Ruud Remains Perfect In Gstaad, Wins Swiss Open

Casper Ruud (photo: Fabian Meierhans / Swiss Open Gstaad)

GSTAAD/WASHINGTON, July 24, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

For the fifth time on the ATP Tour this season, the EFG Swiss Open featured the top two seeds playing for the championship. Both No. 1 Casper Ruud and No. 2 Matteo Berrettini are former tournament champions and each came into Sunday’s title match on Roy Emerson Arena undefeated in Gstaad, at 1,050 meters above sea level the highest venue for an ATP Tour event in Europe.

On a sunny, cloudless afternoon in the Swiss Alps, Ruud played with a sense of cool and calm – enjoying the serenity of playing at altitude while breathing in the fresh Swiss air – and never displayed an ounce of anger. By the conclusion of the two-hour and 32-minute final, it was Ruud who remained undefeated in Gstaad after he came back to beat the heavy-hitting Berrettini, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2.

There was no panic shown by the World No. 5 from Norway, just grace under pressure. Not only had Ruud put an end to Berrettini’s 12-match winning streak and kept his opponent from winning a third straight ATP Tour crown – after lifting trophies in Stuttgart and at Queen’s Club earlier this summer. He delivered the Italian, who won the 2018 Swiss title, with his first career loss in the alpine village.

Ruud entered the Swiss final seeking his ninth ATP Tour title – and eighth on clay – in his 13th final. After his victory over Berrettini, he’s 16-0 in Switzerland on tour-level, with back-to-back titles in both Geneva and Gstaad. Ruud became the first Gstaad champion to successfully defend his title since Sergi Bruguera (1992-94) – before the 23-year-old Oslo-born champion was born – and also the first Top 10 player to win the Gstaad crown since Roger Federer accomplished the feat while ranked No. 1 in 2004.

“I changed [things] up a little bit in the third set especially, which helped,” Ruud said during an on-court interview before the trophy ceremony, explaining how he managed to pull off the title triumph after losing the first set. “The games and the points go by here fast. If you are not ready and focused, you can get broken or you can break, because the conditions allow you to.

“So, it was key for me to hold my serve; I did that in the second set. Saving those break points was very important for me and everything went in my favor in the tie-break. So, that was a bit fortunate. I just tried to keep that momentum going into the third set and I was able to get a break and play better and better throughout the third set.”

Early on, Berrettini broke Ruud on his second opportunity of an action-packed 12-point fifth game to go ahead 3-2 in the first set. Then, he backed up the break by swatting away three break points from Ruud and delivered his third ace to go ahead 4-2. Soon, the 26-year-old Italian served out the 47-minute opening set and won on his first set point opportunity after Ruud sent a forehand return long.

Next, at 1-1 in the second set, Ruud saved two break points from down 15-40 and came up big with a couple of blistering forehand winners to hold serve. It elicited a big fist pump from the reigning champion, who is known for his easy-going demeanor, as he walked to his chair for a well-deserved respite. Ruud followed with a pair of solid holds at love and he settled into a nice rhythm during his service games. The challenge for him was to find a way to overcome Berrettini’s ability to win points on his own serve. The Italian’s third straight love hold kept the set level at 4-all.

Later, Berrettini gained an opening with a break point at 30-40 with a forehand winner off a net-cord return but Ruud responded to the massive pressure with a forehand winner of his own for deuce. The Norwegian handled the pressure of the moment with another forehand winner and took advantage of an unforced error by Berrettini to tactically remain on serve at 5-4. However, Berrettini responded and won his fourth straight service game at love after hitting an overhead winner to even the set at 5-5. He finally lost a point on serve in his next service game after winning 17 straight points, but still held his serve after winning a 16-shot rally send the set to a tie-break.

During the tie-break, after being broken, Ruud broke Berrettini on consecutive serves and held twice, with a forehand winner and an ace, to take a 4-1 lead. Then, he broke Berrettini, again, to push further ahead at 5-1, after the Italian tapped a forehand into the net. Soon, Ruud gained a set point at 6-3 with his fifth ace, but hit a forehand wide on the 10th shot during the next point. However, Ruud won the tie-break 7-4 – and the 59-minute set – after Berrettini sailed a forehand long that ended a 13-shot rally.

