I will try to tonight and tomorrow night dream about great winners and unbelievable rallies, because that's what it's going to take if I want to have any chance, and I will need to play my best tennis ever.

"But I still have to believe that I can do it, and I think part of my game today was working very well. In the end, I was playing great in the third and fourth set."

Ruud is not shying away from the challenge, even if he is happy simply to join the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in playing Nadal in a final, describing it as "something I can always brag about after my career".

He added: "It would be nicer to be able to brag about the title as well after my career."

Ruud has never played Nadal on the ATP Tour, but that does not mean this is their first meeting, as the Norwegian was part of the Rafa Nadal Academy.

The pair have faced one another in private – not that those encounters can offer Ruud much encouragement.

"He pretty much has always beaten me," he said. "There's been some close sets, 7-6, 7-5, but it always goes his favour.

"But it's because we are playing in the academy and I want to be nice to him..."

Casper Ruud weathered an early storm as he saw off Marin Cilic and set up a shot at Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.

The Norwegian has this week become the first man from his country to reach a grand slam quarter-final, then he bettered that by advancing to the semi-finals, and now the final beckons after a 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-2 triumph.

A clay-court specialist, who has more match wins, finals and titles among ATP Tour players than anyone else since the start of the 2020 season, Ruud showed the expertise that could make him a handful for 13-time champion Nadal on Sunday. Ruud describes Nadal as his "idol".

This match was interrupted during the third set by a climate change activist who fastened herself to the net, but Ruud, who had forged ahead in the set, kept his head in the trying circumstances.

Cilic had made a strong start, but the 33-year-old Croatian's assault became less threatening as Ruud got a grip on proceedings. At 5-4 ahead in the second set, Ruud fell 0-40 behind on serve but retrieved that precarious situation in style, sealing the game and levelling the match with a marvellous backhand winner down the line.

Suddenly erratic, Cilic missed a routine smash to give Ruud a break point at the start of the third set, and although the server saved that one, another misfired overhead from the Croatian meant the game slipped away.

A delicious floated low backhand across court and out of Cilic's reach gave Ruud a double break, and he was not knocked out of his stride by the intervention of the activist, with the players briefly led off court.

The man from Oslo wrapped up the third and tore through the fourth set, serving out to love at the first time of asking, and now the ultimate challenge awaits.

Data slam: Ruud racing through the rounds

Ruud has become the first man since Sweden's Robin Soderling in 2009 to reach his first Roland Garros fourth round, quarter-final, semi-final and final in the same year. Soderling lost in straight sets to Nadal in the final.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Ruud – 41/21
Cilic – 51/56

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Ruud – 16/0
Cilic – 10/2

BREAK POINTS WON/LOST

Ruud – 5/15
Cilic – 2/9

A female climate change activist chained herself to the net on Court Philippe-Chatrier during the French Open semi-final between Marin Cilic and Casper Ruud.

The woman, who identified herself online as a 22-year-old named Alizee, came from the stands during the third set.

She wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan "We have 1028 days left".

The shirt also carried the web address of the Derniere Renovation organisation, which is aligned to similar groups worldwide.

That website portrayed the woman on its front page, with the headline: "A citizen disrupts the semi-final of Roland Garros."

That was confirmation it was a pre-planned exercise, with the woman quoted as saying: "We are in 2022 and it is time to look at the reality in the face, the world to which politicians are sending us is a world to which Roland Garros will not be able to exist.

"Today, I went onto the court because I can't take the risk any more of not doing anything in the face of the climate emergency."

The group's website urged the French government to take action, saying it had sent it an ultimatum, declaring citizens had "entered into civil resistance".

"France has been condemned by its own courts for climate inaction. The future of this country is literally destroyed. To waste time is to perish," the group added.

The incident was an embarrassment to French Open organisers, with security inside the main show court unable to prevent the woman marching out onto the court and locking herself to the net.

Play was interrupted with the players briefly taken off court, before the woman was removed from the court by four security men and the match resumed.

French Open semi-finalist Casper Ruud has refuted Holger Rune's claim he yelled in his face after winning the duo's feisty quarter-final clash, accusing the teenager of telling "a big lie".

Ruud beat Rune 6-1 4-6 7-5 (7-2) 6-3 on Wednesday to set up a final-four clash with the resurgent Marin Cilic, scheduled for Friday.

After his defeat, Rune told Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet that his opponent had shouted at him.

"The team is really nice and sweet, but then he [Ruud] goes straight to me and shouts 'Ja!' straight up in my face," he said.

Rune also accused Ruud of showing "a lack of class", moving the Norwegian to respond in an interview with Eurosport.

Ruud, who is enjoying the best grand slam campaign of his career, has accused Rune of lying in the aftermath of the contest, although he acknowledged emotions were running high at the end of their three-hour encounter.

"No, what he says is wrong," Ruud said. "What he says is really not what happened. We both were in the dressing room after the match, and it's obviously a huge dressing room. There are many players, so we were just in our own part of the room all the time.

"I took an ice bath, ate some pizza and listened to music before we went home. Holger sat in his part of the dressing room.

"How he creates the story of me shouting 'yes' straight into his face is just a lie. It never happened. It's a big lie. It's disappointing that he creates lies about me.

"For me it doesn't matter if he thinks I am a player who doesn't follow the fair play rules, that's not really what matters.

"That's his personal opinion, but to put out lies about me like this is not right. I really wish this is the last time he will do something like this.

"I understand that some players are more emotional than others, and I am as well sometimes. He is obviously someone who plays with many emotions involved.

"I am not surprised about that, but it's a shame that he comes up with all these lies against me and my family."

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