Is this the week Casper Ruud or Holger Rune win their first clay-court ATP Masters 1000 title?
The Norwegian and Dane will meet at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Saturday in the first Masters 1000 all-Scandinavian semi-final since Jonas Bjorkman defeated Thomas Enqvist in Paris in 1997.
Ruud arrived in Rome having had a modest season by his standards. The fourth seed lifted his 10th trophy in Estoril but struggled at Masters 1000 events, failing to advance beyond the third round in Indian Wells, Miami, Monte-Carlo or Madrid. The 24-year-old has looked back to his best on the clay in Rome, though, where he has earned victories against Arthur Rinderknech, Alexander Bublik, Laslo Djere and Francisco Cerundolo to reach the semi-finals in the Italian capital for the third consecutive time.
“Tennis is a strange sport, as we all can tell. And I think I’ve really lived through it the last 12 months or so, some of my best moments of my career and some tougher losses in the past couple of months,” Ruud said following his quarter-final win. “But here we are back in Rome and I feel great. I know that I’ve had success in Italy before in my career, here [I made] two times [the] semi-finals, Turin last year was amazing for me… It’s something in the food maybe, I don’t know.”
Standing in his way from a second ATP Masters 1000 final (Miami 2022) is Rune, who stunned World No. 1 Novak Djokovic to advance to the last four on his debut in Rome. The 20-year-old has reached at least the semi-finals in three of his past six Masters 1000 events, highlighted by his title run in Paris last year.
A regular on the big stage now, the seventh seed has had a strong clay-court season again. Rune enjoyed a run to the final in Monte-Carlo, before he clinched his fourth tour-level title in Munich. Holding a 12-2 record on the surface this season, he will look to take confidence from his victory against Djokovic as he aims to earn his first win against Ruud.
“I stay humble of course. I have a lot to achieve,” said the Dane, who will rise to No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings if he reaches the final. “I think you should always be humble. I think I am, I hope so and I hope people see me this way. I’m a huge fighter on the court and I leave everything when I play my matches.”
Rune demonstrated his explosive game against Djokovic, hammering his groundstrokes with precision and power to outlast the Serbian. The 20-year-old, who has held serve in 42 of his 47 games in Rome, will look to impose his all-court game against Ruud, an opponent Rune has struggled against in the past.
The fourth seed leads the seventh seed 4-0 in their ATP Head2Head series, with all four matches coming on clay. Despite his impressive record, Ruud is aware of the threat Rune holds.
“He’s improved so much. I played him a couple times in 2021 and a couple of times in 2022, and his improvement is just really, really good,” Ruud said. “You can see that his confidence is good on court and [he] really deserves [to be] where he is at the moment.
“He has big goals for his career and is going through one goal by another so I’m just going to try to think about what I’ve done well against him before — I have a winning record against him. Tennis is always open, it’s never over until it’s over, and I’m just going to try to fight.”
With both chasing their second titles of the season, fireworks will be expected when they walk onto center court on Saturday.
View Ruud & Rune’s ATP Head2Head rivalry.