PARIS: Alexander Zverev admits he "wouldn't bet" on Casper Ruud defeating Novak Djokovic in Sunday's French Open final but warned the Serb superstar could crack under the weight of expectation with history within touching distance.
Ruud, last year's runner-up to Rafael Nadal, reached the final with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 over Zverev in Friday's semi-finals.
Djokovic made the final in Paris for a seventh time, and 34th at the Grand Slams, with a four-set triumph over an ailing Carlos Alcaraz.
Victory on Sunday would give Djokovic a record-breaking 23rd major title and make him the only man to win all four Slams on at least three occasions.
"Is Novak the favourite? Yes, of course. There is no question about it. He knows how it's done. He knows how to do it," said Zverev after losing in the semi-finals for a third successive year.
"If I would have to bet money, maybe I wouldn't bet on Casper too much. Does he have chances? Yes, he does. He's playing amazing tennis and I think he deserves to be in the final."
Zverev recalled that in 2021 Djokovic only needed to defeat Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final to complete the first calendar Grand Slam by a man since 1969.
He had already pocketed the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon that year but Medvedev swept to a straight-sets win in the New York final.
"I think it couldn't be better for Casper," added Zverev.
On the brink of history
"Novak is one of the best players in the world, that's for sure, but when you're on the brink of history I think that adds a little bit of pressure.
"You remember the US Open final he had with Medvedev? The pressure, you know, we are all human. Novak is human.
"We all feel it. So I think for Casper that's the best scenario."
Ruud will be playing in his third Grand Slam final in his past five tournaments.
After finishing runner-up to Nadal in Paris he then lost to Alcaraz in the US Open final.
However, he has lost all four meetings with Djokovic, two of which were on clay, and has never won a single set.
On Friday, the 24-year-old Norwegian broke Olympic champion Zverev six times.
"I just went out there and tried to play without thinking too much, trying to play without pressure, and just played really well today," said Ruud, whose 87 wins on clay are the most since 2020.
Ruud has had a challenging year and arrived in Paris with an underwhelming 16-11 record.
"I didn't come into Roland Garros thinking I was the favourite to reach the final. It's been two very fun weeks in Paris and hopefully third time can be a charm for me," he said.
For Zverev, it was another bitter finish on the same court where he suffered season-ending ankle ligament damage in his semi-final against Nadal 12 months ago.