With the match even at a set each, it was anyone’s guess what might happen in the deciding set. First, Berrettini fought through the pressure of the moment and saved three break points during a 14-point opening game, then held with his ninth ace that brought huge applause from his fans as the match reached the two-hour mark. Then, at 1-all, Ruud gained a break point at 15-40 on a forehand error by Berrettini and broke to go ahead 2-1 after another forehand error by the Roman.Ruud backed up the break at love with an easy hold to increase his lead to 3-1.

Next, Ruud gained a couple of break points after being 0-40 down but Berrettini remained determined. However, on Ruud’s fourth break-point opportunity of the 14-point game, he converted it after Berrettini hit an inside-out forehand wide. With it, Ruud gained a commanding 4-1 double-break lead and looked well in control.

Could Ruud close out the title victory with confidence and without stress? Yes. He began with a routine hold to pull ahead 5-1. Then, after Berrettini held with his 10th ace, it was Ruud who closed out the title victory with a flourish, winning on his first match point to garner his third ATP Tour title of the season – all on clay – after earlier successes in Buenos Aires and Geneva.

“I think Switzerland is a country with a lot of history now in tennis, winning a lot of Grand Slams with Roger [Federer] and Stan [Wawrinka] the last 18 or 19 years,” Ruud said, describing why playing in Switzerland brings out his best tennis. “So, it’s been an inspiration to everyone around the world, including myself, that they are able to come from a small country, sort of like Norway. Everything about Switzerland reminds me a little bit about Norway.”

Ruud finished with eight aces and won 80 percent of his first-serve points. He saved four of five break points he faced and converted two of 11 chances against Berrettini. Ruud outpointed his opponent 102-91.

With another Swiss title secured, Ruud had successfully defended his Gstaad title and improved to 35-13 this season. He’s also fourth in the Pepperstone ATP Race to Turin, looking to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for a second time.

During the trophy ceremony, Berrettini, although disappointed in the outcome, congratulated Ruud and gave props to the champion. “It’s not easy to talk after such a tough loss, but congrats to Casper and his team,” he said. “You’re having an unbelievable season, with the final [at Roland-Garros] and winning a lot of matches.”

Berrettini added: “I felt really close to winning the title, but that’s tennis. A couple of balls went out by a few centimetres, and I found myself in the third. I have to say he started to play better and I felt the momentum switched a little bit. I’m proud of the week and the way I fought through the whole tournament, but now it is tough not to think about the final.”

Afterward, Ruud pulled out the upcoming ATP 250 Generali Open on clay in Kitzbühel, Austria, where he’s the defending champion and was slotted as the No. 1 seed. The reason cited by Rudd was shoulder problems. Kitzbühel would have been his third straight tournament following Bastad and Gstaad, a trio of events in which he swept titles at last year. For the time being, though, there would be a little more time to celebrate victory in Gstaad. However, as Ruud is well aware, there’s always another tournament to think about.

Brkic and Cabral win first doubles title as team

Unseeded Tomislav Brkic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Francisco Cabral of Portugal won the EFG Swiss Open doubles title with a 70-minute 6-4, 6-4 victory over unseeded Dutch-Austrian duo Robin Haase and Philipp Oswald.

Haase and Oswald came into the title match having dropped just one set. They were playing in their second tour-level final as a team after having won their only previous title match in 2019 at Umag.

Meanwhile, Brkic and Cabral, reached the final without having their serve broken in their semifinal win over the more-experienced team of Franko Skugor of Croatia and Fabrice Martin of France. In the title match, they won 12 of 12 second-serve points and outpointed their opponents 149-118.

Brkic and Cabral first teamed up in last month Stuttgart. Since then, they have a 4-1 tour-level record as a team. En route, they defeated the top seeds Rafael Matos of Brazil and David Vega Hernandez of Spain in a first-round match tie-break. This was their first ATP Tour final in just their second event playing together.

“It’s just our second tournament together,” Cabral said during the trophy presentation. “The first one was on grass. It was my first ever grass event and he [Brkic] doesn’t feel that comfortable on grass, so we just decide we needed to give it one more try and we have got better.”


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By the numbers

Sunday’s final of the EFG Swiss Open was the fifth tour-level final of the season that featured both of the top two seeds. It’s also the third tour-level final in 2022 that contained two former champions. Matteo Berrettini won the Swiss Open in 2018 and Casper Ruud won last year’s title.

“Quotable …”

“There is not too much time to celebrate after a title but I always told myself that when my career is over, I will be able to catch up with all the alcohol I missed during these long years.”

– Two-time Gstaad champion Casper Ruud, during his on-court interview after winning his second straight Swiss Open title.