Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

Key events

On the other side…

Casper Ruud reached the finals at four of the seven biggest events on the calendar this year: French Open, US Open, ATP Finals, Miami.

A pretty amazing achievement for someone who started the season without a single slam QF.

— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) November 19, 2022

Calvin Betton, our resident coachsends an email with his thoughts: “It’s a boring match. Ruud is basically Djokovic on the C list. He competes well, makes a lot of balls, moves well. But Djokovic is better in every way and I can’t see him not winning.”

It also happens…

Ruud seems to me to be one of those players who will never be good enough to win a slam because there will always be someone better – whether it’s someone like Alcaraz, so someone with more abilities, or someone random who happens to find the shape of his life at the right time.

So what on earth can Ruud do to beat Djokovic? Oh, I don’t know. I suspect he might follow the Stan vs. Nadal approach, attacking everyone and hoping it’s his day. Or, conversely, Djokovic mostly pays in defense, so if Ruud just gets everything back and tries to play his backhand, maybe that will work. Or maybe not.

Preamble

I don’t want to get previous, people, but can we get to that point? You know the one I mean because we always doubted we’d get to him in the end, and he’s been teased for what seems like a decade, so: has Novak Djokovic outlasted the other two members of the big three? And if he is, will he spend the next few years monsterizing everyone and everything?

You can’t say he didn’t work for it. I remember hearing, many years ago, that every spare second – waiting for a taxi, after a meal, talking on the phone – he stretches to stay flexible. That kind of drive means that, even at 36, I’d still back him to win any match.

Which is not to say we should write off Rafael Nadal, who is making a comeback just as the Tory administration is turning. He probably has at least one more French Open in him, but it’s hard to see him taking any other tournament and it wasn’t much of a surprise that he didn’t escape the group in this one.

But that’s only half the story. While Casper Ruud – and Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Aliassime and Taylor Fritz and Andrey Rublev and Carlos Alcaraz and even Daniil Medvedev – are valuable, none of them will ever be the greatest player we’ve ever seen, which is the standard where Đoković competed for the past eons.

Which isn’t to say that Ruud, currently 0-3 in head-to-head matches, can’t win tonight – he can. But for that to happen, he has to play close to his best tennis, while Djokovic has to play close to his worst – and they both know it. We’ll see.

Start: 19:00 local, 18:00 GMT