The third time was the charm for Casper Ruud on Wednesday evening at the Miami Open presented by Itau.
On his third attempt, the Norwegian earned his first win against second seed Alexander Zverev 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to advance to a semi-final showdown against Argentine Francisco Cerundolo. The winner will make his first ATP Masters 1000 final.
“It feels good and it means a lot. This is my first semi-final in a Masters 1000 on hard courts, so that’s a good feeling. I’m very happy to do it here in Miami,” Ruud said. “I’ve felt good the couple weeks I’ve been here practicing and the matches have felt very good. I want to of course keep going. Today was my toughest challenge yet of the tournament and on Friday will be another big one. I hope that I can take what I’ve learned from my three previous [Masters 1000] semi-finals and bring it into Friday’s match. ”
Ruud lost his first three Masters 1000 quarter-finals on this surface – including two against Zverev last year – without winning a set. But he clawed past the gritty German for his fifth Top 10 victory (5-15).
“I think I’ve seen Sascha play better than he did today, but I took advantage of it,” Ruud said. “I was focussed, I was on top of my game and of course I had a little down period in the second, but I stayed focussed and served really well in the first and third sets. That was the key for the match, I think . “
Now the 23-year-old will have a big opportunity against World No. 103 Cerundolo, who had never previously competed in a Masters 1000 main draw or won a tour-level match on hard court. This will be the pair’s first ATP Head2Head clash.
For a moment, it seemed Ruud would cruise into that matchup. Zverev was slightly low on energy throughout the first set and was unable to do much with Ruud’s heavy topspin groundstrokes.
But at 0-0 in the second set, Zverev saved two break points, the second of which came on a bold second-serve ace down the T. That boosted the two-time Nitto ATP Finals champion’s confidence, and Zverev significantly raised his level and began firing from the baseline. On the other side of the net, Ruud lost control of his solid game and struggled to regain control of the match.
When the Norwegian received treatment on his right foot, which he later said was because of taping on his toe, the momentum was firmly in Zverev’s corner. Ruud never panicked, though.
“The second set I was feeling … some issues with the taping of my toe. I know it sounds a little bit silly maybe, but it was slipping off my toe, so it was a little uncomfortable to move,” Ruud said. “I just had to redo it after the second set to keep it sticky again. Changed my socks and everything.”
On break point at 1-0 in the decider he returned a massive 113mph second serve down the T and seized the opportunity with his forehand to play aggressively, breaking Zverev’s serve for a 2-0 lead.
The seven-time ATP Tour titlist recaptured his game from there and despite slight signs of nerves serving at 4-2, he remained calm. Ruud hit his sixth ace before showing the crowd a wide smile after earning his best victory by ATP Ranking against the World No. 4.
“It was great to get that break early on [in the third set] and I was able to keep it all the way out, “Ruud told Tennis TV.” I was serving well. I can thank my serving for the win today. “