Novak, no mercy

Novak Djokovic – Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-3
Final, Nitto ATP Finals 2022

Hope is the thing we cling to when all seems hopeless. And facing a highly motivated Novak Djokovic on an indoor hard court (oh, let’s be honest, ANY tennis court) is such a task. The British commentators on Eurosport know this too, and in the beginning of the match they paid a lot of attention to physical pains that Djokovic was supposed to have. The TV producers played along, and showed Djokovic gripping his thighs in slow-mo and looking worried in between games. Was the big man not doing well?

Hah. Doing very well, thank you very much. Ruud played another solid match, but could not reach any break points in the match. Djokovic snatched the first set when he challenged a serve at 30-30, and won the next point. Previous opponents in this tournaments have tried to pin Ruud to the backhand corner, with little success. Djokovic managed to dictate the match doing just that, and then launch his beautiful forehands. I love how Djokovic hits through the ball with his forehand.

The second set was pretty uneventful, Djokovic seizing the initiative and Ruud scrambling well behind the baseline and beyond the doubles corridors, making a lot of balls. A worse opponent than Djokovic surely would have missed more than the great Serb did, but he was efficient throughout. Late in the match the commentators noted that CR had not had any forehand winners in the second set, and that says a lot about Djokovic’s level of dominance.

The big takeaways from CR’s game this week were his serve and backhand, in my opinion. I don’t see what Ruud could have done differently today. Could he have stood closer to the baseline and hammered away, first strike style, come what may? Of course. But that is so far from his usual game that it surely would not have worked.

If Ruud improves as much next year as he has in 2022, 2023 will be a joy for Norwegian tennis fans. Let’s collectively pinch our arms for a while; in Casper Ruud we have a Norwegian born and bred tennis player who played in 3 of the 5 biggest finals in tennis this year. Thank you, Casper Ruud! I can’t wait for what’s next.

(Why is this Norwegian guy writing in English? At a party this fall, a friend and fanatical tennisbloggen.net fan suggested I should write in English in order to conquer the world or something like that. (Memories are slightly fuzzy.) I have not written English texts of any substance or length since the Clinton presidency, but will write in English for the rest of 2022 just for the fun of it and see if my numbers go through the roof. Please excuse my rusty grammar and spelling. If I run out of steam and/or receive loads of online fury from Norwegian language activists, I will switch to Norwegian and claim the blog was hijacked by forces outside my control.)

Blessed are the Greeks

Stefanos Tsitsipas – Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-7 (11), 7-6 (1)
Group match, Nitto ATP Finals 2022

My 1990s addicted heart skipped a beat: Sitting in Stefanos Tsitsipas´ corner was a retired English speaking serve and volley specialist of Greek descent, who used to serve people off the court in the 1990s. It´s good to see Mark Philippoussis on the tour again, life in tennis retirement has not always been easy for him.

Tsitsipas came out with a clear plan: Serve. And. Volley. With the serves pulling Medvedev wide, Tsitsipas took the first set quickly. He also threw in a lot of drop shots, and continued doing so even when they did not always pay off.

You see, Medvedev is a better player than Tsitsipas from the baseline. Even though they both held serve throughout the second set, Medvedev was game by game starting to dictate. He was going after the Tsitsipas backhand, even when he has plenty of space to work with elsewhere on Tsitsipas´ side. Still, the Greek reached match point three times in the tiebreak, but Medvedev saved them all, and did that thing that spells trouble for the opponent: Asking for audience love by raising both hands in the air. Tsitsipas finally blinked at 11-12 in the second set tiebreak.

Medvedev broke for 4-3 in the third set. Tsitsipas had break points in the next game, but Medvedev held. The match seemed lost for Tsitsipas.

