Paris, June 3 (IANS) Norwegian tennis player Casper Ruud continued to make smooth progress at the French Open as he dispatched Chinese player Zhang Zhizhen 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in the third round, here on Saturday.
The fourth seed Ruud, who is the highest seed remaining in the bottom half of the draw, emphatically pounced on short balls throughout the two-hour, 38-minute third-round clash.
He stepped forward effectively to dictate with his heavy forehand, using a mixture of spins in the lively conditions on Court Suzanne-Lenglen to earn his 14th clay-court win of the season.
“It was tough. It was a bit frustrating in the beginning. I didn’t hit as well as I would have hoped,” said Ruud, who improved as the match went on.
“I didn’t really find any hole in his game, but luckily at 5-4 in the second set, he played some sloppy shots and I got the break. That gave me confidence and I started playing better and better in the third and fourth [sets]. The French crowd was helping me a lot,” he added.
Ruud lost in the final against Rafael Nadal 12 months ago. Aiming to go one step further this year, he will next face Geneva champion, Nicolas Jarry.
“Every match is stressful, physically and mentally. This year is the first year I am coming trying to defend a big result, having made the final last year. I am feeling a little bit more about it and feeling a little bit extra pressure,” Ruud said.
The 24-year-old Ruud arrived in Paris having had a modest season to date. He failed to win consecutive tour-level matches at 10 of the 12 events he played but did lift the trophy in Estoril before he advanced to the semi-finals in Rome.
The 10-time tour-level titlist has looked close to his best in the French capital, though, where his victory against Zhang lifted him two spots to 13th in the ATP Live Race To Turin. Ruud, who holds a 15-4 record at Roland Garros, is chasing a third consecutive appearance at the ATP Finals.