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Honest Ruud on facing Djokovic and Nadal: “They have this ability to step up when they really have to, that I don’t have”
The Norwegian admits that the game’s two biggest stars have something inside them that he has been unable to match, yet
Casper Ruud has been a breath of fresh air at the top of the men’s game in 2022, his steely determination on court matched by a refreshing honesty when it comes to talking about himself.
That includes when he is talking about his limitations, or moments when he has found the going too tough.
Taking on Djokovic, Nadal a challenge he has yet to conquer
In a year when he has won three more titles, reached two Grand Slam finals and the final of the ATP Finals, those moments have been relatively few and far between.
He will finish No 3 in the world this year. But when it has come to the crunch, in the biggest finals, against the biggest players- including two all-time greats – the Norwegian has been found wanting. He’s not the first and he won’t be the last.
At the French Open, it was Rafael Nadal who saw him off to win a record 14th Roland-Garros title; at the US Open it was an inspired Carlos Alcaraz and at the ATP Finals, he lost again to Nadal and then to Novak Djokovic in the final.
Taking on Djokovic and Nadal has been a bridge too far. He’s 0-4 against Djokovic and 0-2 against Nadal and he has yet to win a set in those six battles.
“I think those two players, Novak and Rafa, are exceptional of course,” he admitted after Sunday’s final in Turin. “They have this sort of ability in them to step up when they really have to, that I don’t have. That’s something I can try to improve for sure.
“They always seem to win the close points, the close sets. I have been on the losing side when I played players like them.
“I have played Novak some times now, and every set that I lost, not every set has been close, but some sets have been 7-6, 7-5, so on. I just can’t seem to step up when I really need to.
“That’s what their abilities are so great and have been for so long. That’s something of course I wish to develop, have confidence in myself that that I can do it. Hopefully this year can contribute to that confidence.”
Ruud’s bad luck to come up against giants of the game
Ruud can consider himself a little unlucky to face such stars of the game in his first major finals. Nadal, after all, played Mariano Puerta in his first slam final at the 2005 French Open and Djokovic met a raw Jo-Wifried Tsonga when he won the Australian Open. Ruud played Nadal in Paris, Alcaraz in New York and Djokovic in Turin.
“I’ve had many experiences this year in losing these finals,” he said. “”It’s just going to try to motivate me to win them if I ever get to them again.
“If you look at the opponents I’ve played, it’s been tough. You have to say that Rafa in Roland Garros and Novak here, it’s probably some of the toughest challenges that we have. I don’t feel very bad that I wasn’t able to beat them.
“But it gives me motivation and a hunger to maybe next time, like I said, if I ever get to another final like this, I hope I can learn from what I have done this year and not been able to do and see how it goes.”