I watched this match with Swedish audio, and the commentator made and interesting point: Tsitsipas´ backhand is the thing that keeps him from winning slams. Tsitsipas tries to avoid hitting that stroke as much as possible, according to the Swede whose name I did not catch. I have never thought of that before, but maybe he is right. I like the simplicity of Tsitsipas´ game, including his backhand. It is not as baroque as Gasquet´s, and not as booming as Wawrinka´s, but mostly works fine. A weakness? I don´t know.

As for his adventures to the net, Tsitsipas was brave to keep pushing at all times. At one point the Swedish commentator screamed in agony over a missed Tsitsipas volley, claiming that everybody from Sampras to Edberg to Rafter to … well, just about anybody wielding a racket in the 1990s would have made that volley. (Trigger warning: They also missed volleys.) Tsitsipas won 30 of 37 points at the net.

When it all seemed over, Tsitsipas broke back to 5-5, and the match went to a tiebreak, where the Greek went up 6-0. And it was time for another vintage Medvedev gesture, the raised shoulders and wide stare.

As for 1990s serve and volley specialists of Greek descent go, it is time somebody lures Pete Sampras out of his Californian mansion(s) and onto the ATP tour again. How can he not be bored out of his mind? His kids are adults now. And with an autobiography called A champion´s mind, does he not feel the need to share that mind with a player? Imagine Taylor Fritz or Felix Auger-Aliassime with Sampras in their corner, tapping in to all that knowledge.

That would be something.

(Why is this Norwegian guy writing in English? At a party this fall, a friend and fanatical tennisbloggen.net fan suggested I should write in English in order to conquer the world or something like that. (Memories are slightly fuzzy.) I have not written English texts of any substance or length since the Clinton presidency, but will write in English for the rest of 2022 just for the fun of it and see if my numbers go through the roof. Please excuse my rusty grammar and spelling. If I run out of steam and/or receive loads of online fury from Norwegian language activists, I will switch to Norwegian and claim the blog was hijacked by forces outside my control.)

The weight of Ruud will weigh you down

Casper Ruud hitting a forehand to Søren Hess-Olesen. (2017 photo)

Casper Ruud – Taylor Fritz 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (6)
Group match, Nitto ATP Finals 2022

At one point in the third set, Casper Ruud had break point against Taylor Fritz, and fired a forehand down the line against a net rushing Fritz. The American stretched and jumped to his left, and rolled around on the court as he landed, clearly unable to hit the next ball. He didn’t have to. The backhand volley sailed cross court, out of reach for Ruud.

Fritz held, and made his way to a third set tie-break. The winner would be guaranteed a spot in the semifinals. Ruud had been the better player in the third set, but momentum like that can swing in a tie-break, the weaker player loosening up.

That did not happen. Ruud got the upper hand, and kept his nerve even when he tightened a bit towards the end. Ruud’s backhand has been solid so far, and when the opponents fail to break it down, they seem a bit lost, and get dragged down by the forehands and weight of CR’s forehand.

It’s amazing how Ruud has come to life in this event, given how modest his last matches before Turin have been. I will never again underestimate Casper Ruud’s ability to turn on the switch for a big tournament. He has now beaten two of the best hard courters in the world (Felix Auger-Aliassime and Taylor Fritz) on an indoor hard court.

Ruud will finish first or second in his group, depending on the outcome of the last matches: Ruud faces an already eliminated Nadal (who has yet to win this event!), while Auger-Aliassime and Fritz battle it out for the last spot. I think Ruud will do all he can to avoid Djokovic in the semifinals, and by the looks of the first matches, Djokovic will win his group. So beating Nadal should be a top priority for Ruud, because then he will avoid Djokovic in the semis.

(Why is this Norwegian guy writing in English? At a party this weekend, a friend and fanatical tennisbloggen.net fan suggested I should write in English in order to conquer the world or something like that. (Memories are slightly fuzzy.) I have not written English texts of any substance or length since the Clinton presidency, but will write in English for the rest of 2022 just for the fun of it and see if my numbers go through the roof. Please excuse my rusty grammar and spelling. If I run out of steam and/or receive loads of online fury from Norwegian language activists, I will switch to Norwegian and claim the blog was hijacked by forces outside my control.)

