I’m not too sure why Casper Ruud gets a rough press, he even has done from some notable fellow players but the Norwegian lets his tennis talk as should those on tour who have critiqued him.
Earlier this year after Wimbledon we saw the Norweigan win a hat trick of clay court tiles and this then came with criticism as he raved towards his top ten debut. Casper became the first player since Andy Murray to win a hat trick of titles on the tour which is a great accolade but it asked a question, can he do it on the hard courts?
That was the quest, Wimbledon was over and he had a return to Europe for a few weeks ahead of the American hard court swing with a place in Turin on the cards.
He answered those critics.
Montreal – Out in the third round, lost 1-6 4-6 to Tsitsipas having beaten Marin Cilic in three sets to open his week
Cincinnati – Out in the third round, lost 1-6 3-6 to Zverev having beaten Reilly Opelka in three sets and Diego Schwartzman in two.
At this point going into the US Open there was a theme, good wins but there was a big gap between the fellow members of the top ten. His US Open ended in round two against the inform qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp.
San Diego – Wins over Andy Murray, Lorenzo Sonego and Grigor Dimitrov before beating Cam Norrie 6-0 6-2 in the final.
Indian Wells – Went out in the third round to Diego Schwartzman (who he beat in Cincinnati)
Paris – Another third round exit, this time it was to Zverev against as in Cincinnati but a much better battle from the Norwegian who lost 5-7 4-6.
ATP Finals – Turin
I have enjoyed watching Casper this week in Turin, it has been a learning curve but he has shone in the tournament. He is one of few debutants in the last decade to make the semi-finals and will take valuable lessons from his wins and defeats.
He worked his forehand into the tournament well, these courts were quite quick and we saw that injection of pace from the Norwegian who turns 23 just before Christmas. I do still think there is work to do behind his backhand when hitting in neutral rallies through the middle of the court, it has improved in the last couple of years but I think he will find another level.
Ruud did get a taste of another level against the top two, Novak Djokovic (losing 6-7 2-6) and Daniil Medvedev (losing 4-6 2-6) in the semi-finals. I don’t think he should look back with negativity, these two are the very best in mens tennis and Daniil in particular was relentless on Saturday afternoon.
It did highlight a slight problem, Ruud struggled to create many openings against one of the best tacticians in the game and on the hard courts needs to find more than just the slice forehand and lashing his forehand, overall a positive week and year for him.
6-7 2-6 vs Djokovic
1-6 6-3 6-4 vs Norrie
2-6 7-5 7-6 vs Rublev
4-6 2-6 vs Medvedev
SF at Monte-Carlo & Madrid
3 top ten wins