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“Happy that the match will not be played in Philippe Chatrier” – Ruud looks forward to Nadal clash after beating Auger-Aliassime

After beating Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets, world No 4 Casper Ruud will take on Rafael Nadal in his next match on Tuesday

Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud at the 2022 French Open Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud at the 2022 French Open Image Credit: AI/Reuters/Panoramic

After a fantastic season which saw him reach his first Grand Slam final and then his second as well as win three ATP titles, Norway’s Casper Ruud came into the season-ending ATP Finals in Turin, Italy on a poor run of form.

Outside of team competitions such as the Laver Cup and Davis Cup, Ruud, ranked No 4 in the world, had won only two matches in his last four events.

However, on Sunday, Ruud got off his ATP Finals campaign to the perfect start with a straight sets win over Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, the most successful player in the post-US Open stretch indoors and now coached by Toni Nada

“I know that he will be very motivated because he has a lot to play for this week” – Ruud on Nadal

With the win, Ruud has put himself a good start to repeat his run last year where he reached the semi-finals in his ATP Finals debut. Up next for the 23-year-old will be Rafael Nadal, the top seed and someone who had been coached by Toni Nadal for a very long time.

Ruud grew up idolising Nadal and when the two faced off in the French Open final this year, the Spaniard won in straight sets 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in their first and only meeting so far. For Ruud, he is happy that Tuesday’s clash will not be on the Philippe Chatrier court, where Nadal has won 14 French Open titles.

“I’m happy that the match will not be played in Philippe Chatrier in the final of the Roland Garros because he’s unbeatable,” Ruud said after his win on Sunday. “Here at least people have beaten him before. I’m not saying this will change everything due to the fact that I consider maybe clay my favorite surface. Like I said, margins are a little bit smaller here, slimmer on the indoor fast court like this. You get more free points than maybe on clay. Let’s see. He hasn’t played that many matches lately. I have not either, but I played more than him at least. It’s going to be interesting. I know that he will be very motivated because he has a lot to play for this week. I’m sure he knows that in the back of his mind. I will try to use the fact that maybe I’m the underdog.”

Ruud admitted that the fall swing had been tough for him, especially the tournaments in Asia because he hit a wall and felt physically tired. Now the Norwegian is back in the groove and wants to give his best at the final ATP event of the season.

“It’s more thinking that, Here we are, the last tournament of the year, let’s try to give it the last push, give everything you have left in the tank,” Ruud said. “It’s been a long year, like everyone knows. Most of us have played close to 70, even 80 matches this year. It’s going to be obvious that some of us are quite tired. But you’re trying to think it’s the last push, it’s the last sort of sprint. If you are running a marathon, you are on the last turn, I guess, before the finish line is there. We still have some to give.”

Ruud, who established himself as a top hardcourt player in 2022, feels that his game has improved considerably on the surface.

“Over several years I’ve been working on my hard court game. I feel like I’m improved a lot. I’m able to hit a little bit flatter. I’m able to move better. I can defend better on the surface. I’m also serving and returning better. I’m happy to say things have improved, but there are still many more things I can improve compared to the best hard court players or hard court indoor players in the world,” Ruud said. “I’m just not thinking too much about that I have to change many things from clay to hard court. For sure you need to be able to hit a little bit more flat and go some bigger shots, take a little bit more risk, and accept maybe there will be more mistakes, but in the end, you will maybe have more winners. It’s tough to say that I am improved more on this or this. In the end I think a lot of things on my game have improved a lot.”

It’s clear that no one is doubting Ruud’s capabilities on hardcourts. Not even the Norwegian himself.

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