As a child Casper Ruud watched a lot of tennis on television, dreaming one day of playing a grand slam final.
The Norwegian will now have something to brag about after setting up a Sunday date with 13-time French Open champion Rafa Nadal.
The 23-year-old Ruud says he can count all of the finals that Nadal has played at Roland Garros and the opponents the Spaniard defeated during his record haul.
“It’s gonna be, yeah, amazing to be there myself when you have seen … all the guys who have played him in a final,” Ruud told reporters on Friday after defeating Marin Cilic in the semi-finals.
“So to be a part of that group myself is something I can always brag about after my career. 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.”
It will be a first career meeting for Ruud against the record 21-time grand slam winner Nadal, at whose academy he often hones his game.
Playing the Spaniard in a Roland Garros final, where Nadal is 13-0 in the title round, is the “greatest challenge” in the sport for Ruud and he accepts that it might seem like an impossible task to win on Sunday.
“I’m just going to try to enjoy it,” he said.
“I will be the underdog, and I will try to, 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.”
With his victory against Cilic, Ruud became the first Norwegian man to become a grand slam singles finalist and he hoped it could help build interest for the sport back in his country.
One of the most consistent performers on claycourts in the last three season, Ruud said his target at the beginning of the 2022 season was just making the quarter-finals at majors.
“The thing is I watched so much tennis on TV when I was young that it sometimes for me felt unrealistic to be there myself because I saw how good the guys were playing on TV,” he said.
“When you are a kid, you’re just thinking, ‘Oh, it would be fun to be on TV myself one day playing’.
“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.”
Nadal reached the final of the French Open after opponent Alexander Zverev was forced to retire injured, in distressing scenes after the German third seed fell and twisted his ankle at the end of the second set, yelling in pain.
Zverev says the injury is “very serious” and the world No.3’s participation at Wimbledon this month is now in major doubt.
Zverev left the court in a wheelchair and returned on crutches to confirm to the umpire that he could not continue.
In a video message on Twitter, the 25-year-old German said: “A very difficult moment for me today on the court.
“Obviously a fantastic match until what happened, happened.
“It looks like I have a very serious injury. But the medical team and the doctors are still checking on it.”
As for Nadal, he marches on in the hope of securing a record 22nd grand slam title.