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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, September 16, 2023


Emil Ruusuvuori broke American Tommy Paul twice in succession wrapping a 7-6(1), 6-4 win sending Finland into its first Davis Cup quarterfinals.

Photo credit: Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty 

Illness knocked Emil Ruusuvuori out of the US Open.

Inspiration helped Ruusuvuori seal Finland's spot in its first Davis Cup quarterfinal.

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Ruusuvuori broke American Tommy Paul twice in succession wrapping a 7-6(1), 6-4 victory to give Finland an insurmountable 2-0 lead over the United States in its best-of-three-match Davis Cup tie in Split, Croatia today. 

Heroics from Ruusuvuori in the winner-take-all tie sends Finland into its first ever Davis Cup quarterfinals, while eliminating the United States from advancing.

Though Ruusuvuori tightened up a bit and couldn't convert multiple match points when he served for it at 5-3, he came right back to break Paul, cap a tough two hour, 14-minute triumph and complete an emotional victory that left a few Finnish fans in tears afterward.

"You can hear it from the back it means a lot for the whole country for tennis in Finland it’s a huge thing," Ruusuvuori said afterward. "Once again, we proved how strong this team is and we’re going to Malaga, yeah.

"I got a little tight a couple balls here and there. I needed to play precise tennis against Tommy. He’s so quick, he makes you play so many balls. I made a couple errors too early. The return game was great. I was gonna keep fighting at the end I was able to get it. I was feeling the pressure also. I hadn’t played for a couple of weeks you get into this moment and of course you feel the pressure a lot."

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Finland joins The Netherlands from Group D advancing to the elite eight in Malaga, Spain November 21-26th, while the U.S. and Croatia are eliminated.

A resilient Paul fought off four match points when Ruusuvuori served for it, including a sensational sliding backhand stab volley.

The 57th-ranked Ruusuvuori twice narrowly missed down the line drives, and ran out of challenges, before dropping serve as Paul closed to 4-5.

Shaking it off, the hard-hitting Ruusuvuori came right back to break and create history.

"To skip the US Open was not a good thing," Ruusuvuori said. "I was sick so I actually didn’t come here in good shape. I struggled physically in the beginning, it was tough.

"You have to keep fighting in your head and I was able to find my game and get it tight and once again find a way in two long sets."

Earlier, Otto Virtanen denied two match points edging American Mackenzie McDonald 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(7) in a two hour, 35-minute thriller that saw Virtanen save match points in the tiebreaker than bang a service winner out wide to end it.

Virtanen fired 25 of his 32 winners from his heavy topspin forehand to stake Finland to a 1-0 lead and set the stage for Ruusuvuori.

"I tried to forget the second set, gave all the energy I had left this week in the one set," Virtanen said. "I felt like I’m still improving in the third set game by game.

"I started returning all his balls, the serves, in and I think that was the key to put the pressure on his side."

Singles is a solo sport, but Virtanen and Ruusuvuori both felt the power of their nation of 5.5 million citizens and put Finland on the Davis Cup map today.

"It must be the shirt I’m wearing that says Finland on the back," Virtanen said. "It feels like home."


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