Casper Ruud took a step closer to winning a maiden US Open title as he overcame an error-prone Matteo Berrettini, and in doing so, maintained his challenge for the No. 1 spot.
The Norwegian made light work of the world No. 14 on Arthur Ashe Stadium, triumphing 6-1 6-4 7-6(4), setting up a semi-final with either Nick Kyrgios or Karen Khachanov.
Ruud is in with a shot of becoming the new men’s No. 1 at the end of the tournament, as are Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, and he admitted potential ranking points are providing “extra motivation”.
“I don’t want to think too much about it honestly,” he said on court afterwards.
“Of course, it’s something that all young players dream about. So if I’m in a position to do it, let’s see if I can accomplish it.
“Honestly, I had no idea that I had a chance to become world number one, one day, you know, now I’m in the semi-finals. Let’s see how it goes.
“But of course, it’s a little bit of extra motivation to dig in and even if you’re down on the score [you have] to keep fighting, you never know what’s gonna happen. And if I’m very, very lucky, I can leave New York as world number one, so I’m trying to go for it of course.”
The 23-year-old was three up after quickly breaking his Italian opponent.
The fifth seed was in dominant form and raced to a 5-0 lead and only then did Berrettini manage to hold his serve to pull one back.
However, after the first set, and 28 minutes, Ruud was a set up and was denying Berrettini the chance to exploit his powerful forehand.
Asked about his blistering start, in which he won 11 of the first 13 games, Ruud responded: “Yeah, that was a better start than I ever had before I think in a match. Everything was going my way. I was hitting all the spots I needed to. Plus Matteo maybe didn’t serve as well as usually does. I was able to take care of the chances that I got them.
“I got a little bit nervous towards the end of the second set because things were almost going too well, so, you know, it’s good but it’s sometimes, you can get overexcited and think that you can walk on water, which is not possible.”
Before the match, Berrettini and Ruud were both welcomed by John McEnroe as part of the next generation of men’s tennis, but on this showing it is Ruud who will be one of the dominant figures, and after just 50 minutes he was 4-1 up and serving for 5-1.
Berrettini kept his composure though and found some resistance when he broke to 5-3, and held his serve to take it to 5-4.
Ruud, however, was unruffled and set himself up for two set points, needing just one to leave him one set from victory.
Perhaps Ruud was unable to maintain those exceptional early standards so consistently, and Berrettini put the pressure on to break to 2-0 up.
Berrettini had to save a break point in the third set, and after some extended play a frustrated Ruud was unable to push through leading to a heated exchange with the umpire.
The Italian looked like he was certain to take the third but Ruud battled back from 5-2 down to 5-4 after breaking, before Berrettini steadied himself once again to go 6-5 clear, and Ruud then forced a tie-break where he quickly asserted his control.