Ruud Returns To Gstaad With Another Solid Victory

Casper Ruud (photo: Brigitte Urban)

GSTAAD/WASHINGTON, July 21, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Casper Ruud has enjoyed great success in Gstaad, winning last year’s EFG Swiss Open title while amassing great memories. Whether it’s the mountain air conditions or the enjoyable atmosphere surrounding Roy Emerson Arena and the neighboring village, the popular Norwegian has always felt comfortable playing in the scenic Swiss Alps.

On Thursday, the 23-year-old defending champion moved a round closer to winning another title in Gstaad. Ruud bested No. 65 Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic, an up-and-coming 20-year-old, 6-3, 6-4, in an hour and 39 minutes under sunny skies – in contrast to Wednesday’s series of downpours that cut short play and contributed to a busy order of play Thursday.

Ruud, who is 9-2 in his last 11 matches on red clay, improved to 22-7 on the surface this season. A week removed from an opening-round loss in Bastad, the World No. 5 from Oslo looked rock solid in his service games against Lehecka. He struck four aces and won 89 percent of his first-serve points, well above his season-average of 75 percent. Ruud broke Lehecka twice and saved all five break points he faced. He outpointed Lehecka 81-62 to move into Friday’s quarterfinal round.


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“I’ve had great success in Gstaad and also Geneva in the past year. It feels great to be back,” said Ruud, who is a 4-0 in Gstaad and a combined 13-0 in matches he’s played in the two Swiss cities on clay. “There are many things that come into play. We wanted to come back to Gstaad. We had great memories, of course [from winning last year], and the city is beautiful – not just in the winter but also in the summer. It’s a great place.

“I think it’s nice to come back to a place you’ve won before. Hopefully, I can do well, again, in this tournament. It’s got great atmosphere and I love playing in Switzerland.”

Next, Ruud, who is chasing after his third ATP Tour title of the season after earlier successes in Buenos Aires and Geneva, will play No. 63 Jaume Munar of Spain in Friday’s quarterfinal round.

Thiem gains back-to-back quarterfinals

Former World No. 3 Dominic Thiem continued his uphill climb to recovery by making back-to-back quarterfinals after missing much of last season due to a wrist injury. On Thursday, the 28-year-old from Austria overcame No. 125 Federico Delbonis of Argentina, 7-6 (8), 6-3, in an hour and 55 minutes to move into the last eight.

The triumph over Delbonis was a significant accomplishment for the 274th-ranked Thiem, who is playing this week using a protected ranking and is seeking his first tournament title since winning the 2020 US Open.

Although Thiem squandered a 5-2 lead in the opening set, he rallied to win after saving two set points during a first-set tie-break. Then, he broke the Argentine in the third and ninth games of the second set to wrap up the second-round victory.

The 2015 Swiss Open champion, who saved a match point in his first-round win over Hugo Gaston on Tuesday, is trying to build upon his quarterfinal result at Bastad, Sweden last week.

“Every win is so important right now and I got a great energy from my box,” Thiem said during his on-court interview following his victory over Delbonis. “They also knew that the first set was crucial and the key to the match. I am coming from [reaching] the quarters in Bastad and I really wanted to back it up here in Gstaad.

“I have won two matches, which means a lot to me right now. I really need those ranking points. Every match win is something very special.”

Thiem hit three aces and won 81 percent of his first-serve opportunities. He converted three of five break points and outpointed Delbonis 74-64.

“The key moment was that set point save,” said Thiem, who has amassed 17 ATP Tour singles titles. “I thought I was playing well the whole match. I was in control in the first set, but then I didn’t play a good game when serving for the set and it was close. [Federico] can play really heavy here, especially in altitude. Those two set points saved plus winning that tie-break was the key.”

Next for Thiem is qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas of Peru, who pulled out a 7-6 (3), 7-5 rain-delayed victory over No. 3 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain. The match was thrice interrupted by rain on Wednesday before being suspended and continued on Thursday. The 115th-ranked Varillas needed just six points and five minutes to close out the win. He outpointed Bautista Agut 87-80 to gain his first Top-20 victory, which advanced him to his second tour-level quarterfinal.

Berrettini just too good for Gasquet

Match points come and go, but World No. 15 Matteo Berrettini made sure that his third one against 2006 Gstaad champion Richard Gasquet of France got  the job done during a mid-afternoon featured match on Roy Emerson Arena. The 99-minute 6-3, 6-4 victory over Gaquet was Berrettini’s 10th straight and built upon his recent successes in Stuttgart and Queen’s Club, both on grass.

“I have great memories here,” the second-seeded Berrettini from Italy said in his on-court interview. “My first ATP Tour title. I really like these conditions. Even though I was coming from grass and this is the complete opposite, I like when the ball is jumping like this. I think it suits my game and my serve. Also, I have a lot of people coming to support me. A lot of Italians I heard. So, I am really happy to be here and I am enjoying it.”

In only his second clay event of the season and first clay match since Rio 150 days ago – and first time on court in a month since winning the Queen’s Club final in London – Berrettini was tremendously impressive against the 64th-ranked Frenchman, who fought to the very end and saved two match points. The 26-year-old Italian missed playing in the Wimbledon Championships after testing positive for COVID-19.

Berrettini, who hit seven aces and won 79 percent of his first-serve points, outpointed Gasquet 66-58. Next, Berrettini will face No. 5 seed Pedro Martinez of Spain. The 52nd-ranked Spaniard advanced with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 win over 131st-ranked qualifier Elias Ymer of Sweden that stretched over nearly three hours on Court 1.

Martinez, who saved seven of 10 break points he faced and outpointed Ymer 106-94, has won two straight matches on clay after losing six straight prior to this week in Gstaad.

Around the EFG Swiss Open

• No. 4 seed and 2019 Gstaad champion Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain fought off the spirited effort of 19-year-old Swiss wild card Dominic Stricker, to win, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, in an hour and 59 minutes. Ramos-Vinolas converted five of seven break-point opportunities and outpointed the 180th-ranked  Stricker, who struck 11 aces, 89-73. Next, Ramos-Vinolas will face 118th-ranked qualifier Nicolas Jarry of Chile, who advanced with a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2) victory over 152nd-ranked qualifier Yannick Hanfmann of Germany.

• Doubles No. 1 seeds David Vega Hernandez of Spain and Rafael Matos of Brazil, who won last week’s title in Bastad, were upset in the first round by Tomislav Brkic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Francisco Cabral of Portugal, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 10-8.

• Unseeded Franko Skugor of Croatia and Fabrice Martin of France, who earlier eliminated No. 3 seeds Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen, both of Belgium, won their quarterfinal match over the Swedish brother duo of Elias and Mikael Ymer, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 10-2, on the Sportzentrum 1 court in an hour and 25 minutes.

Thursday’s EFG Swiss Open results

Friday’s EFG Swiss Open order of play

By the numbers

Casper Ruud is trying to become the first back-to-back Gstaad champion since Sergi Bruguera won three in a row between 1992-94.

“Quotable …”

“I think it was a great match. The conditions here are quite challenging and difficult with altitude – and the ball can fly. You really need to serve and return well. I did that good all day. I started a little bit shaky and had some break points against me. I was able to win the first game and get going.

“Two breaks is enough to win here if you are able to hold your serve. I feel good, I feel ready. It was nice to get a win again. There have been some weeks without too many wins for me. I hope I can keep going and win some more matches in Gstaad this year.”

– Defending champion and this year’s top seed Casper Ruud, during his on-court interview after defeating Jiri Lehecka.