The second men’s semifinal on Court Philippe-Chatrier may pack less star power but should have just as much intrigue in it. With a decade in age difference, Casper Ruud is looking for his first slam final while Marin Cilic is hoping to reach one last one at 33 years old. This French Open semifinal at Roland Garros holds a ton of promise.
Ruud’s first deep slam run
The Norwegian’s journey to his first slam semifinal began on a big stage, sending Jo-Wilfried Tsonga off to retirement with a four-set win. Ruud followed it up with a straight-set win over Emil Ruusuvuori.
The first real scare for the 23-year-old came in the third round when Lorenzo Sonego held a two-sets-to-one lead. The Italian was playing some of his best tennis in the third set, which he decisively won 6-1. Ruud hung in that match and waited for Sonego’s level to regress to the mean, which it eventually did and the Norwegian came out victorious in five sets.
The match against Hurkacz was mostly straightforward for Ruud, winning in four sets and setting up a Scandinavian derby in the quarterfinals against Holger Rune. The 23-year-old came out with a quick 6-1 first set but the Dane was the better player in the second and third set, even though Ruud took the third. The Norwegian held his nerve in the fourth and closed it out after three hours and 18 minutes.
After the match, some controversy bubbled up when Rune accused Ruud of unsportsmanlike conduct in the locker room after the match though the Norwegian has denied anything of the sort happened.
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Cilic’s final hurrah
Cilic began his campaign by completing the Hungarian double, defeating first Attila Balazs and then Marton Fucsovics. After that, the Croat beat Gilles Simon in the Frenchman’s final Roland Garros match as he is set to retire after this season.
After that win is where the 33-year-old went to another gear, taking out second seed Daniil Medvedev in straight sets after just one hour and 47 minutes. A more stern challenge awaited Cilic in the next round, though he prevailed nonetheless.
Standing in the Croat’s way was seventh seed Andrey Rublev, eager for a rematch after he was beaten by Cilic at the Australian Open. The Russian came closer this time, taking the match all the way to the final set tiebreak after a four-hour battle. When it mattered though, Cilic stood up to the challenge as Rublev fell apart. From being tied at 2-2, Cilic won eight straight points to win the tiebreak and the match.
Cilic is now in his first slam semifinal in four years and is guaranteed a return to the Top 20 for the first time since August 2019. The 33-year-old stands on the precipe of greatness though, as if he beats Ruud and reaches the final, he will become just the 11th men’s player in the Open Era to reach the final at all four slams. Even legends of the game like Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg or Jimmy Connors did not manage to gain entry to this elite club in their careers.
The bookmakers see Casper Ruud as a pretty strong favorite with most putting up odds with the implied probability of 68 to 70% with the stats site Tennis Abstract going even further and projecting Ruud as an 80% favorite. It makes sense with the Norwegian being a Top 5 player on clay over the past year according to Elo ratings and him finally breaking out at a slam. I am bucking that trend though as I believe we are seeing very close to peak Cilic tennis from the Croat at this year’s Roland Garros. That level of play in addition to his previous experience at the latter stages of a slam, makes him a slight favorite for me.