Also going on…
Ruud strikes me as one of those players who’ll never be quite good enough to win a slam, because there’ll always be someone better – whether someone like Alcaraz, so someone with more ability, or someone random who happens to find the form of their life at the right time.
So, what on earth can Ruud do to beat Djokovic? Er, I don’t know. I guess he could follow the Stan v Nadal approach, which is attacking everything and hoping it’s his day. Or, conversely, Djokovic is principally a defensive payer, so if Ruud just gets everything back and tries to play to his backhand, maybe that works. Or maybe not.
I don’t want to get previous, people, but might we be at that point? You know the one I mean because we always suspected we’d get to to it eventually and it’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 has, is he going to spend the next couple of years monstering everyone and everything?
You can’t say he hasn’t worked for it. I remember hearing, quite some years ago, that every spare second – waiting for a cab, after a meal, speaking on the phone – he stretches to keep himself supple. It’s drive like that that means even at 36, I’d still back him to win any match.
Which isn’t to say we should write-off Rafael Nadal, who is to comebacks as a Tory administration is to U-turns. He’s probably got at least one more French Open in him, but it’s hard to see him taking any other majors and it wasn’t especially surprising that he didn’t escape the group in this tournament.
But that’s only the half of things. Worthy though Casper Ruud – and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Taylor Fritz, and Andrey Rublev and Carlos Alcaraz and even Daniil Medvedev – are, none of them will ever be the greatest player we’ve ever seen, which is the standard at which Djokovic has been competing for the past aeon.
Which isn’t to say that Ruud, currently 0-3 in the head-to-head, can’t win tonight – he can. But for that to happen, he needs to produce close to his best tennis, while Djokovic needs to produce close to his worst – and both men know it. We shall see.
Start: 7pm local, 6pm GMT