With quarter-final goal achieved, Ruud is hungry for more

 - Stephanie Livaudais

The 23-year-old faces fellow Scandinavian standout Rune for a place in the semis

Casper Ruud, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Messieurs, 1/8 de Finale Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

It’s not even June yet, and 23-year-old Casper Ruud has already achieved one of his biggest goals of the year: a place in the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time.

The Norwegian has been one of the ATP tour’s standout clay-court talents in the last couple of years, and he burst into the top 10 after a breakthrough 2021 season that saw him lift five ATP trophies – four of those on the red dirt.

There was just one milestone that had eluded Ruud since making his Roland-Garros debut in 2018: he had not been past the third round in four appearances, falling to quality opponents like Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem. And despite a fourth-round appearance at the Australian Open last year, he had never been to the last eight at a Slam.

The quarter-finals were a mountain even his father and coach, former ATP pro Christian Ruud, couldn’t conquer, also reaching the third round at Roland-Garros in 1995 and 1999.

But across two weeks in Paris, everything finally came together for the younger Ruud.

After becoming the first Norwegian player to reach the fourth round with a battling 6-2, 6-7(3), 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Lorenzo Sonego, Ruud outgunned No.12 seed Hubert Hurkacz 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to mark some personal history of his own.

“It is gonna change, of course, a little bit the way I think I look [at] the Grand Slams in the future when you know you have reached a quarter-final one time,” Ruud said ahead of his upcoming quarter-final against Danish teenager Holger Rune.

“It has been a big goal for me this year, and to reach it is a good feeling.

“The tournament is not over and I want to, of course, try to win my next match, and I'm already focused on it. I need to do all the right things to be prepared. I think it will be an exciting match in the quarter-final.”

Ahead of the tournament, Ruud said he was also motivated by the ‘Scandinavian surge’ currently happening on the men’s tour.

The 23-year-old Norwegian is at the vanguard of a new generation rising up the ATP rankings that includes 19-year-old Rune from Denmark, 23-year-old Emil Ruusuvuori from Finland, and 23-year-old Mikael Ymer from Sweden.

Players from the region have made their mark on the terre battue this year, too.

In addition to Ruud’s historic milestones for Norway, his next opponent at Roland-Garros, Rune, became also the first Danish man to advance to the Roland-Garros quarter-finals in the Open Era, while Ymer equalled his best Grand Slam result with a third-round appearance.

Still in “tournament mode”, Ruud says he’s not trying to think about regional and national history or career milestones. Instead he’ll be focused on more tangible ideas: like his 3-0 head-to-head record against Rune, with all three wins coming on clay, all in straight sets – including earlier this season at Monte-Carlo.

With his 2022 goal achieved, history already made, Ruud is turning his focus to the next major target: a place in the final four at Roland-Garros.

“I have reached one of my goals, and one of my goals for the whole year here in Paris,” Ruud said. “But of course when you reach a goal, you make new goals. That's usually how it goes.

“New goal will, of course, be in a few days' time to try to reach the semi-final.”