Ruud Downs Defending Champ Fognini

Casper Ruud moved into the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters semi-finals with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Fabio Fognini on Friday.

Though Fognini was playing the better tennis in the first set, he faltered at the most important moments, getting broken at 4-5 to lose the opening set after squandering a 40/15 lead.

Sloppy errors began to cost the Italian dearly, and he would lose momentum quickly. Ruud stayed calm as Fognini fell apart enough to give up an early break at love in the second set, dropping behind 3-0.

“It was a tough match today. It has been a great week for me so far. I have beaten good players and today was a very big challenge,” Ruud said in his post-match interview. “Fabio is the defending champion here and he plays very tricky. He can hit winners from anywhere and you really need to be ready for anything to come at you. I was happy with the way I was able to stay steady and make him play an extra ball here and there to force an error out of his play. It’s a nice feeling to be in the semi-finals.”

The 22-year-old Norwegian used his serve and first-strike forehand to take control of points, and with Fognini standing extremely far back on returns it made it easier for Ruud to pull him off the court early in rallies. Ruud even felt comfortable enough to spice things up with a few drop shots, throwing off Fognini’s rhythm further.

Though Fognini mentally settled back in long enough to even out the match, he played another poor service game at 3-4, losing a 40/15 lead once more with Ruud ripping a series of huge forehands capped off with a crosscourt beauty to get to serve out the match. A Fognini net cord error on the first match point put Ruud into his second ATP Masters 1000 semi-final (Rome 2020).

Ruud will face Andrey Rublev for a place in the championship match. The Russian stunned 11-time champion Rafael Nadal 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 to reach his second straight Masters 1000 semi-final. Rublev holds a 3-0 ATP Head2Head record against Ruud, which includes back-to-back clay-court wins at the Hamburg European Open in 2019 and 2020.

“I’ve gained good confidence from this week [and] I’ve beaten good players,” Ruud said. “I have to try to find a way to believe that I can win. Tomorrow there has to be one winner of the match, and hopefully it can be me. I will try to relax and get a lot of energy for tomorrow and think that it’s a little bit now or never.”

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