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Casper Ruud earns third Masters SF in Madrid, Berrettini awaits
The unseeded Norwegian continued to establish himself as one of the most dominant forces on clay with a decisive win over Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik at the Mutua Madrid Open
Published May 07, 2021
Casper Ruud surged into his third career Masters 1000 semifinal at the Mutua Madrid Open, ending Alexander Bublik’s sensation run to the quarterfinals, 7-5, 6-1.
"Here I am again, and I'm just playing the tennis of my life at the moment," Ruud said in his on-court interview. "I've had an unbelievable motivation to play the European clay swing. When we didn't get to play it last year, I was very sad, so I think I have double the motivation now as compared to last year."
All but assured of a Top 20 debut in next week’s rankings, the unseeded Norwegian backed up his big-time victory over Monte Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas with another 68-minute win on Manolo Santana Stadium.
Ruud, who has spent time training at the Rafael Nadal Academy, has been one of the tour’s most consistent forces on the terre battue since last fall, when he reached the final four at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, and has repeated the feat both in Monte Carlo and Madrid, scoring Top 10 wins at all three tournaments.
"It still feels like I'm very new to this level, making the long stages at this level. I think now I've proven also to myself that it's just not a one-hit-wonder when I did my first one in Rome and the second one in Monte-Carlo. It felt even more like it was a new feeling. This is the third time. I feel more confident in myself. Knowing that I've been there twice before I think will hopefully help tomorrow."
The outspoken Bublik is less of a fan of clay-court tennis, audibly calling it a “useless” surface in Barcelona during a three-set win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. The Russian-born Kazakh has nonetheless been on an impressive rise since reaching the Miami Open quarterfinals in March, employing his audacious game to magnificent effect at the Caja Mágica to score back-to-back wins against No. 11 seed Denis Shapovalov and Australian Open semifinalist Aslan Karatsev and match his Miami result.
The match-up made for an intriguing contrast in personality: while Ruud stalks the baseline with all seriousness, Bublik can often be seen smiling after some of his Howitzer forehands. Despite their differences, the two seemed set for an opening-set tie-break as the first 11 games went with serve.
A game away from Sudden Death, Bublik thrice found himself down set point. Though he saved them with the help of some powerful serves, Ruud, known for his heavy topspin forehand, grew bolder with his backhand, pulling off an ambitious passing shot to earn a fourth opportunity—one he ultimately converted to break the stalemate.
The second set went far more smoothly for the 22-year-old, who broke Bublik with another backhand pass and only lost three points in the final three games of the match, serving out the win at love.
In the end, Ruud posted glittering numbers with 19 total winners to just four unforced errors and converted three of nine break point opportunities—two of three in the second set. Bublik can also be pleased with his game off the ground, striking 23 winners to 21 unforced errors, but struggled to find openings on return, engineering just one break point in two sets.
Standing between Ruud and the biggest final of his young career will No. 8 seed Matteo Berretini, who rallied past No. 16 seed Cristian Garin, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0. Trailing the Chilean by a set and 3-1, Berrettini won the final 11 games of the match.
Ruud is 2-0 against Berrettini on clay but has never beaten Garin in two previous meetings—though both were back in 2019.
"This is the third time now," Ruud said. "I hope that's the lucky charm, like we say. The previous two [semifinals] I lost to Djokovic, then I lost to Rublev. Whoever it will be tomorrow will be at least a lower-ranked player. It's not maybe Djokovic on the other side of the net, but they're both great players and I will have to play a great match again to be able to win. I will do everything I can to be ready. I'm very motivated for the third semifinal in a Masters 1000 of my career so far."