Ruud Brightens A Rainy Day At Roland-Garros With A Happy Win

Casper Ruud (photo: Roland-Garros video)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, May 28, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 7 Casper Ruud arrived at this year’s Roland-Garros fresh off winning his second clay-court title of the season at Geneva on Saturday to go with his earlier triumph in Barcelona. Add to it, the personable Norwegian was a finalist at Monte-Carlo last month after earning a career-first victory over Novak Djokovic in Monaco.

So, it should come as no surprise that Ruud, a two-time French Open runner-up (2022-23), is legitimately a favorite for the Roland-Garros men’s title this year in Paris in a year that is wide open.

“Obviously, winning the tournament is a good feeling,” Ruud said after arriving in Paris from Geneva. “It gives you confidence, but it feels like it’s anyone’s tournament and anyone’s game really.”

On a rainy Tuesday in Paris, which forced the closure of the roof over Court Philippe-Chatrier (as well as on Court Suzanne-Lenglen) and delayed the start of play by four hours on the outer courts, Ruud ran his current winning streak to five with a near flawless 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 137th-ranked Brazilian qualifier Felipe Meligini Alves in an hour and 55 minutes.

It was Ruud’s ATP Tour-leading 36th win of the season and it improved his win-loss record in opening rounds to 11-1. He told Mats Willander in his post match interview that he felt “very welcome” being back in Paris and called his win “a good start.”

While Meligini Alves, who has divided his time between the ATP Tour and Challenger circuit, was looking for his first win over a Top-50 player, it wasn’t going to happen against Ruud. That’s because Ruud, a 12-time ATP Tour titlist, gave him all he could handle – especially with the pinpoint quality of his serve.

Ruud won 80 percent of his first-serve points, backed it with an 88-percent efficiency of winning points on his second serve and saved the only break point he faced. He struck 23 winners to 18 unforced errors and converted four of 11 break-point opportunities. Ruud outpointed Meligini Alves 94-68.

Needless to say, after winning his first match on the biggest show Court at Stade Roland-Garros — and in front of a large crowd appreciative of seeing good tennis on a wet and dreary Paris day — made Ruud feel happy about his effort.

“Yes, I was [happy]. I think it was a pretty steady, good level all the way around, from the beginning to the end,” Ruud told Tennis Channel‘s Jon Wertheim in a court side interview following the match. “Obviously a bit nervous coming in, based on the two previous years here. Definitely, a lot of points at stake and a lot of things I want to achieve here. A bit nervous but I’m very happy with today’s win.”

In the second round, Ruud will play No. 32 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, who rallied to defeat 116th-ranked qualifier Valentin Vacherot of Monaco, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (2).

Reigning champion Djokovic begins title defense with win

World No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic began his quest to capture his 25th Grand Slam title — and fourth at Roland Garros — with a 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory over popular French wild card Pierre-Hugues Herbert that was featured on Court Philippe-Chatrier Tuesday night. The win improved Djokovic’s first-round win-loss record at the French Open to 20-0.

“I would say that I know what I’m capable of, and particularly in the Grand Slams I normally play the best tennis, at least I aim always to play the best tennis, and I was most of my career able to do that, so that’s the goal,” Djokovic said on Sunday in his pre-tournament news conference.

The 37-year-old Djokovic, who became the oldest champion in tournament history last year, now needs to reach this year’s final in order to retain his No. 1 ranking. Against the two-time Roland-Garros doubles champion Herbert, ranked 142nd in singles, Djokovic controlled matters throughout much of the two-hour, 31-minute tussle. He outpointed Herbert 103-81 by hitting 29 winners and benefitted from 31 unforced errors by his opponent.

“I think that Pierre served very well, especially in the second set but also in the third set,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview, interpreted from French. “I was in a complicated situation because I couldn’t find the right position to return his serves, so it was very important to stay focused. If he had won that second set, then it would’ve been a different match.” 

Still in search of his first title this season, Djokovic improved his overall record to 15-6 in 2024 and he is 7-3 on clay. Next, he will face No. 63 Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain, who advanced over No. 91 Constant Lestienne of France, 6-3, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, in three hours and nine minutes on Court 11.

Full circle moment for France’s Alizé Cornet

Alizé Cornet, the 34-year-old French Grand Dame from Nice, who made her Roland-Garros debut at age 15, played the final singles match in the last major of career before she retires.

The 106th-ranked wild card Cornet didn’t win on Tuesday, but she still captured the affection of the French fans. Cornet lost 6-2, 6-1 to World No. 8 and seventh seed Zheng Qinwen of China on Court Philippe-Chatrier in an hour and 23 minutes. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Zheng, 21, simply was the better player, hitting 25 winners and outpointing Cornet 65-42.

Cornet, who played at Roland-Garros for the first time in 2005 ends her career after playing a record 69 consecutive majors. She earned 25 Top-10 wins and her best finish in a major came in 2022 at the Australian Open, when she reached the quarterfinals.

