CASPER RUUD – How big can he become?
Many of you maybe never saw Casper Ruud playing or even heard of him, but i sure hope that will change. In my eyes, he has a lot to offer.
I first saw Casper Ruud, the 18-year old Norwegian, in the middle of last season when he played on a claycourt Challenger in Seville.
I kind of fell in love with his game at first sight and hoped to see more of him.
Now when he stepped on the big scene in Rio, I decided to write my observation about his potential.
Assessing a young player who is digging his way into pros is not easy, but there are some factors which increase the probabilty of successing in the ”pro league”.
Firstly, we all look at someone’s results on the junior tour, but there is so much more than that and certainly not a guarantee to shine on the circuit. You can read a research about the correlation between junior and pro Grand Slam winners. Many of succesful juniors later failed to deliver.(http://lastwordonsports.com/2015/06/26/slam-junior-champion-future-tennis-pro-not-assured/)
Therefore, I will just briefly describe Ruud’s career as a junior. In 2016 he was No.1 in juniors, he has not won any of the Grand Slams though. At the start of the last season he decided to play as many pro tournaments as possible. Starting on the Futures circuit his first Challenger tournament came in Seville on clay. And guess what? He won the tournament, coming all the way from qualifications.
Similar story this week in Rio. Before that, he never won an ATP match (he only played two before that) and he wasn’t even supposed to play Rio but a Challenger tournament in Japan. His agent arranged a wild card for him, which obviously paid off.
Let’s now look beyond the numbers.
What are some areas that I quickly noticed with Ruud (for some others areas, you need more time to assess them)?
First of all, technique, has to be assessed in relation to efficency which suits the player’s game style.
Ruud’d forehand seems the most reliable and potent shot. He has a quick wrist movement which results in massive power, when he tries to dictate and finish the point.
Double-handed backhand is not his best shot, but at the same time not a big liability. The head of his racquet on that wing is relatively open, which leads to less spin but potentially more power. To play competitive on that side, especially on clay, you have to possess a lot of touch.
On both wings, I see some similarities with Nick Kyrgios and interestingly they both use the Yonex racquet.
His serve is reliable and already reaching good speeds, both on first and the second serve.
He rarely comes to the net, but when he does, he stays solid and knows how to approach.
Return is where most of the juniors have much space left, especially on faster surface. The same goes for Ruud.
From what I have seen, he is very disciplined with his game tactics and patterns. He is constructing the point with his forehand but being patient enough to wait for the right ball to attack. Most of young guys lack that.
Most of them also try to go for too much when getting on the back foot. Ruud stays in the rallies and waitng to counter-punch.
Much of that is probably related to great strenght in legs and upper body, especially in comparison with some of his peers.
Casper seems not just to be a big talent but also a big fighter, which makes almost the perfect combination. He loves to fight for every point on court.
We have seen many talents not reaching their potential due to lack of fighting spirit and commitment.
That way, we can be optimistic, Ruud won’t be tanking matches like some of the other players in the TOP100.
Winning a first Challenger tour he attended and getting into the semis of a Masters 500 in Rio, after not having an ATP win under his belt before that week, is surely a good sign. He didn’t seem to be afraid of the big occassion, although he missed a match point for getting into the finals against Carreno Busta. In tough moments, he sticked to his game plan and seemed to trust himself.
And doing all that, at the age of 18 is remarkable.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
What is great about Ruud is the fact that he is already on a high level in many aspects of tennis, but still has much room for improvement.
Stamina is surely the most visible one. Having a tough schedule in juniors is one thing but when you hit the big stage, the higher the guys are ranked the better physically they are prepared for long matches.
For now, clay is by a mile the favorite surface of Casper Ruud. To be at the top, you have to adapt your game style for faster courts. Getting used to less time when preparing for a shot, being solid on the return and stepping in. Not an easy task, if we look at Dominic Thiem, he is still standing meters behind the baseline on the return and still often lacks timing on faster courts due to his big swing.
I touched only some of the most important factors for making a proper transition into pros. There is also work ethic, commitment to tennis, team around you, discipline. Those are the factors that are yet difficult to assess.
But one thing is sure, he seems to have all the weapons needed to become a shining star on the curcuit.
If he shows the performance of Rio on the upcoming tournaments, he could even skip the Challenger grinding and get almost straight onto the ATP tour. A very difficult task though. As average age in the TOP100 is rising, experience and good fitness level is obviously much needed to have consistently good results.
Even if Ruud soon reaches for higher places, sooner or later a crisis will occur. How he will respond to it, could give us a better example of how big he can really become.
P.S. Be sure to hit Youtube and see some of the Ruud’s highlights of this week in Rio, if you have not watched him before.