If Casper Ruud lifts his maiden Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open this fortnight, he will rise to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time.
With incentive high, the Norwegian made the perfect start to his title and No. 1 quest Tuesday when he defeated Czech Tomas Machac 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-3 to reach the second round in Melbourne.
“Thank you to everyone who stayed and came out to support me,” Ruud said. “It is great to be back. I could not play here last year unfortunately, so I am very eager to have a good tournament. This was a good start. I think Tomas played well, very aggressive and played some great points in the third-set tie-break. It was frustrating but I managed to stay strong and earn the win.”
Making his fourth appearance at the hard-court major, Ruud was made to work hard throughout his first ATP Head2Head meeting against Machac under the roof on Margaret Court Arena. The second seed was pulled around the court by the 22-year-old, who opened his shoulders to fire 52 winners.
However, after seeing his two-set advantage halved at the end of the third set, Ruud was not to be denied, overcoming the World No. 110 in a number of cat-and-mouse exchanges to triumph after three hours and 15 minutes.
The 24-year-old, who struck 55 winners and broke serve four times, will next face Jenson Brooksby after the American defeated Australian Christopher O’Connell 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 on debut in Melbourne.
Ruud reached Grand Slam finals at Roland Garros and the US Open in a standout 2022 season, which also saw him win three tour-level titles. If the Norwegian can crack the Grand Slam code in Melbourne and win his first major he would overtake the injured Carlos Alcaraz to become No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The World No. 3 Ruud can also claim top spot by reaching the final, as long as Stefanos Tsitsipas does not win the title.
Machac was aiming to equal his best result at a Grand Slam and reach the second round in Melbourne for the third consecutive year.