World no. 8 Casper Ruud will meet Rafael Nadal in Sunday's Roland Garros final. Ruud is through into his first Major final following a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Marin Cilic in two hours and 55 minutes. Casper is the first Norwegian in a Major final, and he will try to beat a 13-time Roland Garros winner and his idol in the most important clash of his young career.
Ruud traveled to Paris after reaching the Rome Masters semi-final and winning the title in Geneva following a tight victory over Joao Sousa. The Norwegian needed almost four hours to oust Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Roland Garros first round, and he survived a couple of more challenging encounters to advance into the first Major semi-final.
Cilic played on a high level for his career-best result in Paris, but it was not enough to beat the younger rival and reach the final, despite taking the opener. Ruud fired 16 aces and made the difference with the second serve that carried him over the top.
Casper Ruud beat Marin Cilic in four sets for his first Major final.
Cilic grabbed two breaks from nine opportunities, both in the opening set. Casper took 40% of the return points and turned them into five breaks to emerge at the top and write his country's history.
Ruud tamed his strokes nicely to fire 41 winners and 21 unforced errors. Cilic could not follow that pace and repeat what he did against Andrey Rublev in the previous round. The Croat clinched only 11 return points in sets three and four, and it was a recipe for disaster against such a strong rival.
Marin found his A-level on the return in the second part of the opener, breaking Casper in game seven and seizing another return game at 5-3 for a positive start. Cilic took more return points in the second set, but he failed to deliver a break.
Ruud broke him in the third game to build an early advantage and came from 40-0 down in the tenth game for a vital hold and 6-4. Carried by this boost, the Norwegian made a strong start in the third set, imposing his strokes and earning a double break that pushed him 4-0 ahead.
Casper stayed calm in games six and eight to complete the set and move closer to the finish line. Sensing the finish line, Ruud barely lost a point behind the initial shot in the fourth set, and Cilic could not follow that pace.
Casper broke in the first game with a forehand return winner and landed an ace in game two to confirm the lead. Ruud broke again in game five to extend the advantage and emerged at the top with an ace in game eight for a career-best result.