By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Sunday, May 28, 2023
The French Open field is wide open, though one man is the favourite, he says Kacper Ruud.
The 2022 Roland Garros runner-up ranks first in the world Carlos Alcaraz as the ultimate favorite in the absence of 14-time champion Rafa Nadal.
“It’s open,” Ruud told the media at Roland Garros. “I would say Alcaraz is the biggest favorite for me because they won a grand slam tournament last year.
“Then he or Novak must be the ultimate favorite in some sense because Novak has won so many times. This year’s season on clay may not have been what he expected, but I’m sure he has a lot of confidence knowing he’s already won 22 slams and all the other players in the tournament may have won only one or none, with Wawrinka obviously winning three.
“It’s hard to give one clear answer, but these two are perhaps the biggest for me.”
Playing tennis assertively on all courts, Alcaraz defeated Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-3 in the final of the US Open, winning his first Grand Slam championship and reaching his world No. 1.
Later, Ruud considered Alcaraz’s incredible speed, which seemed to shrink the world’s largest tennis stadium court to the size of a checkerboard, as his most fearsome strength.
“It’s like, for example, when someone asks about a player’s greatest weapon, you tend to think forehand, backhand, serve, whatever that is,” Ruud said. “But in a way, his movement is obviously one of his many weapons. This makes us other players feel like we need to draw lines to be able to hit the winner. Sometimes even that isn’t enough.
“Is very fast. Is very fast. It moves great. He can get to balls we’ve probably never seen before.”
Seeded fourth, Ruud opens Roland Garros against a friend, the Swedish qualifier Elijah Ymer. Despite his problems this season, Ruud says he is ready for the Roland Garros challenge.
“As far as my game goes, I think I have a clear visual plan of what I need to do to try and win games here. Every match you play is going to be hard whether I’m playing Elias Ymer or who I’m playing Tuesday or if I’m playing a big server like Isner or if I’m playing a you know fast player like Schwartzman Ruud said. “Everyone has a different style of play. I just need to focus on my own stuff. I hope it will give me a chance to win games here.
“Of course, the last year has given me some faith in that and some knowledge that it is possible for me to go deeper.”
Ruud’s results were not the same in 2023. Although last month he won his 10th career title on the Estoril red clay, Ruud posted an 11-5 record on his favorite speedway this season.
“I’m sitting here in a different position this year than last year before the tournament,” said Ruud. “So I think you know, it’s something that will boost my confidence.
“And when we start on Tuesday, I’ll try to know and remember that also last year the first round was really hard. I played against Tsonga on Chatrier, it was four very even sets. Also a difficult match emotionally because it was his last match so it was a tough challenge. I am ready for another tough challenge on Tuesday.
Image Credit: Rafa Nadal Academy