Had worries. Not anymore.

Casper Ruud hitting a forehand to Søren Hess-Olesen. (2017 photo)

In my sizeable collection of mid 90s CDs, there is one with a title that crossed my mind this morning. Thinking ahead to Casper Ruud´s match against Felix Auger-Aliassime (FAA), I remembered a noisy album from 1996 called Now I got worry, which is precisely what I had leading up to the match.

Casper Ruud has not had the best results lately, whereas FAA has had just that, winning three indoor tournaments this fall. This could get ugly.

But then the match started, and Ruud was up for it. He held serve with four straight points in the first game. He kept his backhands deep, and FAA kept targeting it even when that tactic wasn´t working. In general, Ruud made FAA wonder where all the recent tailwind from European indoor arenas had gone. It certainly wasn´t in Turin, that´s for sure.

Ruud took the first set in a tiebreak, and kept pushing in the second. FAA looked strangely off throughout the match, even though he served some aces and showed flashes of brilliance. The surface in Turin seems nice and slow for Ruud´s brand of tennis, the kick serves jumping high. Ruud faced no break points in the match.

Ruud is up against Taylor Fritz, also a straight set winner today (against Nadal), on Tuesday night.

(Why is this Norwegian guy writing in English? At a party this weekend, a friend and fanatical tennisbloggen.net fan suggested I should write in English in order to conquer the world or something like that. (Memories are slightly fuzzy.) I have not written English texts of any substance or length since the Clinton presidency, but will write in English for the rest of 2022 just for the fun of it and see if my numbers go through the roof. Please excuse my rusty grammar and spelling. If I run out of steam and/or receive loads of online fury from Norwegian language activists, I will switch to Norwegian and claim the blog was hijacked by forces outside my control.)

Nobody likes to face an aging hero on his home turf

Casper Ruud hitting a forehand to Søren Hess-Olesen. (2017 photo)

If you are an ATP player looking for a win, you don’t want to face an aging hero on his home turf. Unfortunately for Casper Ruud, this happened in Basel this week. With Roger Federer resting on laurels somewhere, it’s up to Stan Wawrinka to carry the white and red flag for a few more years (? The guy is 37, a respectable age even in our age of super old dominating players).

I did not see the match, only the highlights on YouTube. Have a look:

My takeaways:

  • In the first point they trade backhands, until Wawrinka runs around and hits a sharp forehand inside out. Should have been Ruud doing that.
  • In the second point, Wawrinka makes sure Ruud does not get to hit a forehand, and when Wawrinka uses his own, he draws an error from Ruud’s forehand.
  • Ruud gets to hit a few forehands in the next point, but they don’t tip the point in his direction. Wawrinka finishes with a backhand up the line. I am going to miss that when he leaves the game.
  • Wawrinka takes the set with another dominating point from the baseline.
  • At 30-30 deep in the second set, Ruud does the thing that I get the feeling creates problems for him on clay too: Running around his backhand to hit a forehand in the doubles corridor. This is a risky move. If that forehand does not put the opponent under pressure, Ruud is on the back foot. And sure enough, Wawrinka withstands the Ruud forehand, and runs Ruud around before winning the point.

Since reaching the US Open final, Casper Ruud has beaten Prajnesh Gunneswaran (ATP 335), Jack Sock (128) and Nicolas Jarry (111). He has lost to Nishioka (56) and Munar (58), and now Wawrinka (194). Next up is Paris, and later the ATP finals. Here’s hoping for a resurgence in the coming weeks!

Looking at the stats, the Wawrinka match must have been closer than it looks in the clip. Ruud had three break points, but won neither. He had a good first serve percentage and had the better second serve.

