US Open – Casper Ruud-Karen Khachanov: surprise semifinal, golden opportunity to be seized

US Open – Casper Ruud-Karen Khachanov: surprise semifinal, golden opportunity to be seized

US Open – Casper Ruud-Karen Khachanov: surprise semifinal, golden opportunity to be seized

The context

If logic had been respected after the draw, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas would have appeared this Friday on Arthur-Ashe’s pitch. But neither the Russian, still reigning champion, nor the Greek (out of entry) lived up to expectations and the table opened considerably. As seeded 5, Casper Ruud was logically among the contenders for the bottom four under these circumstances. An example of regularity, it was not lacking. Seeing Karen Khachanov in it is, on the other hand, a great feeling.

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Basically, the Russian had the potential to achieve it, that’s not the problem. When you’ve won the Paris-Bercy Masters 1000 by successively beating four Top 10 members including Novak Djokovic in the final, you undeniably have resources. But this stunt now goes back almost four years, and has since failed to live up to the expectations placed on him. Even his hard-hitting American tour was not convincing with the eliminations in the eighth round in Washington, the second round in Montreal and the first in Cincinnati.

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Now 31st player in the world, Khachanov certainly did not see himself going that far, but circumstances helped him a little (Jack Draper dropped out in the 3rd round) and he gained confidence. In front of Pablo Carreño Busta, then above all Nick Kyrgios, he did everything: two convincing victories at the end of five sets and without a doubt the hope of going even further. Especially since no member of the famous “Big 3” will stand in the way of him.

No, it is Casper Ruud who is waiting for him. Finalist in Miami in March and semi-finalist in Canada in August, the Norwegian has shown in recent months that he is much more than a player on clay. Finalist Roland, always rigorous and physically impeccably trained, lived up to his status. His five-set fight against Tommy Paul was the (positive) turning point of his fortnight. Faced with a fearful Matteo Berrettini in the quarters, he did not give quarters. And if he gets to the end of this tournament, he’ll be waiting for the number 1 spot in the world. A hell of a lot more motivation … if you need it.

Face to face

There was only one precedent between the two men: he was on clay in Rome in 2020. On his favorite surface, Casper Ruud then won in three sets (6-3, 3-6, 6-1). However, it is difficult to really draw a lesson for this semifinal to come.

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Their journey

Casper Ruud

1st round: beats Kyle Edmund [GBR] 6-3, 7-5, 6-2
2nd round: defeats Tim van Rijthoven [P-B] 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4
Round 3: Defeat Tommy Paul [E-U/N.29] 7-6 (3), 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-0
1/8 finals: beats Corentin Moutet [FRA] 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-2
1/4 final: beat Matteo Berrettini [ITA/N.13] 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (4)

Karen Khachanov

1st round: defeats Denis Kudla [E-U] 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2
2nd round: defeats Thiago Monteiro [BRE] 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4
Round 3: Defeat Jack Draper [GBR] to yield 6-3, 4-6, 6-5 inhab.
Round of 16: beats Pablo Carreno Busta [ESP/N.12] 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3
1/4 final: beat Nick Kyrgios [AUS/N.23] 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-4

They said

Casper Ruud:Honestly, I am a little surprised to be in the semi-finals here, but in the last couple of years I have really developed my game on hardcourt. And in Miami, I proved to myself that I could beat good players and go far in big tournaments on this surface. It is the Grand Slam that has had the most diverse winners in recent years. You can do it here in New York, it’s the city of dreams. “

Karen Khachanov: “Since Rafa (Nadal) was eliminated, the tournament has become quite open for all remaining players, as everyone feels there is an opportunity to win the trophy. I would say it may also have allowed everyone to raise their level of play. “

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Three statistics to remember

1. This is Karen Khachanov’s first Grand Slam semi-final. Prior to this 2022 edition, he had never been to the second week at the US Open. You also played two quarters at Roland-Garros in 2019 and at Wimbledon in 2021.

88. This is the number of aces made by Karen Khachanov in this US Open. Only Nick Kyrgios, his victim in the quarter-finals, did better in this sector (116). For comparison, Casper Ruud only reached 26, which doesn’t even place him in the top 20 of the tournament in this specific ranking.

48. Casper Ruud has spent more time on the pitch than Karen Khachanov in just a few minutes, even though the Russian played two games in five sets against one for the Norwegian. Ruud and Khachanov have spent a lot of energy on the pitch as it took 15:28 and 14:40 respectively to reach this stage, but they should both be as tired as the other.

Our opinion

For such a semi-final in such a context, it must be admitted: it is very difficult to have a precise opinion. If we follow the pure logic of the ranking and that of the last few weeks and months, then Casper Ruud is the logical favorite. His consistency at the highest levels, his solidity and his average level of play are superior to those of Karen Khachanov. Yes, but there are other less objective factors involved in a game of such importance.

Will the Norwegian have the place of world number 1 in the corner of his head (which he could reach in the event of a final)? He could over-motivate him as much as he could stiffen him. Will his experience of a Grand Slam semi-final already achieved at Roland-Garros give him an advantage? Or will Karen Khachanov play totally free after going through the quarters for the first time, like Frances Tiafoe? The Russian is a man of (big) shots and his ability to give himself free service points on this surface could make a difference.

However, Ruud showed against Matteo Berrettini that the gunners did not intimidate him. His physical condition and his stamina could be crucial if the match were to last. For these latter reasons, he seems to start with a slight advantage.

Our prediction: Casper Ruud in five sets.

Casper Ruud at the US Open 2022

Credit: Getty Images

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