In her post-match news conference, Cornet reflected of her career and popularity among both players and fans. She said: “I’d like to be remembered as a genuine player who shared all her emotions with everyone all throughout her career with a fighting spirit. Someone who is a passionate tennis player, who likes to fight and who could die for it.

“I think I showed it several times, that it was actually my type of character. People may love me or not for that type of personality, actually, but this is what brought me until here.”

Around Roland-Garros

• World No. 2 and second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus breezed into the second round following a 6-1, 6-2 win over 19-year-old Russian Erika Andreeva on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The two-time Australian Open champion needed only 68 minutes to beat the elder of the Andreeva sisters, ranked 100th. Sabalenka hit 27 winners, made 16 unforced errors and broke her opponent five times. She’s now 12-3 on clay with two of her losses coming against World No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the finals of Madrid and Rome.

• Former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan played in her first match in over three weeks following her Madrid semifinal loss to Aryna Sabalenka and after illness forced her to withdraw from Rome.

The layoff didn’t seem to affect the World No. 4 too much as she coasted past No. 85 Greet Minnen of Belgium, 6-2, 6-3, in 73 minutes on Court Suzanne-Lenglen. From 0-2 down, Rybakina won 10 straight games. She hit 36 winners and won 14 of 21 points at the net.

Next, Rybakina will face No. 50 Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, who defeated three-time major champion Angelique Kerber of Germany, 6-4, 6-3, in 85 minutes on Court 2.

• Also, on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, No 28 seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina advanced over No. 77 Arthur Cazaux of France, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, in three hours and 26 minutes behind 40 winners and seven break-point conversions. Next, the Argentine will play another Frenchman, No. 69 Arthur Rinderknech, who defeated 96th-ranked Australian wild card Adam Walton, 6-2, 6-4, 7-5.

• Over on Court Simone-Mathieu, 11th-seeded Australian Alex de Minaur easily defeated #NextGenATP American Alex Michelsen, 6-1, 6-0, 6-2, to advance to the second round in Paris for the fourth time in eight tries. De Minaur hit 28 winners, converted eight of 13 break points and outpointed the 60th-ranked Michelsen 91-52. His next opponent will be No. 64 Jaume Munar, who eliminated No. 81 Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, in an all-Spanish battle that lasted three hours and 14 minutes on Court 12.

• Other seeded men’s winners include: No. 10 seed Holger Rune of Denmark, who bested No. 62 Daniel Evans of Great Britain, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, to improve to 15-0 versus players ranked outside the Top 50 on clay since the start of 2023 season; No. 12 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States, who beat Federico Coria of Argentina, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1; No. 19 seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, who defeated 112th-ranked French qualifier Gregoire Barrere, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3; No. 26 Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, who eliminated No. 74 Mackenzie McDonald of the United States, 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2; and No. 31 seed Mariano Navone of Argentina, who defeated Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.

Carreño Busta, a former World No. 10, was playing in his first tour-level event since Rotterdam in February 2023 after being sidelined with an elbow injury. Meanwhile, Navone is the first player in the Open Era to be seeded in his Grand Slam main draw debut. The World No. 31 started the year ranked No. 125.

• Other seeded women’s winners include: No. 10 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia, who defeated No. 49 Magdalena Frech of Poland, 7-5, 6-1; No. 14 seed Madison Keys of the United States, who beat No. 102 Renata Zarazua of Mexico, 6-3, 6-2; No. 19 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who routed No. 59 Nadia Podoroska of Argentina; No. 22 seed Emma Navarro of the United States, who eliminated 163rd-ranked Turkish qualifier Zeynep Sonmez, 6-2, 6-0; and No. 25 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, who advanced over No. 82 Maria Lourdes Carle of Argentina, 6-3, 7-6 (8).

• Men’s and women’s seeds upset: Men’s No. 22 seed Adrian Mannarino of France, who lost to 48th-ranked Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2; and women’s No. 26 seed Katie Boulter of Great Britain, who lost to No. 139 Paula Badosa of Spain, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4; and No. 28 seed Sorana Cirstea of Romani, who was defeated by No. 55 Anna Blinkova of Russia, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5).

Tuesday’s Roland-Garros results

Wednesday’s Roland-Garros order of play

By the numbers

Before Rafael Nadal fell to World No. 4 Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the first round of Roland-Garros on Monday, in his first 18 appearances at the tournament, he had never lost before the fourth round. His match record in the clay-court major is 112-4 and h featured winning streaks of 31, 39 and 35 consecutive wins.

“Quotable …”

“As I said always, for me the feeling of coming back home with the personal satisfaction [that I did all I could] to make things work well, give myself everything, that’s the only way that I understand my life.”

Rafael Nadal, 14-time Roland-Garros champion, during his post-match news conference Monday.