(Why is this Norwegian guy writing in English? At a party this weekend, a friend and fanatical tennisbloggen.net fan suggested I should write in English in order to conquer the world or something like that. (Memories are slightly fuzzy.) I have not written English texts of any substance or length since the Clinton presidency, but will write in English for the rest of 2022 just for the fun of it and see if my numbers go through the roof. Please excuse my rusty grammar and spelling. If I run out of steam and/or receive loads of online fury from Norwegian language activists, I will switch to Norwegian and claim the blog was hijacked by forces outside my control.)

One loose net cord that defined two tennis careers

(Why is this in English? See the last paragraph.)

YouTube knows me better than I know myself. One evening I found myself rewatching the fourth set tiebreak between McEnroe and Borg in the 1980 Wimbledon final, suggested by the ever helpful YouTube algorithm.

Needless to say, this is the most famous tennis match of all time, and will probably remain so despite Nadal, Federer and Djokovic and all their matches against each other. McEnroe and Borg played each other only 14 times, whereas the three greater ones mentioned above have played each other a lot more.

Both Borg and McEnroe played epic matches before and after that 1980 Wimbledon final. However, this is the most famous match of their careers. Why is that so? Because of the fourth set tiebreak, won famously 18-16 by McEnroe. Had he lost that fourth set, the final would likely be remembered as a fine, but predictable win the four time defending champion Borg, who took control over the second and third sets after losing the first.

Watching the tie break again, one point stands out. At 11-10, Borg has match point and serves a second serve. McEnroe moves towards the middle to return with his forehand to Borg´s backhand. It is not a pressing shot. Borg hits a backhand straight into McEnroe´s backhand side (McEnroe being left-handed). McEnroe takes the ball early, and hits what looks to be a short, nervous backhand straight in Borg´s direction. If the ball reaches Borg, the Swede will have all the time in the world to pass or lob McEnroe, and the match would have been over.

Instead, the ball catches the top of the net. Or, should I say, somewhere near the top. But it is enough for the ball to roll over, as this is the most loosely strung net I have seen in any professional match. Here it is:

Without that cooperative net, there is no Legend of the Wimbledon final 1980. With a tighter net cord, Borg wins the match in four sets and this would just be a good, but not spectacular Wimbledon final. Instead, 18-16 happened, and the two players have been locked to each other for eternity, with movies, books and numerous blog posts dedicated to Borg and McEnroe. Without that loose net cord, my bet is that they would be just another pair, like Connors and McEnroe, Sampras and Agassi, Lendl and Becker.

A similar point came in the fourth set tiebreak between Nadal and Federer in 2008. What lifts this match into the «best ever» discussion is in my opinion Federer´s match point saving backhand in the fourth set tie break. Here it is:

(Why is this Norwegian guy writing in English? At a party this weekend, a friend and tennisbloggen.net reader suggested I should write in English in order to conquer the world or something like that. (Memories are slightly fuzzy.) I have not written English texts of any substance or length since the Clinton presidency, but will write in English for the rest of 2022 just for the fun of it and see if my numbers go through the roof. Please excuse my rusty grammar and spelling.)

Tennis som visuell forføring. Roger Federer legger opp.

Som i tilfellet dronning Elizabeth II, med den store forskjellen at hennes avskjed var den endelige: Reaksjonene på at Roger Federer legger opp er sterke, selv om det ikke kom som noen overraskelse. Vi kan tro at vi klarer å forberede oss på det vi har sett være i anmarsj, men heldigvis er vi ikke roboter.

Å bli best er et slit, hvis konkurransen er hard nok. I individuelle idretter er den det. I verdenssporten tennis er den ekstrem. Likevel ga Roger Federer ga inntrykk av at tennisen bare kom til ham når han grep racketen, det var ikke mulig å se avtrykkene av alle de tusen treningstimene. De som gjør mest inntrykk på oss har ofte dette ved seg. Mozart, Beatles, Leonardo da Vinci – verkene deres eksisterer nesten i en dimensjon for seg selv, med en letthet som snakker gjennom århundrene.

