French Open 2022

French Open 2022: Ruud makes it five of top eight into quarters with Hurkacz win

Djokovic, Nadal, Zverev, Alcaraz join Ruud, while Tsitsipas, Rublev and Medvedev try to complete top-eight set

Casper Ruud
Casper Ruud (Photo: Agenzia LiveMedia / depositphotos.com)

The second Monday of this year’s French Open would determine whether one very special record was achieved.

Never, since Roland Garros became Grand Slam event back in 1925, have the top eight seeds all reached the men’s quarter-finals.

And the last time the quarter-finals of any of the Grand Slams featured the entire top eight seeds was 62 years ago, at Wimbledon.

As the final match-ups of the fourth round got underway at this year’s French Open, the top half had of the draw had fulfilled its brief: Four of the top eight had indeed won through to their allotted quarter-finals:

No1, defending and two-time champion Novak Djokovic would take on No5, and 13-time champion Rafael Nadal;

No3 Alexander Zverev would face No6 Carlos Alcaraz.

Now it was the turn of the bottom half to try and complete the top-eight sweep.

No2 Daniil Medvedev faced No20 Marin Cilic;

No4 Stefanos Tsitsipas took on the unseeded Holger Rune;

No7 Andrey Rublev played No11 Jannik Sinner;

No8 Casper Ruud had to beat No12 Hubert Hurkacz.

It was, then, a tall order. Just as in the other half of the draw, each of the top four except one faced a significant fellow seed. And while Zverev’s non-seed had been a qualifier ranked 131, the non-seed that Tsitsipas faced in the bottom half was a much bigger ask.

Rune, only just turned 19 years old, was already ranked 40, and already had a first title under his belt—a clay one at that, in Munich. Now in just his third Major, and his first at Roland Garros, he was yet to drop a set. And that included a victory over No14 seed Denis Shapovalov, in the first round.

But then the young Dane had been a man in a hurry since he won the French Open junior title in 2019. He turned pro in 2020, age 16, and won three ITF titles by the end of the year. In 2021, he won four Challengers and made his first main-tour quarter-final, via qualifying, to rise to the cusp of the top 100 by the end of the season.

And this year, with another Challenger title to add to Munich, Rune had risen apace, and he had also scored a win over Zverev last month. But in facing Tsitsipas for the first time, he took on a very experienced clay and Major player.

The young Greek, himself only 23, was five times a Major semi-finalist, and beat Zverev and Medvedev to reach last year’s French Open final, where he led Djokovic by two sets before losing in five. And this year, the Greek had defended his Monte-Carlo Masters title, reached the semis in Madrid and the final in Rome.

If there was any question-mark over his charge to the quarters, it was the two marathon efforts he had made in his first two matches, first against Lorenzo Musetti, then against Zdenek Kolar. He had made up for it, though, with a swift win over Mikael Ymer.

For Rublev, too, things would be difficult. He faced one of the brightest NextGen stars on the tour in 20-year-old Sinner. The young Italian had a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over Rublev, and while the Russian won in Belgrade last month, most of his titles had come on hard courts—though he too was a former junior French Open champion—and he had battled long and hard in all three matches thus far in Paris.

However, Rublev, like Sinner had made the quarters at Roland Garros once before: which of them could do so again?

A particularly intriguing match was reserved for the night session, boasting Medvedev against another surprising Roland Garros junior champion, Cilic.

Both with US Open titles to their names, this was their first meeting on clay. Medvedev had won 12 of his 13 titles on hard courts, but in Paris last year, he ended a 0-4 record at Roland Garros with a quarter-final run. As a French resident and fluent speaker, he had perhaps translated his fondness for the country to a fondness for its showpiece event. But then Cilic had reached the quarters in Paris twice before, despite just two clay titles among his 20.

Who would survive the battle of the 6ft6ins men?

The first to try his luck was Ruud against Hurkacz in a first meeting and with both seeking their first Roland Garros quarter-final.

Hurkacz was the only player in the fourth round not to lose serve, in 43 service games. He had a Miami Masters title and a Wimbledon semi-final to his name, but coming into the French Open, had also made the quarters in both Monte-Carlo and Madrid.

Casper Ruud owned seven clay titles—including two this season—but had yet to make a big splash at Major level, though at age 23, he had made great progress since the pandemic lockdown. Indeed his first Masters final came this spring, on the hard courts of Miami.

Even after missing the whole of this year’s Australian swing with injury, he had 27 wins already this season, and he would notch up one more to seal his place as the No8 man in the quarters with a fine performance, 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, after two and a half hours.

Ruud made 42 winners for just 19 errors, but just as important, he became the first ever Norwegian to make the quarters in Paris, reaching his own first Major quarter-final into the bargain.

He would next face Rune or Tsitsipas.

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