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June 3, 2022

Casper Ruud

Paris, France

Press Conference

C. RUUD/M. Cilic

3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: How does it feel to be in a Grand Slam final?

CASPER RUUD: Well, it feels very exciting and giving -- you know, it's something I and all players probably dream about when they're young. As their careers grow older, becomes of course more goal, but still a dream.

So to be able to play a Grand Slam final is something I have looked up to always on TV, and I will of course give it my all. It feels very exciting, yeah.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English.

Q. You have not played Rafa before. You obviously know him very well. You have said in the past when you have talked and said you have not come close to beating him on the golf course. So when you go out on court, what are you going to have to do to put yourself in positive territory?

CASPER RUUD: Well, I mean, to play Rafa in a Roland Garros final is probably the greatest challenge there is in this sport. I believe he's 13-0 in the finals, so just shows that it might sound like an impossible task. But of course I will give it a shot like the other 13 people before me have done.

It's obviously going to be tough. We all know what a great champion he is and how well he plays in the biggest moments and the biggest matches.

I'm just going to try to enjoy it. I will be the underdog, and I will try to, you know, tonight and tomorrow night dream about great winners and unbelievable rallies, because that's what it's going to take if I want to have any chance, and I will need to play my best tennis ever.

But I still have to believe that I can do it, and I think part of my game today was working very well. In the end, I was playing great in the third and fourth set.

Q. How many of those 13 wins for Rafa have you actually watched?

CASPER RUUD: Probably all of them (smiling). I think I could probably tell you all the finals and who he has played and who he has beaten, because I watched them all on TV.

It's gonna be, yeah, amazing to be there myself when you have seen players like, start with Puerta, Federer, Djokovic, Thiem, all the guys who have played him in a finals, Wawrinka. So to be a part of that group myself is something I can always brag about after my career.

Hopefully, like I said, I will of course give it a shot at the title, and would be nicer to be able to brag about the title as well after my career.

Q. With the Zverev incident, like it was looking like a long match for everybody at that point, and you were obviously preparing for your match, did it come as a shock? Did it interrupt your preparations going into the match a little bit?

CASPER RUUD: Well, yeah. I think it came as a shock for everyone, because it was a horrible accident or injury. It looked very bad.

Just happened in splits of a second. When it's like a ankle roll or twist, that's how it is, it happens like this. Of course you regret it right away, and we all feel very sorry for him. Because it's a big match, a big situation, that this happens to him in that situation, you know, I don't want that to happen to anyone. So it obviously was very bad.

But in the end, I was given 40 minutes to prepare, so I had enough time to get ready. While it looked like it was going to take forever to start, we actually started around 7:00 so it wasn't too late in the end. Yeah, like I said before also, I think we all need to wish Sascha a speedy recovery and that he can be back for Wimbledon hopefully.

Q. Is it important for you, a player, a Norway player, first time in a final of a Grand Slam tournament? Is it important for tennis in your country?

CASPER RUUD: Hopefully. I'm not sure, because I'm not too much in Norway myself. Of course I'm traveling always pretty much all year round, so I don't get to spend as much time in Norway as I would like yet. But hopefully in years to come, we can kind of build more tennis facilities in Norway and we can make the sport grow. If that's because I do good results or not, it's not up to me.

But obviously it probably helps a little bit stay interest in the country that you have a player who is performing well. It has happened in Norway with golf. We have a golf player whose name is Hovland, Viktor Hovland, who's top 5 in the world in golf. It seems like everyone wants to play golf now again in Norway.

If that can be the same situation in Norway, I'm happy to be part of it.

Q. We said earlier that like your namesake, Casper the Ghost, you have almost ghosted through the draw just by playing great tennis. Why is your level so scarily good right now? And as we head into the final, how important is it not to get spooked by the big occasion and concentrate on what you have been doing really well so far?

CASPER RUUD: Yeah, it's been obviously a great tournament. I faced a tough challenge in the first round playing Jo-Wilfried in his last tournament. It was not easy to play this match and was of course very emotional after.

Next match was also difficult against fellow Scandinavian, Ruusuvuori. He plays aggressive. Then I had the five-setter against Sonego. And then, of course, fourth round Hurkacz. All the matches I have played I have pretty much been sort of the favorite to win so there has been some pressure on me.