Jeg har nok nevnt Thomas Alsgaard som en norsk variant av dette her i bloggen, med gullet på 30 km i OL 1994 som stjerneeksempel. «Det går da ikke an å gå søndagsturer på mandag!», som NRKs Jon Herwig Carlsen sa:

Kirkegården er full av uerstattelige menn og kvinner, og det er noe bakstreversk ved å si at alt var bedre før og at det aldri kommer en ny Federer. Første del av 2000-tallet var Federers glansperiode, før han ble overgått av Nadal og Djokovic.

Sports Illustrated med Roger Federer på coveret 2009

Feinschmecker-tennisens død har vært spådd flere ganger før, for eksempel da magikeren John McEnroe (et ord som for en gangs skyld passer) mistet grepet om topprankingen i 1985 og presisjonsinstrumentet Ivan Lendl tok over.

Det er fort gjort å spå at tennisen nå har havnet i metodiske hender igjen, for godt. Jeg tror ikke det stemmer. Det er fortsatt mange måter å vinne tenniskamper på.

Jeg skal ikke påberope meg en innsikt i den globale tennispsyken, men jeg tror at Roger Federer er den spilleren som har fått flest publikummere til å smile. Det er ikke sant at Djokovic og Nadal er maskiner, de er utrolige artister på linje med Federer, men Federers tennis berørte andre nervesentre enn de to, i alle fall hos meg.

Federers karriere handlet mest om å vinne, men som fan husker jeg dessverre best tapene. Noen av dem er for vonde å snakke om fortsatt, som US Open-finalen i 2009, Australian Open-finalen 2009 og Wimbledon i 2019. Wimbledon-finalen i 2008 mot Nadal er OPPSKRYTT, hører dere, ekspertkommentariat? Oppskrytt! Det var enda en kamp hvor Nadal slo 23764 forehander mot Federers backhand, men hvis du liker å se metode bryte ned artisteri hadde kampen sikkert topp underholdningsverdi. Mot en tohåndsbackhandspiller med stort trykk og god dagsform, var Federer sårbar. Tapte han ikke to ganger på hardcourt mot Guillermo f*** Canas midt i sin beste periode? (2007?) Sånne ting.

Det er et av mine favorittsitater på film: Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) sier med en blanding av mange følelser til monsteret i verdensrommet:
– You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else.

Omtrent sånn er mitt forhold til Roger Federer. Jeg har fulgt tennisen hans siden 1999. Da var jeg 23. Nå er jeg 46. Det er en farlig alder på alle måter, hvor jeg enten kan synke ned i et hav av Federer-videoer på YouTube og grynte om hvor kjedelig dagens tennis er blitt. Eller jeg kan rette blikket mot nåtiden og framtiden, og samtidig sette pris på at jeg fikk oppleve Roger Federers tennis midt i gullalderen hans. Det var 23 fantastiske år.

Takk for tennisen, Roger.

Federer på tennisbloggen:

En fartshump for prosjekt Casper Ruud

Casper Ruud (Wikimedia Commons)

Carlos Alcaraz – Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3
Finale, US Open 2022

Det ble en annerledes finale enn jeg hadde sett for meg. Alcaraz kom ikke sprintende ut fra start, og Ruud ble ikke overspilt. Men det var Alcaraz som fikk det første settet, og fikk roet nervene med en tredjedels seier i lommen. Klart det betyr noe.

Tenniskamper vinnes som regel av den spilleren som i minst grad trenger å gjøre tilpasninger i spillet sitt for å ha overtaket. I en kamp mellom Alcaraz og Ruud på hardcourt, er den spilleren Alcaraz. TV-vinkelen fra spillernes øyehøyde var spesielt illustrerende i dette oppgjøret. Alcaraz spiller ballen lavere over nettet, og ballen «skyter» mer gjennom banen enn Ruuds slag. På hardcourt vil Ruud trenge en kombinasjonsrekke av slag etter hverandre for å sette bort ballen. Alcaraz kan i større grad slå bort ballen uten den samme poengkonstruksjonen.

