Paris, 4 June 2022 (STATS Perform/dpa/MIA) — 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…”