On Sunday I will be the underdog, for sure, and Rafa will probably feel some of that pressure. So I will just try to enjoy the situation. But I know that I will have to play even better than I did today if I want to have any chance at all, because he's the greatest clay court player of all time, as we know, and one of the greatest all-around players, if you ask me, of all time. He has won 21 slams for a reason, and 13 of them here.

Like I said in the beginning, it's the toughest challenge I think there is in tennis to play him here in the final, but at least I will have a shot at it.

Q. Outside the tour, what's your head-to-head with Rafa? For sure you have played in Mallorca.

CASPER RUUD: Yeah, we have played some practice sets. And, yeah, it's been, I don't know honestly, but he always pretty much has always beaten me. There's been some close sets, 7-6, 7-5, but it always goes his favor. But it's because we are playing in the academy and I want to be nice to him and give him the... (Smiling.)

Q. (Question off microphone.)

CASPER RUUD: Yeah, we have trained hard court, indoor, clay court. And, you know, when you are the guest you need to give him some -- to be a nice guest (smiling). No, I'm just kidding.

Of course it will be, like I said, challenging. He has beaten me pretty much all the times in practice. I will try to figure something else out than in the practices, how to beat him. Like I said, I will just enjoy the moment. This is a special occasion for both of us. He's playing for his 22nd. I'm playing for my first.

Big contrast, but like I said, I'm the underdog and we will just enjoy the moment.

Q. You have played a lot on clay. Had a lot of success on clay over the past couple of years. What is it in your game you think translates so well? Why do you like that surface so much? Then I'd also just like to ask you for your reaction and what was going through your mind when that protester came on the court and interrupted the match.

CASPER RUUD: Well, I mean, I do play with a pretty good amount of topspin, so I guess that's kind of where it all starts. When you play with a lot of topspin, it just, in a way, suits the game better, because clay is a little bit slower, it bounces a little bit wrong.

So when you play with topspin, you play with more margins. That's kind of how it goes. On clay you need a little bit more margins sometimes. If you go for bigger winners, there can be some wrong bounces or it's tough to control, because also many times the opponents can get to certain shots that they maybe can't on hard court because hard court is playing faster.

At the same time, hard court these days is still very slow. Some tournaments, like for instance Miami and Indian Wells, I think we were all talking about how slow it is. So in a way, I can feel like I can do good results on hard court as well.

Up to this week or these two weeks, my best result has been on hard court in my career, in Miami and my best slam result was in Australia on hard court.

So it's not like I think I can only do well on clay, but it just, for me, I don't know what to say, I just feel a little bit more comfortable on it, moving around and, in a way, it just kind of suits my game better.

You know, I like the fight, the hustle, and just everything about the clay. So of course it's physically tough. You will play usually some long rallies, but I like it.

When it comes to this protest, it was a little bit, what should I say, nasty is maybe a good word, because I didn't really know how to react to it, and I didn't know if, because I only saw her back, I didn't know if she was holding anything or what was around her neck. I didn't get to see too much.

So it was a little bit, yeah, tricky and difficult situation. Never happened to me before. So we were taken outside for six, seven minutes and I got to regroup a little bit and got my flow going again.

Was a little bit, yeah, tricky situation.

Q. Were you the kind of kid who imagined yourself playing Grand Slam finals? And if you did, was the French Open the one you imagined?

CASPER RUUD: Yeah, sometimes. But, I mean, the thing is I watched so much tennis on TV when I was young that it was kind of sometimes for me felt unrealistic to be there myself because I saw how good the guys were playing on TV.

When you are a kid, you're just thinking, Oh, it would be fun to be on TV myself one day playing. As I grew older and started playing myself, I was not like the super kid that was unbelievably talented. At least around the world I didn't stand out too much when I was 12, 13, 14, like other junior stars do.

I was not really picturing myself too much, but of course it's always like been a dream and always been like up there in my thoughts. But not really, haven't thought too much like how realistic it is before.

But now that I have grown older and been able to play the Grand Slams, I have experienced some great moments in my career. I think the first kind of big moment for me was playing Roger here in Roland Garros a couple years back in the third round, and then 2020, I made my first semifinal of ATP 1000 event. I think when I made that semifinal that kind of changed my attitude a little bit and realizing I can play well in the biggest tournaments.

The slams have been something I haven't performed as well as I hoped before, but this year the goal was really just quarterfinal when we started the year, and here I am in final. So it's gone better than I hoped or expected, and we will just try to ride the wave and keep going.

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