Buenos Aires [Argentina], February 13 (ANI): Casper Ruud has settled in quickly on the clay in 2022 as World No. 8 produced a clinical display to defeat home hope Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-3 in the semi-finals of the Argentina Open on Saturday. The top seed won through in one hour, 39 minutes to improve his match record in Buenos Aires to 8-0. Rudd will now face local lad Diego Schwartzman in the final.
The Norwegian feels he has built up momentum nicely over a week in which he is yet to drop a set. "I think I played my best match of the tournament today, so it feels very good. It gives me confidence for tomorrow," he said after the match.
"I knew it would be a tough match against Delbonis, he always plays well on clay and [hits] heavy strokes. I think we play quite similarly and today I stepped up my game when I had to and played very solid throughout the whole match."
Ruud and Delbonis were tied 1-1 in their ATP Head-to-Head series prior to the match, but Ruud has come a long way since he lost their first encounter in Sao Paulo in 2017, now the holder of six tour-level titles.
After an early exchange of breaks in the first set, Ruud broke again for 5-3 as his strong hitting from the baseline overwhelmed Delbonis.
Delbonis had reached the semi-finals in Buenos Aires in 2018 but never looked likely to better that run as the Norwegian remained business-like throughout. The home crowd did their best to lift the Argentine but Ruud showed no let-up as he won 72 per cent (44/61) of points behind his first serve.
Ruud will take on defending champion Diego Schwartzman in Sunday's final, after the second seed battled past Lorenzo Sonego, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2. Schwartzman leads their ATP Head-to-Head series 5-2.
"For sure it could be a good experience to play against Diego here. It would be fun to experience the atmosphere." Ruud said prior to the second semi-final.
"I think [the crowd] are cheering for the Argentinians of course, this is normal, but they are also fair to me and when we play good rallies they clap for both players."
The Buenos Aires native's nearly three-hour victory over the Sonego was his second win of the day; he booked his semi-final place earlier Saturday with the completion of his rain-delayed match against Francisco Cerundolo, another match that nearly hit the three-hour mark.
Against Sonego, Schwartzman jumped out to early leads in each of the first two sets including a double-break advantage in the second before his opponent twice drew level. The Argentine was able to recover after failing to serve out the opening set but fell victim to an inspired six-game run from Songeo in the second after the Italian fell behind 0-3.
Schwartzman again started strong in the third set. In an eight-deuce second game, he secured the crucial break on his sixth opportunity. With the crowd growing louder with each point, the Argentine built a 5-0 lead to put one foot in the final. He fought off one last comeback attempt from Sonego to continue his title defence into the championship match.
"I'm very happy to repeat the final one more time," Schwartzman said post-match. "I'm very confident here. Sometimes I have to run for three hours to win, but it doesn't matter. I just focus on the win and that's the important thing."
After spending more than eight hours on court in the past three days, the Argentine is through to his third Buenos Aires final in four years. He faces a tough task against the top-seeded Ruud but can rely on the support of his home crowd to help him fight through any lingering fatigue.
"I have to [find the energy]. Now I have a few hours to rest, to eat and to be ready for tomorrow." Schwartzman said, previewing the title tilt. (ANI)