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Tennis-French Open finalist Ruud hopes Grand Slam dreams gain lift-off

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By Shrivathsa Sridhar

PARIS (Reuters) – Casper Ruud may have crashed in his last two Grand Slam finals but the Norwegian fourth seed said after soaring into a second successive French Open title clash on Friday that relying on autopilot could be his best bet to succeed.

Ruud booked his spot in the final for a second consecutive year by cruising past German 22nd seed Alexander Zverev 6-3 6-4 6-0 and will aim to win a maiden Grand Slam when he meets 22-times major champion Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

History-chasing Djokovic is aiming to leapfrog Ruud’s 2022 Roland Garros conqueror Rafa Nadal in the men’s overall tally and the 24-year-old Norwegian said the final would be his toughest challenge of the year.

But Ruud has a plan to go the distance.

“It’s just a matter of not thinking I ‘need’ to win this match, there’s a really big ‘need’ for me to win this match. That’s a word I try to avoid,” Ruud, who has never beaten Djokovic in four meetings, told reporters.

“Obviously in the beginning of the tournament, that’s what you feel more and what you think about more, this is important to try to get this win and get going in the tournament.

“But now I’m in the final. It’s been a great two weeks no matter what happens on Sunday and I’m going to of course give it my all, but sometimes you play your best tennis when you don’t think too much. It just goes into automatic mode.

“I’m just going to try to go out there and know that it’s going to be a long match, a marathon match, and play point by point, give it my all. Let’s see how that goes.”

Ruud’s season has ebbed and flowed but he has peaked during his deep run in Paris to reach a third final in his last five Grand Slam tournaments.

“I think this match and the quarter-final was one of the best matches I played this year, so that’s a good confidence boost going into the final,” Ruud said. “I know I’m going to have to play similar or better if I want to have any chance.

“I’m probably playing the best tennis of the year so far. It’s been a tough one, but this sort of changes a little bit everything and how the year has been going.

“I’m going to see if I can try to use last year’s defeat in the final as a motivation… to try to play well on Sunday.”

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Paris; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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