It’s not the headline grabber that Novak versus Alcaraz will be, but Alexander Zverev and Casper Ruud each passed stern Quarterfinal tests to book their own place in the final four in Paris. On the surface, these four could be considered the best clay-courters on tour, so it’s not a huge surprise to see them here.
The No. 22 seed Zverev was pushed by the upstart Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry, but ultimately came through 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. However, this was not your run-of-the-mill encounter. Etcheverry was punching well above his weight in this one with a nonstop barrage of powerful groundstrokes from both wings throughout.
The first set was was a slugfest until the German stole a late break before closing it out comfortably. The Argentine was playing strong tennis, but Zverev was just a bit better in the bigger moments.
However, the second set saw the expected shaky service game from the 22-seed, allowing Etcheverry to swoop in and take the set. Even when he is playing well, the threat of the double fault always looms large over Zverev. It was well and truly game on from there. The final two sets of the match were an exhibition of sublime network and clay busting groundstrokes.
A tactical decision that baffled throughout, was Etcheverry being so unwilling to step in and attack the Zverev second serve with more conviction. The past has shown when he is pressed on his serve, it is prone to breaking down. Instead, Etcheverry was content to begin the rallies at neutral and go from there.
It was a battle of wills, with a combined 8 breaks of serve over the four sets, but ultimately, in the end the Former World No. 2 proved to be too much in the key moments. His lion roar upon sealing his Semifinal place was evidence of the true test he had endured. At 23 though, we should hopefully see more of Etcheverry going deep on clay in the future.
In the other match of the day, the 4th seed Norwegian Casper Ruud eased his way past the enigmatic 6-seed Holger Rune 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. This was a rematch of last year’s Quarterfinal clash, also won by Ruud. The first two sets were one-way traffic as Rune looked lethargic and mentally drained from his 5-set battle in the previous round.
Ruud was solid, but not spectacular as he watched the young Dane spraying errors from all angles as he tried to keep the points short. In the blink of an eye, it was a two set lead for Ruud and Rune took his leave from the court before the 3rd began.
Upon his return, we got more of what we were expecting from the jump. The shot-making picked up on both sides and the overall level increased. Rune secured what would turn out to be his only break of serve in the match early and raced away to force a 4th.
Unfortunately for the fiery youngster, Ruud is just too solid from the baseline to be undone by the singular moments of brilliance that he could produce. A series of lung-busting rallies that had me exhausted just watching clearly took the legs away from Rune at last. A 5th and final break from the Norwegian saw him able to serve it out and return to the Roland Garros semifinals once again.
Ruud and Zverev have played 3 times before, but never on the clay. With both players seemingly in superb form heading into this encounter, it will make for must see TV from the opening serve. I for one, will be glued to my seat.