Casper Ruud can reach an unlikely second slam final of the year on Friday if he can see off a very beatable opponent in Karen Khachanov. The Norwegian is one of three possible No. 1 players left at the end of this tournament along with Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal. The latter will be if both Ruud and Alcaraz lose in the semi-finals otherwise the player who performs better of the two will take the spot.
Khachanov’s appearance at this stage of the tournament has come as something of a shock with the Russian often failing to live up to the promise showed in his early rise up the rankings. However, he has shown a lot of spirit to eke out tough five set wins in his past two matches against Pablo Carreno Busta and now Nick Kyrgios. He served 30 aces in victory over the latter, helping him see off the player people saw as favourite at the quarter final stage. “I stayed there. I waited for my chances. I created them as well. I’m super happy, super proud that I could finish the match, I could take it. Serving for the match [is] never easy. [I am] just super happy to do this step forward to make my first semi-final.” he said.
Ruud has been improving on this surface but his appearance this far into the tournament still comes as a bit of a surprise. The manner of his victory against Matteo Berrettini was even more so, with him dropping serve just twice in a 6-1 6-4 7-6 win. “I’m honestly a bit surprised that I made it to the semi-finals here,” Ruud said following his victory. “But I think I have developed my hard-court game a lot the past year or two, and I think Miami this year showed me and I proved to myself that I can beat good players and reach later stages in big hard-court tournaments. That has been a sort of confidence booster for myself.”
Khachanov is probably the better player on faster hard courts but at this stage of the tournament, how well the pair deal with nerves is going to be just as important. Ruud has already made it to one slam final while the Russian’s big match experience is centred around Masters 1000 events. Ruud is going to be a much more focused and measured opponent so it is going to be a tough ask for Khachanov to maintain his high level from the baseline across the five sets that may be needed.
Prediction – Casper Ruud in four sets