Both Marin Cilic and Casper Ruud survived what proved to be two big hitting quarter finals to reach the last four of the French Open thanks, not only to their greater experience, but to their patience with their more emotional opponents.
The fifth set was an incredible battle but today was my day. He just didn't have the luck Marin Cilic
Aged 33, Cilic is still good enough to power his way past higher ranked players as he proved when he knocked out the second seed Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the previous round.
Facing his fellow Muscovite Andrey Rublev, in the quarters, he needed the full five set and the championship tie-break in the fifth to secure his first semi-final place in over four years, 5-7 6-3 6-4 3-6 7-6(10-2).
The Croat finished the match with 33 aces to his credit and just two double faults having hit 88 winners in the 4 hour, 10-minute marathon.
The former US Open champion’s victory makes him the only player outside the Big Four to have made the semi-finals of all four Slams.
“Andrey plays a difficult game,” Cilic said. “Serves big, hits big. You don’t have many chances and you have to keep up with your level and I did that. Unfortunately, I lost that fourth set. I felt I was close to get the break maybe, but Andrey played really well and when you play this long it’s always going to be a little bit up and down during the match. The fifth set was an incredible battle but today was my day. He just didn’t have the luck.”
Rublev has yet to fulfil expectations at slam level.
“I couldn’t manage the emotions the previous times,” the 24-year-old said of his struggles in the latter stages at majors. “And now it was the closest ever time that I was able to go through to be in semis. Then again, the same thing, I didn’t manage the emotions.
“I don’t know if I did it better compared to other matches. At least I did a better score, and I was closer than other matches, but still, it is the same thing… There are so many things I need to improve. Probably the most positive thing: that I did one more quarterfinal. Yeah, that’s it. The rest I need to improve so many things.”
In the night match, Norway’s Casper Ruud got through to his first Slam semi-final topping Denmark’s Holger Rune 6-1 4-6 7-6(2) 6-3.
In this first all-Scandinavian French Open quarterfinal, Ruud dominated the first set and a half, but the 19-year-old countered with a series of shots and tactics which threw the Norwegian’s game into disarray.
Rune went on the attack, mixing up his shots with a series of drop-shots, some solid net play as well as powerful ground strokes and effective serving with plenty of irritating and unnecessary fist-pumping, calling for the crowd’s support and giving his box a running commentary on his problems!
In contrast, Ruud contained his frustrations and stuck to his game plan and when he took a two-sets to love lead by dominating the tie-break, the momentum swung back his way as he ended the contest with 13 aces and 55 winners having converted 12 of the 17 break points he had raised.
“I started the match well, but Holger raised his level of play; he came back and it was tough until the end,” said Ruud after defeating the youngster for the fourth time in four meetings.
“I had met him three times and he is improving. He has become unpredictable and isn’t afraid of anything and will be dangerous for the next few years.
Ruud who had never passed the round of 16 in a Grand Slam before this French Open, added: “These are the matches you dream about playing and hopefully of course even the final, if it’s possible.”
And looking ahead to his next hurdle, added: “I have to be really focused and bring my ‘A’ game in the semi-final because Marin has played great all week and it’s going to be another tough match.”
The men’s singles will have a day off with the semi-finals scheduled for Friday which also sees the 13-time champion Rafael Nadal take on Alexander Zverev.