Casper Ruud overcomes a sluggish Novak Djokovic at Monte-Carlo Masters

Ruud will play Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
Mateo Villalba/GettyImages

Casper Ruud had not only never beaten Novak Djokovic entering the semifinals of the Monte-Carlo Masters, Ruud had never even won a set in five matches. But Ruud had one thing in his favor on Saturday and that is he is a fantastic clay-court player while Djokovic is merely a very good one in comparison to being elite on grass or a hard court. Ruud also would not have been blamed for giving up after he took the first set of the match only to get dismantled 1-6 in the second set.

Possibly Ruud started remembering that he had never defeated Djokovic. That can certainly play a part in nerves late in a match when a player is about to do something they have never done before. This is especially true if a younger player had never beaten arguably the greatest player ever and one is on the precipice of doing just that.

While Ruud did get picked apart in the second set, he got an early break in the third set and led 4-2 before Djokovic held serve and then got a break himself. At 4-4 one might have felt that even though the match was tied, Djokovic was leading due to the history between the two. Djokovic knew he could win while Ruud could only hope he could.

Casper Ruud overcomes nerves and history to defeat Novak Djokovic in Monte-Carlo Masters

Ruud was able to overcome both Djokovic and his nerves, however, and got a break off the Serb to take the third set 6-4 when Djokovic double-faulted on the final point. Ruud is well-known for consistently keeping his calm and that certainly helped him keep his poise in the larger moments on Saturday. A player who was weaker mentally might have fallen apart in the third set. The Norwegian did not.

Ruud now will play Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final on Sunday in the Monte-Carlo Masters final. Tsitsipas is a better pure clay-court player than Djokovic so Ruud might have an even tougher time against the Greek than he did against Djokovic. Tsitsipas winning in straight sets would not be surprising.

For Djokovic, once again he will need to re-assess his form and direction. Losing to a player who had never won a set off of him cannot feel good. At this point, Djokovic certainly should not be considered a favorite at the French Open in May.

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