Geneva, Switzerland: Casper Ruud believes he has the weapons to reach the second week of Roland Garros and maybe help transform him into a “rock star” in his native Norway.
Ruud is the third seed at the Geneva Open and has a good shot at winning his second-ever title, with top seed and 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer — feeling his way back after injury — already eliminated.
Ruud beat Tennys Sandgren 7-5, 6-2 on Wednesday to set up a quarter-final on Thursday with Germany’s Dominik Koepfer — who knocked out seventh seed Benoit Paire and veteran Feliciano Lopez to get there.
Ruud has been one of the impressive clay-court performers in recent months, making the semi-finals in Monte Carlo, Munich, and Madrid.
The 22-year-old said he was brimming with confidence, having hit a career-high ranking of 16th this month, and is targeting going far at the French Open, which starts on May 30.
“I’ve shown myself that I’m up there at the high level of clay court players and I can compete well with pretty much any player on clay,” Ruud told reporters.
“I’ve been winning a lot of good matches against good opponents so it gives me a lot of confidence going into Roland Garros this year and I have to say I’m hoping to be in Paris for the second week of the tournament. That’s my goal for this year.”
Ruud’s best performances in the French capital are back-to-back runs to the third round in 2019 and 2020 where it took Federer and two-time runner-up Dominic Thiem to stop him.
‘Where I belong’
Ruud said he had worked on improving his returns — something which was now paying dividends in terms of his self-assurance.
“This has maybe come, even more, the last couple of months: the confidence and self-belief that this position is maybe where I belong and hope to compete and play for many years into the future,” he said.
“That self-confidence of me belonging in this group of new young guys is something that I’ve gained more and more at least, especially the last couple of months with back-to-back semi-finals.”
But he added: “I’m not a rock star in Norway yet.”
In Wednesday’s other round of 16 matches on the Geneva clay, Canadian second seed Denis Shapovalov gets his tournament underway against Marco Cecchinato.
World number 15 Shapovalov will be hoping for a solid campaign at the Eaux-Vives club following his performance in Rome, where he took eventual champion, Rafael Nadal, to a final-set tie break.
World number 20 Grigor Dimitrov will be looking to find his form after crashing out at the first hurdle in Madrid and Rome.
The Bulgarian fourth seed, playing on a wildcard, faces Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka, who dumped out Spain’s Fernando Verdasco in the first round.
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF JOSÉ MORGADO