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Preview: Novak Djokovic vs. Casper Ruud - prediction, form guide, head-to-head

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Monte Carlo Masters semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Casper Ruud, including predictions, form and head-to-head record.

Novak Djokovic will be bidding to move one step closer to securing his first Monte Carlo Masters championship since 2015 when he locks horns with Casper Ruud in the semi-finals of the competition on Saturday.

The world number one recorded a 7-5 6-4 victory over Alex de Minaur in the semi-finals, while Ruud overcame eighth seed Ugo Humbert 6-3 4-6 6-1 to progress to the final four of the competition.

Match preview

Novak Djokovic reacts at the Monte-Carlo Masters on April 9, 2024© Reuters

Djokovic's progression to Saturday's semi-final has been relatively straightforward, with the 36-year-old proving to be too strong for Roman Safiullin in the second round, recording a 6-1 6-2 victory over the Russian.

Neither Lorenzo Musetti nor De Minaur caused him many problems in the third round and quarter-final respectively, with the Serbian yet to drop a set in this year's tournament.

Djokovic is aiming to secure his first Monte Carlo Masters title since 2015, and he is now through to a record-breaking 77th semi-final at ATP 1000 events, which has moved him past a certain Rafael Nadal.

The Serbian is also the tournament's oldest semi-finalist, and he will fancy his chances of recording a sixth straight victory over Ruud to progress to the final of the tournament, where either Stefanos Tsitsipas or world number two Jannik Sinner will be waiting.

Following his quarter-final, Djokovic admitted that it had been an energy-zapping contest with De Minaur due to the Australian's movement around the court, telling Sky Sports News: "It was tough for both of us.

"He is one of the quickest players on Tour. He gets a lot of balls back that normally 99% of other players don't. He did not surprise me with several passing shots. Particularly in the second set when I was up a break."

Casper Ruud reacts at the Australian Open on January 18, 2024© Reuters

Ruud will go in search of his first-ever win over Djokovic on Saturday, but the Norwegian will be under no illusions when it comes to the size of the task facing him.

The 25-year-old, who is currently ranked 10th in the world, made light of Alejandro Tabilo in the second round of the tournament, recording a 6-2 6-4 victory, before beating Hubert Hurkacz 6-4 6-2 in the third round.

Ruud found Humbert to be a tougher nut to crack in the quarter-final, with the two players level at 1-1 heading into the deciding set, but the former world number two stepped up the pace in the third, winning it 6-1, in order to progress to the final four of the competition.

The Norwegian is looking to land his maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown, and he has reflected on a "tough" quarter-final with Frenchman Humbert.

"It was tough. It was back-and-forth, back-and-forth," Ruud said after the clash. "I started great and I was up 6-3, 2-0 after 50 minutes. I was playing really good tennis and then kind of stumbled a bit. I think I lost maybe 10 points in a row at one point there, so I had to try and stop the bleeding.

"I wasn't able to in the second set, but third set I was a bit fortunate I got the break early and then saved a few break points, God knows how, but luckily they landed inside the lines."

Tournament so far

Novak Djokovic:

Second round: vs. Roman Safiullin 6-1 6-2
Third round: vs. Lorenzo Musetti 7-5 6-3
Quarter-final: vs. Alex de Minaur 7-5 6-4

Casper Ruud:

Second round: vs. Alejandro Tabilo 6-2 6-4
Third round: vs. Hubert Hurkacz 6-4 6-2
Quarter-final: vs. Ugo Humbert 6-3 4-6 6-1

Head To Head

ATP Masters 1000 Rome (2020) - Semi-final: Djokovic wins 7-5 6-3
Nitto ATP Finals (2021) - Round Robin: Djokovic wins 7-6[4] 6-2
ATP Masters 1000 Rome (2022) - Semi-final: Djokovic wins 6-4 6-3
Nitto ATP Finals (2022) - Final: Djokovic wins 7-5 6-3
French Open (2023) - Final: Djokovic wins 7-6[1] 6-3 7-5

These two players have locked horns on five previous occasions, and Djokovic has triumphed in each of those meetings, while he has not even dropped a set against Ruud.

The pair first locked horns in the semi-finals of the ATP Masters 1000 in Rome back in 2020, with Djokovic recording a 7-5 6-3 victory to progress to the final.

Djokovic then beat Ruud a further three times, including twice in the Nitto ATP Finals, before the two players went to battle in the French Open final last year.

Ruud was unable to prevent Djokovic from securing the trophy for the third time, though, as the Serbian recorded a 7-5 6-3 7-5 victory, and the success in France allowed him to reclaim the world number one singles ranking from Carlos Alcaraz.

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We say: Djokovic to win in two sets

"I'm going to do my best, kind of David versus Goliath," Ruud said after his quarter-final success, and it is going to be incredibly difficult for the Norwegian to overcome Djokovic on Saturday.

Ruud will need to play his best tennis and hope that Djokovic is below-par, but we are fully expecting the world number one to navigate his way into the final of the competition in routine fashion.

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