After a very difficult start to the year where he lost early in every single tournament on hard court, Casper Ruud finally had a deep run this week in Estoril and ended up winning his first title of the season and 10th of his career, all ATP 250.
It wasn’t an easy road for Ruud, he lost a set to João Sousa in the first round and was taken to the very brink of elimination in the semifinals against a red-hot Quentin Halys. He was very dominant in the quarterfinals against the defending champion Sebastián Baez, but his level throughout the week was mostly shaky and inconsistent. Meanwhile, his final opponent Miomir Kecmanovic had looked great all week, not dropping a single set en route to the title match.
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But in the final, it was a very different story and Ruud’s superior experience at this level showed. He started strong and quickly grabbed the first set while Kecmanovic was still trying to find his game. The second set was much closer and Kecmanovic had his chances but once against Ruud’s superior experience showed in key junctures and he took his first title of the season, exactly the kind of motivation boost he needed ahead of the clay season.
Ruud made the final at Roland Garros last year and he will be aiming to have more deep runs in the big clay tournaments this year. His level wasn’t exactly his best this week, but winning always breeds confidence and Ruud’s has surely improved ahead of the upcoming clay Masters 1000.
With this title, Ruud joins the illustrious ranks of Estoril winners, along with such names as David Nalbandian, Nikolay Davydenko, Richard Gasquet, and of course Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. The change in calendar slot (first week of the clay season instead of right before Madrid) maybe brought a weaker draw but Estoril still managed to crown a top 5 champion. Not only did he win, Ruud was also very impressed with the tournament in general: “Incredible tournament. Every time I played was full. You will probably have my vote for the best ATP 250 of the year”.