Fifth seed Casper Ruud held his nerve in a five-set battle against home favourite Tommy Paul Friday, punching his ticket into the fourth round of the US Open after claiming a 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-0 victory.
Ruud, 10-2 in his past 12 matches, is the first Norwegian man to reach the round of 16 at Flushing Meadows and is one of four players (Medvedev, Nadal, Alcaraz) who can claim the World No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Ranking on 12 September.
“We both were playing well,” Ruud said. “Whenever someone broke, the other guy seemed to break back right away, so it was tough to get the lead and keep going with it. We were always close on the scoreline. It seemed like the only time I could break him was when I was broken first, so that’s not a good sign, but in the fifth set I played some of my best tennis this year and the best tennis I’ve played this tournament.”
Needing four hours, 23 minutes to outlast the American, Ruud emerged as the fresher of the two, as Paul was playing his third consecutive five-set match (d. Zapata Miralles, Korda).
“It’s not everyday you surpass playing four hours on court, but that’s what we train for, we work hard for it,” Ruud said. “I will try to be fresh for Sunday.”
A crucial tipping point in the match came in the third set, when the Norwegian fended off three consecutive set points with Paul serving at 6/5, 40/0 to take a two-sets-to-one lead. Ruud took the third set in a tie-break and despite dropping the fourth, used his fresher legs to pull away in the decider..
Paul, who reached the 2015 US Open boys’ singles final (l. Fritz), frequently worked his forward, winning 38/62 net points. Ruud had the edge in longer baseline exchanges, making 32 fewer unforced errors than Paul’s 82.
Ruud, 23, is having the best season of his career. In June, he reached his maiden Grand Slam final at Roland Garros before falling short to Rafa Nadal. Now with a chance to claim the No. 1 spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, this season’s success has been somewhat unexpected for the Oslo native.
“It’s a little surprising, honestly,” Ruud said. “I didn’t think I was going to be in this situation when we started this year. I don’t feel any pressure, I used it as motivation today to think that maybe this is the only chance in my career to win the tournament and become No. 1.”
Ruud, who improves to 41-15 this season, will meet Frenchman Corentin Moutet in the fourth round Sunday.