The story so far of Casper Ruud, Norway’s top tennis player and a rising talent in the sport.
Norway and the sport of tennis aren’t normally two things that go together, but thanks to the emergence of Casper Ruud, that is starting to change. The 21-year-old impressed on the junior scene in his formative years before bursting onto men’s circuit with a number of Grand Slam appearances.
The Norwegian has made great progress in recent years, improvement that has prompted many in the world of tennis to sit up and take notice. In Norway, he has already become one of the country's leading names in sport, right up there with the likes of the Ingebrigtsens, Johannes Høsflot Klæbo and Erling Brut Haaland.
Tennis expert Jonathan from Perfect Tennis says Ruud's career to date is notable for his performance on clay and his unique topspin: “He hits with the most topspin on both his forehand and backhand than anyone else on the ATP tour right now, which always helps on clay. But he's yet to prove he can perform on quicker surfaces and has made no impression at Wimbledon or the Australian Open as yet.”
Let's look in detail at his his journey so far, and his prospects for the future.
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Casper Ruud's style of play
Ruud’s style of play favours a game at the back of the court. It’s a place where he is able to make use of his big forehand shots and control games, tiring out opponents in the process. He is right-handed and possesses a powerful two-handed backhand shot.
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Ruud has been particularly impressive on clay courts so far in his young career but continues to work hard on improving his hard-court game. His patience combined with the power of his returns, makes him a formidable opponent for many of the more established players on the world of tennis. If the Norwegian could add a slightly more aggressive side to his game, then the heights are limitless for him.
Casper Ruud is the son of former professional tennis player Christian Ruud, so it’s fair to say the sport is in his blood. Casper’s Dad, along with Joachim Bjerke, make up his coaching team.
In 2015, Ruud appeared in the major tennis competitions for boys. He reached the third round of both the US Open boys’ and French Open boys’ singles, and the second round of the Wimbledon boys’ singles.
Ruud also had some success in doubles competitions in his junior career. In the Wimbledon boys’ doubles, with his partner Miomir Kecmanović, Ruud got to the semi-finals of the competition. In 2016, again partnered with Kecmanović, the Norwegian made it to the semi-finals of the French Open boys’ doubles.
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But perhaps Ruud’s most notable moment in his junior career came when he became the no. 1 ranked junior player in January 2016.
First foray into the men’s game
The 2016 season saw Ruud venture into the men’s game. It started in Futures tournaments (a competition organised by the international Tennis Federations for the lowest rung of men’s professional ladder). In February of that year, he won a Futures competition in Spain. Ruud went on to appear in four more Future’s tournament finals, winning one of them.
In September 2016, the Young Norwegian move up to compete in the ATP Challenger tournament (a competition for the men ranked in the second highest tier of the professional game). He won the tournament, beating Taro Daniel in the final in Sevilla.
Casper Ruud's debuts
In 2017, Ruud made appearances in two ATP 500 tournaments in the Rio Open and Switzerland (indoors). Following this, the Norwegian got a wildcard entry into the Miami Open, his first ATP Master 1000 appearance in the process.
In 2018, Ruud made his first Grand Slam appearance, after progressing through three qualifying rounds in order to achieve his place at Australia Open. It ensured the Ruud hit the headlines back home in Norway for becoming the first Norwegian to qualify for a Grand Slam in 17 years. He went on to lose in the second round to the Argentine Diego Schwartzman.
Later that year, Ruud made second round appearance at the French Open and a first-round exit in the US Open. This made Wimbledon the only Grand Slam he failed to show in, having failed go beyond the qualifying stages for the competition in London.
Breaking into the top 100
Ruud ended the 2018 season strongly with three semi-final appearances in Challenger Tournaments. Then, in 2019, after defeat in the qualifying round of the Australian Open, he made it to the second round of the Rio Open. It resulted in the Norwegian breaking into the ATP top 100 for the first time, achieving a ranking of 94.
2019 was also a year that saw Ruud make another three Grand Slam appearances – the French Open, the US Open, and for the first time, a first-round appearance at Wimbledon.
First ATP title
In February 2020, Ruud beat Pedro Sousa in the final of the Argentinian Open to claim his first ATP title. He became the first Norwegian in history to win an ATP title. Ruud also achieved an ATP ranking of 34, beating his father’s career high of a 39. It also meant the young Norwegian became Norway’s highest ever ranked tennis player.
Casper Ruud in 2020
I think 2020 would have been the year that Ruud made appearances in all four Grand Slam tournaments, but with the cancellation of Wimbledon due to the pandemic, he has had to settle for appearances in the other three again.
It was, though, Ruud’s best showing in Grand Slam competitions. He made it to the third round of both the French and US Open and the first round of the Australian Open.
It is a year that also saw the Norwegian get to the semi-finals of the Italian Open. And there was certainly no disgrace going out to Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-3.
Casper Ruud’s future is a hugely exciting one. It’s full of promise and hope, and I for one will continue to follow his tennis journey with interest.