Legg til at Alcaraz også løper opp det meste og har et offensivt hode, og det var klart for alle at Ruud ville ha en tøff oppgave. Ruuds håp var å spille på et stabilt høyt nivå, og utnytte de uunngåelige fallene i Alcaraz´ spill.

På et punkt i tredje sett trodde jeg Ruud var i ferd med å feste grepet. Alcaraz virket litt flat, og Ruud spilte seg til settballer i Alcaraz´ serve. Da han ikke vant noen av dem, var kampen langt på vei avgjort. Alcaraz hadde ikke vunnet et eneste tiebreak i turneringen før dette tredje settet, men han blåste gjennom det mot en Ruud som forsvant aldeles etter at han tok det første poenget.

Casper Ruud hadde et par minutter hvor nivået falt i sett 1, 3 og 4, og det var disse periodene som kostet ham kampen. For der Alcaraz også hadde dårlige perioder, spilte han på sitt beste når han måtte.

Den Casper Ruud som spilte finalen i går, er milevis bedre enn spilleren han var for bare noen måneder siden. Han er bedre på nett, kan holde ballen i gang med backhanden og evner å klore seg fast i poeng som virker tapt. Casper Ruud er et tennisbyggverk som forsterkes og vokser år for år, med dedikerte byggmestere i kretsen rundt hovedpersonen, hver med sin spesialitet.

Casper Ruud har vunnet sitt første sett mot Carlos Alcaraz og sitt første sett i en Grand Slam-finale. Jeg liker måten Ruud har åpnet seg opp på de siste månedene. Han er blitt en Grand Slam-spesialist, og han sier rett ut at han vil bli nummer én i verden. At sindige Ruud sier det rett ut, forteller meg at han har stor tro på at det kan skje.

Scenarier før US Open-finalen mellom Ruud og Alcaraz

Casper Ruud (Wikimedia Commons)

Dette frykter jeg: Carlos Alcaraz kommer stormende ut av blokkene, og tar det første settet enkelt. I andre sett slipper han seg helt løs, og slår vinnere fra alle posisjoner. I tredje sett henger Ruud mer med, men det er for seint mot en spanjol som har 90% av publikum med seg, og som er mer enn klare for å få en ny, ung verdensener med et kreativt og kraftfullt spill.

Dette håper jeg: Ruud viser ingen frykt, og tar det første settet. I andre sett spiller han metodisk og får en debut-nervøs Alcaraz til å ta dårlige avgjørelser. I tredje prøver publikum å heie fram spanjolen, men Ruud fortsetter å mørne Alcaraz, og får stadig mer jubel fra et publikum som innser at stabilitet fortsatt kan vinne de største turneringene.

Sannsynligvis blir kampen et sted mellom disse to. Jeg er spent på hvordan Ruud tenker. Mot Nadal i French Open-finalen var han for defensiv i hodet til å tro på seier. Jeg håper de har snakket seg gjennom det i Team Ruud. Carlos Alcaraz kommer til å se uslåelig ut i deler av kampen. Casper Ruuds jobb blir å sørge for at de periodene blir så korte som mulig, og at Alcaraz må jobbe for hvert poeng.

Det er spennende å se hvilken virkning de siste kampene de har spilt i turneringen får. Alcaraz har hatt tøffere kamper i de tre siste rundene. Det kan bety noe, men trenger ikke gjøre det. Stefan Edberg var gjennom en lignende femsetts-rekke i 1992, da han møtte en mer uthvilt Pete Sampras i finalen. Edberg vant finalen i fire sett. Kanskje kommer Alcaraz til å spille med lave skuldre på grunn av de vriene kampene han har spilt før finalen, og ikke merke noe press. Det er Alcaraz´ første Grand Slam-finale, og andre har vært i lignende situasjon før og levert blendende tennis (Marat Safin US Open 2000, Pete Sampras US Open 1990, Gustavo Kuerten French Open 1997).

