Casper Ruud weathered an early storm as he saw off Marin Cilic and set up a shot at Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.
The Norwegian has this week become the first man from his country to reach a grand slam quarter-final, then he bettered that by advancing to the semi-finals, and now the final beckons after a 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-2 triumph.
A clay-court specialist, who has more match wins, finals and titles among ATP Tour players than anyone else since the start of the 2020 season, Ruud showed the expertise that could make him a handful for 13-time champion Nadal on Sunday. Ruud describes Nadal as his "idol".
This match was interrupted during the third set by a climate change activist who fastened herself to the net, but Ruud, who had forged ahead in the set, kept his head in the trying circumstances.
2010 - Casper #Ruud is the first Scandinavian male player to reach the final at the #RolandGarros since Robin Söderling in 2010, who lost to ... Rafael Nadal. Revenge?#RolandGarros2022 #ruudvscilic pic.twitter.com/Ec2gJOtQa0— OptaAce (@OptaAce) June 3, 2022
Cilic had made a strong start, but the 33-year-old Croatian's assault became less threatening as Ruud got a grip on proceedings. At 5-4 ahead in the second set, Ruud fell 0-40 behind on serve but retrieved that precarious situation in style, sealing the game and levelling the match with a marvellous backhand winner down the line.
Suddenly erratic, Cilic missed a routine smash to give Ruud a break point at the start of the third set, and although the server saved that one, another misfired overhead from the Croatian meant the game slipped away.
A delicious floated low backhand across court and out of Cilic's reach gave Ruud a double break, and he was not knocked out of his stride by the intervention of the activist, with the players briefly led off court.
The man from Oslo wrapped up the third and tore through the fourth set, serving out to love at the first time of asking, and now the ultimate challenge awaits.
Data slam: Ruud racing through the rounds
Ruud has become the first man since Sweden's Robin Soderling in 2009 to reach his first Roland Garros fourth round, quarter-final, semi-final and final in the same year. Soderling lost in straight sets to Nadal in the final.
Ruud – 41/21
Cilic – 51/56
Ruud – 16/0
Cilic – 10/2
BREAK POINTS WON/LOST
Ruud – 5/15
Cilic – 2/9