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Before He Made It Big: Casper Ruud

Now a top ten player and five time ATP singles title winner, Casper Ruud was just another young, striving hopeful a few years ago in 2017. I did this interview with his dad Christian about his son’s progression…

By Scoop Malinowski

#NEXTGEN Finals contender Casper Ruud, of Norway, is only 18 but already he’s ranked 115 in the ATP World Tour Rankings. Last year Ruud recorded a 9-12 match record and this year he’s 7-9. The goal is top hundred for 2017, says father Christian, who reached 39 in the world in the 1990s.

Earlier this year young Casper, who stands 6-ft tall, reached the semifinals of Rio where he had a match point to be in the finals. His transition from juniors to the ATP circuit has been surprising even to his father, who I first met watching his son play doubles at Eddie Herr two years ago.

“Well, he’s eighteen years old. He came up a little faster than we thought,” Christian Ruud told me at the Citi Open. “He had a good junior career. He was briefly (ITF) number one, ended the year number two when he was a year younger. And then he decided his last year of junior to try to play more ATP and some Futures and he did well. He won a Challenger, moved up to like 230 I think at the end of last year. He started this year really well – semis in ATP 500, qualified into ATP 500 Barcelona, won a match (6262 win vs #81 Albot). So he’s been testing the highest level. He’s had a few wildcards into Masters 1000 also in Miami and Monte Carlo. And when you play those tournaments, you play top 50 guys. He’s not there yet but he’s playing close. He’s not getting killed so he has to learn a lot about where the top 50 level is and he still needs to improve some aspects of his game. And struggling a little bit the last couple of months. Some quarters, second round of Challengers, some first round, tough draws. There’s a lot of good players 150-200 also. Also it’s been a little bit not rolling his way lately. Some match points, losing some close matches. But his game is there. The level of his game is somewhere between 100 and 200. Even at the moment (in Washington DC, where he lost first round to Tommy Paul 63 57 03 ret. due to heat) so I think he just has to turn the confidence a little bit. And get some close matches going his way. And keep on working on the things he needs to improve.”

“We’re in it for the long run. I warned him that he will have some months or maybe six months or half years where you will have things go against you. Especially when you come up that fast. So I think it’s normal but we are still pushing, trying to go to the next level. Of course you want to win every time you step on the court. But you have to have respect that there’s a lot of other guys out there that are doing the same. We’re happy at the moment. It hasn’t gone as well as it did in the beginning of the year. We’re working and motivated and trying to reach top 100. That’s a goal this year.”

Christian Ruud knows what it takes to compete and succeed at the elite level. He had a career ATP record of 115-143 and like his son his best results were on clay (87-81). He was an Olympian in 1996 (3R) and 2000 with a 13-24 record in Grand Slams. He holds ATP wins over Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Younes El Aynoui. His last ATP match was at Roland Garros 2001 where he lost to Sargis Sargisian 16 13. The elder Ruud says his son is solid on clay but needs to improve his hard court skillset.

“In Rio he beat three top hundred guys (Dutra Silva, Monteiro and Baena) and had the match point against Carrena Busta. who is up there in the rankings,” said Ruud. “And then he beat some good guys in Barcelona (in qualies and first round). Then he was playing well against Ramos-Vinolas, a close two-setter, 67 46 in R32). He’s playing quite good against those Spanish guys where you get more rhythm. Can show then that you can play against those guys but struggling a bit against the big servers. And the guys that play on the fast surface. We’re working every day on these things. And trying to improve his hard court game. His best results have been on clay. If you want to be a top player, you need to improve on all surfaces. That’s why we’re here playing on the hard courts instead of playing in Europe. We have a goal to go for and at this age he’s doing well. He’s eighteen years old and being 110 is quite good. But we want to push more and we’ll see what the status is in like a year or two.”

After practicing in Washington with Juan Sorgi following the loss to Paul, Ruud next played Aptos and lost another close match against Quentin Halys 46 63 36. Back to clay this week in Dominican Republic where Ruud has regained his winning touch, beating Roberto Subervi Cid 63 67 63 and Kaichi Uchida 64 62. Next up in the QF for Ruud will be Victor Estrella Burgos.

Ruud will play US Open qualies where he will hope to win his first hard court match since February, despite many close, narrow losses to the likes of Tommy Paul, Quentin Halys.

Ruud, who trained with Rafael Nadal in April in Mallorca and does boxing training as part of his fitness routine, said his other goals for 2017 are to play a Grand Slam  main draw match and to reach the ATP #NEXTGEN Finals in Milan.

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