The 21-year-old Casper Ruud made a promising start of the season before losing three straight matches, including a heartbreaking one at the Australian Open against Egor Gerasimov in the deciding tie break. The Norwegian is back at his best in Buenos Aires, defeating Juan Ignacio Londero 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in two hours and 12 minutes to stay on the course for the first ATP title, losing the only final so far to Cristian Garin in Houston last year.
With these points, Casper will crack the top-40 and pass the best ranking of his father Christian, achieving one of his earliest goals and seeking the first ATP title on Sunday. Londero led 6-4, 5-3 and controlled the pace completely up to that point, failing to take an extra step and secure a place in the final in front of the home fans, losing ground in the closing stages of the second set and fading from the court in the decider as Casper played better and better as the match progressed.
Ruud landed 11 aces and saved four out of six break chances, surviving that exciting second set and never looking back following a rock-solid performance in the decider. The Argentine lost some nine points in the opening nine service games, playing on a high level and failing to add the finishing touch and cross the finish line first, suffering back-to-back breaks when it mattered the most and staying miles behind the youngster in the third set to end his journey in the semis.
Londero forced an error from Ruud in the third game to grab a break, producing reliable serving performance and punching a backhand down the line winner in the tenth game for a 6-4. Casper was powerless on the return in set number two as well, suffering a break in the fifth game and returning to stay in the match at 4-5.
Out of sudden, Juan Ignacio lost the vibe and momentum, spraying a smash error to get broken at 15 and keeping the rival in contention. Ruud needed no second invitation, taking 16 of the last 18 points and securing the set with a return winner at 6-5 that made him the favorite for the victory now.
As was expected, Casper was the only player on the court in the decider, barely losing a point behind the initial shot and delivering breaks in games two and six to forge a 5-1 advantage. Serving for the triumph, Casper held at love a few minutes later to perform a great escape and become the title favorite.
That probably wouldn't be the case had Diego Schwartzman managed to beat Pablo Cuevas earlier on Friday night, staying on the court for almost four hours in that thrilling quarter-final clash and having nothing left in the tank for Saturday's semi-final against a lucky loser Pedro Sousa.
Schwartzman gave a walkover to the Portuguese who is through to his first ATP final at the age of 31, scoring only 12 ATP wins in a career before Buenos Aires! World no. 145 lost in the final qualifying round, entering the main draw after the withdrawal of Cordoba champion Cristian Garin and scoring three wins to reach the semis where he didn't have to play, saving energy for Sunday's encounter against Ruud, with both players seeking the first ATP crown.