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“I think I need to step up a little bit and take some more risk” – Casper Ruud seeks subtle change to spark better results
Casper Ruud is looking for ways to impose himself on the clay, and seeking to change the tone of his 2023 season in Madrid.
2023 has been a bit of a mixed bag for Casper Ruud, as the fourth-ranked Norwegian has produced an 11-8 record, but only managed to win back-to-back matches at one event, in Estoril, where he went 5-0 to claim his tenth ATP title.
Ruud isn’t exactly worried about his form, or completely out of sync with his game, but the 24-year-old is aware that he needs to make some changes in order to find his best tennis on the clay, where he will soon be defending semi-final points in Rome and final points in Geneva and at Roland-Garros.
In short: here on the Europen clay, is Ruud’s time to shine. He says he needs to pick up the pace with his forehand in order to make that happen.
Ruud – I want to be a little bit more unpredictable
The Oslo native admits that he hasn’t played with the clarity or execution that he possessed last year, and that has led to more opportunities for his opponents to attack him.
What can he do to change that? Step up the aggression…
If you look at the best players in the world, they play aggressive, they take control of the points and they take charge, and lately I think I’ve been sort of hoping a little bit too much for mistakes from the opponent.— Casper Ruud
“I think playing more aggressive especially with my forehand, it’s what I rely on and my strength in my game,” Ruud said. “I think I haven’t been able to play aggressive enough, or hit too many winners from that side lately.
“I think I need to step up a little bit and take some more risk, maybe throw in a drop shot here and there and sort of keep my opponents on their toes, sort of wondering: ‘What’s coming from Caspers’ forehand now?’ I want to be a little bit more unpredictable maybe from that side and I think that’s something I will try to work on this week.”
Ruud says hours of discussion with his team has enabled him to better understand the nuance of his game in its current form, and the small difference between thriving and struggling.
“We’re talking all the time together with my team, how I feel on court or what I felt didn’t go good or what did go or didn’t go so well and so on,” Ruud said. “I’m playing a little bit too defensive sometimes, and I’m playing a little bit too short sometimes so I think the players that I play have a little bit too [much] time to step in and play aggressive against me, and that’s something that I need to change.
“If you look at the best players in the world, they play aggressive, they take control of the points and they take charge, and lately I think I’ve been sort of hoping a little bit too much for mistakes from the opponent.”
Don’t expect Ruud to be playing with reckless abandon when he takes the court in Madrid this week (second-round match against either Benoit Paire or Matteo Arnaldi).
“Everyone has their own game style,” he said. “Me, I just hate doing mistakes by overpowering, or going for too big winners. So that’s sort of something that I need to change maybe a little bit mentally for me, to play a little bit more aggressive, take some more risk and go for some shots that I typically won’t.
“At the same time, I’d like to think that the playing style that I have has taken me pretty far already – there’s no need to change too much other than trying to play with a little bit more dedication in the rallies and play a little bit more depth so that my opponents can’t attack me as much.”
Nothing to be worried about
Though it has been a slow start by his own lofty standards, Ruud’s performance has had some highlights in 2023. He captured the title in Estoril and is 6-2 overall on the clay this spring thus far.
He’s not as far off the pace as his overall record might lead one to believe. It’s just a matter of winning a few big matches and building up the confidence that took him to two major finals and a career-high ranking of No 2 in the world in 2022.
“I do believe that I’m a little bit closer than what it maybe seems sometimes, that I can win this matches and I think what I have sort of experienced from this year … and the last years is on tour is that many of the matches on tour are decided by four or five six points here or there that can change a match completely,” he said. “In many cases this year those points I feel like I’ve been going against me so it’s my job to try to turn it around and find a way to win those important points.”