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Exciting Tennis At The French Open Semifinals – Former Number 3 Marin Cilic Vs Casper Ruud

Casper Ruud of Norway celebrates after defeating Holger Rune of Denmark in the Roland Garros quarterfinals. (Photo by Mine Kasapoglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

By Ricky Dimon

A huge opportunity awaits Casper Ruud and Marin Cilic in the second French Open semifinal on Friday afternoon. One of the two players will book a spot in the final of this event for the first time, and for Ruud it would be a first-ever appearance in a Grand Slam title match.

They have squared off on two previous occasions–once on clay. Ruud prevailed 6-2, 7-6(6) at the 2020 Rome Masters before getting the job done 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 last summer in Toronto.

However, those matches came during an extended slump for Cilic that saw the former world No. 3 fall as low as 47th in the rankings. Fast forward to 2022 and Cilic is suddenly resembling the player who won the 2014 U.S. Open. The Croat is back up to No. 23 in the world, he will be 17th if he loses on Friday, and he will find himself in the top 15 if he reaches the final. Cilic has been especially impressive in Paris, beating Attila Balazs, Marton Fucsovics, Gilles Simon, Daniil Medvedev (6-2, 6-3, 6-2), and Andrey Rublev. He has dropped only three sets–one to Fucsovics and two against Rublev in a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(10-2) thriller.

Ruud’s road to the semis was more eventful. The world No. 8 struggled against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a tight four-setter, went five sets with Lorenzo Sonego, and lost a set to both Hubert Hurkacz and Holger Rune. Only Emil Ruusuvuori in round two failed to steal a set from Ruud.

Until this French Open it had been an unusually poor clay-court swing for the 23-year-old. He compiled a 4-4 record in his first four tournaments, advanced to the Rome semis but was no match for Novak Djokovic, and even in capturing the Geneva title he required a third-set tiebreaker to get past Joao Sousa.

Marin Cilic of Croatia celebrates a point against Andrey Rublev during the Roland Garros quarterfinals. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Ruud is playing decent enough tennis, but “decent” is not going to cut it with Cilic in this kind of form–especially not at this stage of a Grand Slam. The Norwegian had never even been to a quarterfinal prior to this event, whereas Cilic has now reached the semis of all four majors (fifth active player to do so) and he is 3-2 lifetime in semifinal matches (with losses only to Djokovic and Andy Murray).

It’s clear from three slam final appearances that when Cilic gets hot he is almost impossible to stop. Well, he is scorching hot right now. If the 33-year-old continues to serve the way he has been, he will be able to dictate play and punish Ruud’s backhand with heavy groundstrokes. He should also be able to control rallies much of the time in Ruud’s service games since the eighth seed’s serve isn’t a huge weapon.

Look for the 33-year-old to tick off the lone major title match that has eluded him throughout his illustrious career with yet another big-hitting performance.

Pick: Cilic in 4

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.