Preview: Casper Ruud vs. Alexander Zverev – prediction, head-to-head, tournament so far

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Preview: Casper Ruud vs. Alexander Zverev – prediction, head-to-head, tournament so far

Sports Mole previews Friday’s French Open semi-final between Casper Ruud and Alexander Zverev, including predictions, head-to-head and their tournament so far.

For the second season running, Norway’s Casper Ruud and Germany’s Alexander Zverev will pit their wits against one another in the French Open semi-finals, clashing on Friday on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The latter came through a quarter-final battle with Alex de Minaur in straight sets to reach the last four, whereas Ruud earned a golden ticket to the semis by virtue of Novak Djokovic‘s withdrawal.

Match preview

© Reuters

Revenge would have been the dish of the day for Ruud in his proposed quarter-final showdown with Djokovic, whom he came up second best to at Roland-Garros last year, but after being troubled by a knee concern in the fourth round, the Serbian was ultimately forced to cede his grip on the crown.

As a result, Ruud progressed to his third Roland-Garros semi-final with a walkover win against the defending champion, and he has been swinging his racquet solely on the practice courts since a gruelling four-setter with the USA’s Taylor Fritz in the fourth round.

Despite harming his progression prospects slightly with seven double faults, the Scandinavian sensation brought up a ridiculous 27 break points on the Fritz serve, and despite managing to save 21 of them, the American could not find all the answers against the clay aficionado.

As well as the surface – where 17 of his previous 23 top-level finals have been fought – Ruud has Grand Slam history firmly on his side this week, as he is a perfect 3-0 in previous major semi-finals at the 2022 French and US Opens and last year’s Roland-Garros campaign.

However, with three runners-up prizes and no major title to his name, the 25-year-old has been the grooms man and never the groom at Grand Slam events thus far, and he has been taken to four sets or more in all of his contests since besting Felipe Meligeni Alves in round one.

Alexander Zverev reacts at the French Open on June 1, 2024© Reuters

While Ruud would have enjoyed several days’ worth of rest by the time he arrives on Court Philippe-Chatrier, fourth seed Zverev was not blessed with such a luxury, competing in Wednesday’s night session with Australia’s De Minaur after a five-set marathon with Holger Rune.

The 27-year-old was pushed to the extreme against his unfancied colleague, who broke while Zverev was serving for the match after a couple of nearly moments in the first two sets, but De Minaur could not back up that match-saving break as Zverev prevailed 6-4 7-6[5] 6-4.

A fourth successive Roland-Garros semi-final is now on the agenda for Zverev, but the German has several demons to exorcise on the clay, having lost at this stage in each of the last three tournaments and also suffering last-four heartbreak at this year’s Australian Open.

In fact, only one of Zverev’s previous seven semi-final ties at major tournaments has ended in victory – sinking Pablo Carreno Busta at the 2020 US Open – and even then the world number four fell two sets down before pulling off a miraculous fightback.

Some will argue that conquering all-time great Rafael Nadal is worthy of a place in the final, but Zverev must banish his previous semi-final woes if he is to earn a date with destiny against either Carlos Alcaraz or new world number one Jannik Sinner with the Coupe des Mousquetaires at stake.

Tournament so far

Casper Ruud:

First round: vs. Felipe Meligeni Alves 6-3 6-4 6-3
Second round: vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6[5] 1-6 6-3 4-6 6-3
Third round: vs. Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-4 1-6 6-2 6-2
Round of 16: vs. Taylor Fritz 7-6[6] 3-6 6-4 6-2
Quarter-final: vs. Novak Djokovic w/o

Alexander Zverev:

First round: vs. Rafael Nadal 6-3 7-6[5] 6-3
Second round: vs. David Goffin 7-6[4] 6-2 6-2
Third round: vs. Tallon Griekspoor 3-6 6-4 6-2 4-6 7-6[3]
Round of 16: vs. Holger Rune 4-6 6-1 5-7 7-6[3] 6-2
Quarter-final: vs. Alex de Minaur 6-4 7-6[5] 6-4

Head To Head

French Open (2023) – Semi-finals: Ruud wins 6-3 6-4 6-0
Miami Open (2022) – Quarter-finals: Ruud wins 6-3 1-6 6-3
Paris Masters (2021) – Quarter-finals: Zverev wins 7-5 6-4
Cincinnati Open (2021) – Quarter-finals: Zverev wins 6-1 6-3

Since their proposed inaugural meeting at Acapulco in 2021 was cancelled due to Ruud withdrawing, Friday’s competitors have squared off four times at the top level and have two wins apiece under their belts.

However, the most significant of those successes certainly came in last year’s Roland-Garros semis, where Ruud won in straight sets and even inflicted a humiliating bagel on his German colleague on their maiden clay contest.

The Norwegian had also triumphed in three at the 2022 Miami Open quarters, leaving Zverev without success in this head-to-head since their first two battles in 2021, one of which did come in the French capital in the Paris Masters quarter-finals.

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We say: Ruud to win in four sets

There is no question whatsoever who the freshest legs will belong to on Friday, and Ruud’s prolonged recovery period is just what the doctor ordered for a man who has played 13 sets of tennis in his last three matches.

Even a slightly jaded Zverev can harm Ruud with his slick backhand, but the German let his level drop at times in his quarter-final with De Minaur and could be punished against clay specialist Ruud, who is our pick to replicate last year’s result and make the final for the third year running.

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