The Norwegian star forced the big-serving American to play grinding baseline rallies and saved all three break points he faced to take a 3-0 lead in the pair’s ATP Head2Head Series. Team World’s Felix Auger-Aliassime will now try to level the competition when he faces close friend Matteo Berrettini of Team Europe.
“I was quite nervous in the beginning,” Ruud said in his on-court interview. “It’s a big stadium, big crowd. You get chills when you walk on court. You have the intro, the music and seeing all the legends. But luckily I handled it well.”
Ruud needed three sets to win his first two matches against Opelka, most recently triumphing against him in a final-set tie-break in Cincinnati. But on a slow indoor hard court in Boston, the Norwegian was at home as he limited the free points he gave the home favourite and controlled rallies from the baseline. Opelka prefers to be the aggressor, but he was too often left chasing after balls just to try to put them back into play.
Captain John McEnroe, Nick Kyrgios and John Isner urged Opelka to mix things up and go for more on certain points to plant seeds of doubt in Ruud’s mind. The American rushed the net and served and volleyed on occasion. In the second-set tie-break, he hit a backhand drop volley with so much backspin, it bounced on Ruud’s side and back into the net.
But Ruud never panicked and pumped his fist after hitting a deep return that forced Opelka to make his final error of the match into the net.
“I got an early break, which kind of calms the nerves down a little bit. I’m sure it was the same for Reilly, he’s playing at home,” Ruud said. “I was just trying to enjoy the moment and play without pressure. It was a very good match for me.”