Karen Khachanov and Casper Ruud will meet on Friday in the first US Open semifinal, with the Norwegian ace currently rated as the bookies favorite to advance.
There was nothing suggesting Khachanov could do big damage in New York, as the Russian had a mediocre season for his standards, and was particularly dreadful in the tournaments preceding the US Open, where he posted a 2-3 record (losing to Nishioka, Cilic and Korda, while barely scraping a couple of three setters against Draper and Cerundolo). Nevertheless, the big hitting Khachanov is now in the US Open semis after defeating Kudla, Monteiro, Draper, Carreno-Busta and Kyrgios. It wasn’t easy though, as the Russian lost sets in each of his matches and needed five to survive in both the 4th round and the quarters.
Ruud is having a season to remember, with multiple semifinals and finals in the top tournaments (including a final at the French Open), and now the No.1 ranking being within his grasp at the end of this week. Casper got past Edmund, Van Rijthoven, Paul, Moutet and Berrettini to reach this stage. He was solid in his first four matches (losing 4 sets along the way), but he really stepped up his level in the quarters, handing Berrettini a shocking beatdown (6-1 6-4 7-6).
Ruud leads the H2H 1-0, but the only meeting was on clay back in 2020.
Ruud has all the advantages here and it would be surprising if he doesn’t book his place for Sunday’s grand final.
First and foremost there’s the fact that he is simply playing better tennis than Khachanov, and has been doing so for the entire year. The way Ruud raised his level against Berrettini was a particular trait of great champions, who find their best game in the later stages of big tournaments. He was flawless for most of that match, barring a stretch at the end of the second set and beginning of the third.
Meanwhile, Khachanov had plenty of ups and downs, losing sets in all of his matches and needing heroic displays to best Carreno-Busta and Kyrgios in his last two outings. Those five set wins proved that the Russian has heart, but there were also plenty of weaknesses shown.
And given all the tennis Khachanov played this week, particularly in the 4th round and the quarters, you have to wonder how much more does he have left in the tank? Surely he would need a quick win against Ruud, otherwise you have to feel that he won’t be able to sustain another marathon, especially against an ultra fit, high IQ opponent, who is more than capable of prolonging rallies and exploiting any weakness he can find.
Ruud also has the experience on his side, having already played in a Grand Slam final, while Khachanov has never even been on the semifinal stage.
Lastly, I am encouraged by the weather as well. Reports for Friday say that it will not rain in New York, but humidity will be very high, which will demand even more effort from the already tired Khachanov, while also making conditions slower (advantage Ruud).
I am very comfortable backing Ruud here. He is the better player and he has all the arguments to win this match, so unless it will be “just one of those days”, he should get the better of Khachanov. I am taking this bet early because odds are dropping, and I can see them dropping more. Prediction: Karen Khachanov – Casper Ruud 6-7 7-6 3-6 2-6.