LONDON – Defending champion Casper Ruud of Norway won points on 90 per cent of his first serves on his way to defeating Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 7-6 (3) in the quarter-finals of the Gonet Geneva Open in Switzerland.
It was the first-ever match between the second-seeded Ruud and Kokkinakis. Ruud is seeking the seventh clay-court victory of his career, most recently winning on the surface at Buenos Aires in February.
Next up in the semi-finals for Ruud is fourth-seeded Reilly Opelka, who defeated Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in one hour, 33 minutes, Reuters reported.
Also moving to the semi-finals is Richard Gasquet of France, who needed just 87 minutes to top Kamil Majchrzak of Poland 6-2, 6-4.
Gasquet will meet Joao Sousa of Portugal in the other semifinal. Sousa defeated Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 7-5, 7-5 and will compete in his first tour semifinal on clay since Gstaad, Switzerland, in 2019.
Elsewhere, top seed Cameron Norrie wasn’t at his best, but he battled back to beat No. 7 seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 and advance to the semi-finals in Lyon, France, for the third time.
Norrie had a 5-3 lead and two match points, but Baez fended off the match points to move the third set to 5-4, then broke Norrie’s serve for a 5-5 score. Norrie fought back to break the serve of Baez in the next game, and then serve out for the win.
In the semifinals, he’ll face Holger Rune of Denmark, who was a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner over French qualifier Manuel Guinard to reach his second semi-final of the season.
In other action, Alex Molcan of Slovakia defeated Federico Coria of Argentina 6-3, 6-2 to reach his second semi-final of the season.
He’ll take on fourth-seeded Alex de Minaur of Australia, who moved on after Japan’s Yosuke Watanuki retired at the start of the second set of their match with a back issue.
Meanwhile, defending champion Novak Djokovic, 13-time winner Rafael Nadal and new teenage star Carlos Alcaraz were drawn in the same half of Roland-Garros.
World No 1 Djokovic and Nadal, ranked five, are seeded to meet as early as the quarterfinals.
Alcaraz, 19, is bidding to become just the eighth teenager to win a Grand Slam men’s title.
He could face either Djokovic or Nadal, who holds a record 21 majors, in the semi-finals in a top-heavy draw for the second Grand Slam of the season.
“I am very motivated to play my best tennis,” said two-time Roland-Garros champion and 20-time major winner Djokovic according to AFP.
“In Paris, I always play very strong. Last year, it was the toughest major that I had won.”
Djokovic had to twice come from two sets down last year to beat Lorenzo Musetti in the last-16 and Stefanos Tsitspas in the final having also beaten Nadal from a set behind in a bruising semifinal.
“Musetti, Rafa, Tsitsipas – every match lasted more than three hours. It was exhausting but I loved the outcome.”
Djokovic, who celebrates his 35th birthday on Sunday, the opening day at Roland-Garros, faces 94th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan in the first round.
Djokovic defeated Nishioka in straight sets in the Australian Open third round in 2020.
He will be fired up to defend his title having been deported from Melbourne in January because of his refusal to get vaccinated.
Nadal starts against Australia’s Jordan Thompson as he looks to extend his Roland-Garros record of only three defeats in 108 matches at the tournament since his title-winning debut in 2005.
Thompson, ranked at 82, made the third round in Paris in 2019 before losing to Juan Martin del Potro.
Nadal arrived at Roland-Garros looking to shake off the recurrence of a long-term foot injury which saw him limp to an early defeat in Rome last week where Djokovic claimed a sixth title in the Italian capital.
The Spaniard could face 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round.
Alcaraz, who has a season-leading four titles in 2022 including Masters crowns in Miami and Madrid as well as Rio and Barcelona, begins against a qualifier.
The teenager knocked out Djokovic and Nadal on his way to victory in the Spanish capital.
Alcaraz’s potential opponent in the last 32 is Sebastian Korda who shocked him in the first round in Monte Carlo in April.
Second seed Daniil Medvedev, the US Open champion, faces Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis in his first round.
Third-ranked Alexander Zverev meets a qualifier while Tsitsipas has a tough opener against Musetti.
In the women’s draw, world No 1 Iga Swiatek, the 2020 champion, is on a 28-match win streak and has pocketed five successive titles this season.