PARIS (AP) — As intriguing as Carlos Alcaraz vs. Novak Djokovic is — and very intriguingly — there are also stories to follow in the other men’s French Open semifinal.
No, frankly, Casper Ruud against Alexander Zverev, which will be played second Friday, does not deserve the same poster. It lacks the cache and the CVs that the two other guys who remained on the ground at Roland Garros will bring to Court Philippe Chatrier.
Yet even without Djokovic’s 22 Grand Slam titles – with a chance to break a tie with Rafael Nadal for the most won by a man in tennis history – or even Alcaraz’s only trophy, and even without the Alcaraz’s current No. 1 ranking or Djokovic’s current No. 3 with a chance to move up (with career high for most weeks at the top of the ATP), No. 4 Ruud and No. ° 22 Zverev bring terrific matches and a close past history yet so far at major tournaments.
Let’s look at Ruud first.
He is a 24-year-old Norwegian who is coached by his father, a former professional player, and has only reached the fourth round once in his first 13 Slam appearances and is now in his third half. final in the last five. This includes second places at Roland Garros (lost to Nadal in the final) and US Open (lost to Alcaraz in the final) in 2022.
He’s a 26-year-old German whose greatness was predicted long ago, one of the generation that was to succeed the Big Three of Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer but never lived up to it.
Zverev is however in the semi-final in Paris for the third consecutive year, and his sixth major semi-final overall. His best performance was reaching the final of the 2020 US Open, winning the first two sets against Dominic Thiem before losing that lead and the match.
Zverev’s ranking doesn’t necessarily reflect his talent or success, as he was entirely out of action for seven months after tearing three ligaments in his right ankle late in the second set of his semi-final against Nadal in Roland-Garros last year.
“It’s definitely a tournament that I marked on my calendar this year,” said Zverev. “I’m at a stage now where I don’t think about the injury so much anymore. I don’t think about what happened. I’m just happy to be back where I was last year, and I got another chance. Hope I can take it.
He only competed in January and said he was not pain free for a few months.
“I couldn’t train normally. I was not able to do the things I wanted. So on that, I think it was just going through the process. I mean, after that, it also takes time to feel the confidence again in your leg to slide on the court, to be able to move like you were,” said Zverev, who has diabetes and was cleared to s inject insulin. during the changes, a policy he says is uncertain will be in place at Wimbledon.
“But I talk about the injury more than I think about it,” Zverev said. “That’s in the past now.”
Neither he nor Ruud arrived at Roland Garros a few weeks ago with a success this season that would have portendd these kinds of races.
Zverev was just 16-14 with zero titles in 2023; Ruud was 16-11 with a title.
Now the two are one win against the other away from a chance to claim a maiden Grand Slam championship on Sunday by beating either Alcaraz or Djokovic.
“It’s going to be hopefully fun. I think it’s great to see Sascha again. I think for him as for me, it’s our biggest result this year, reaching the semi-final. I think we’ll try to play with our shoulders down and just try to enjoy it,” Ruud said, referring to Zverev by his nickname.
“It’s been a tough year for Sascha, and he’s been fighting his way back, and he’s back in the semi-finals here. The start of this year for me hasn’t been great, so that’s great d ‘get a good result here for me,’ Ruud said. “We’re both just going to try to enjoy the moment.”
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