Jeg kommer til å se på.

Tyngdekraften vinner (nesten) alltid

Casper Ruud (Wikimedia Commons)

Tennis på tv:
Casper Ruud – Matteo Berrettini 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (4)
Kvartfinale, US Open 2022

I selvbiografien sin skriver Andre Agassi om et av de mange gode rådene han fikk av Brad Gilbert.

Tyngdekraften

Sistnevnte var arkitekten bak Agassis comeback på slutten av 1990-tallet, som ble innledet med seieren i French Open 1999. «Vær tyngdekraft» («be gravity») formante Gilbert til Agassi. Han mente at Agassi måtte spille på en måte som fikk motstanderen til å knekke sammen under den samlede vekten som Agassi belastet dem med. Det jevne, det kvelende og det utmattende spillet.

Andre Agassis selvbiografi "Open"
Andre Agassis selvbiografi Open.

Agassi nådde verdenstoppen med den motsatte typen tennis; det var det ekstraordinære ved Agassis spill som gjorde ham til stjerne. I siste halvdel av karrieren levde Agassi etter Gilberts motto, særlig i Australian Open, hvor han kvernet i stykker motstanderne på begynnelsen av 2000-tallet.

Jabnå

Casper Ruud trenger ikke å minnes på Brad Gilberts ord, for han har «tyngdetennis» som en del av DNA. Du vet hva du får når du skal møte Ruud. Ruud kommer ikke til å slå seg bort fordi han ikke har dagen, men bruke game etter game til å legge steiner i sekken til motstanderen.

Det betyr ikke at han ikke kommer til å slå spektakulære vinnere eller variere i kvalitet, men i det store og hele forlanger Ruuds spill at motstanderen skal spille på sitt beste for å vinne. En dupp, og Ruud spiser poeng etter poeng, game etter game. «Dæ e jabnå som dræge», som en tidligere sjef av meg sa. (Beklager den dårlige jærsken, Egil.)

Casper Ruud
Casper Ruud i Davis Cup-kamp i Stavanger.

Matteo Berrettinis beste nivå på hardcourt er muligens høyere enn Ruuds, men den slags merkelapper er meningsløse hvis vi snakker om et toppnivå som ikke er mulig å holde over tid. Og fem sett er lang tid. Ruuds grunnfjell av forehander og backhander har vokst seg høyere og høyere gjennom sesongen. Han kan ikke fike til en forehandvinner med en kjapp underarmsbevegelse slik Berrettini og Nick Kyrgios kan, men resten av Ruuds forehandkvaliteter veier opp for det.

En rekke gode frampek

Tidligere i turneringen har Ruud tapt noen sett som han kunne unngått.

Mot Berrettini snudde det. Ruud stivnet litt mot slutten av andre og begynnelsen av tredje sett. Hadde Berrettini vunnet det tredje, tror jeg likevel Ruud hadde tatt kampen, men det hadde kostet litt flere krefter og timer på banen. I stedet brøt Ruud og presset fram et tie-break hvor han hadde god kontroll. I semifinalen venter Karen Khachanov, som slo ut Nick Kyrgios i fem lange sett seint på natta. Det er akkurat det resultatet team Ruud ønsket: De slipper å møte Kyrgios, og Khachanov får mindre hvile før semifinalen.

Det blir en førstegangsvinner i US Open for menn i år. På motsatt side av trekningen for Ruud finnes Sinner, Alcaraz, Rublev og Tiafoe, fire spillere som er i utmerket stand til å slite hverandre godt ut før finalen, og som får mindre hviletid enn Ruud/Khachanov.

Det er lov å være optimist.