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Norway’s Casper Ruud in 2021: Historic Top 10 breakthrough, 5 titles, Turin semis

Casper Ruud created history in 2021 by becoming the first Norwegian try to break into the top 10. Here’s our look back at one of the ATP’s Most Improved Players of the Year

Casper Ruud has been watched by tennis fans and experts for some time now after breaking new ground for Norwegian tennis last year. But in 2021, the Norwegian broke through into the elite level and moved from being a clay-court specialist to a legitimate hardcourt contender.

By the end of the season, Ruud had done enough to rightfully earn himself a nomination for the ATP Most Improved Player of the Year award, along with a nod for the the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award. That said, let’s take a look at some of the key moments from Ruud’s season.

  • Ruud’s ranking at end of 2020: 27
  • Ruud’s ranking at end of 2021: 8
  • Ruud’s 2021 win/loss record: 57/17 (third most victories on the ATP Tour)
  • Ruud’s titles: 5 (tied for second most on the ATP Tour)
Casper Ruud, ATP Finals 2021 – © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Ruud’s best Performance: Semi-Finals at the Turin ATP Finals

At the end of 2020, Ruud’s career record on hard courts was a meagre 16-27. While no one was surprised at his clay court prowess in 2021, not many had expected him to improve so rapidly on hard courts as well.

Ruud ended the season 27-10 on hard courts, including his first hard court title in San Diego and reached the quarter-finals at the Canada and Cincinnati Masters to help book his spot in the season-ending ATP Finals for the first time.

Once there, Ruud did not just show up but gave the top guns a run for their money on the indoor hardcourts in Turin. After going down in his opening round-robin match to top-ranked Novak Djokovic, Ruud defeated Andrey Rublev and Cameron Norrie to book his spot in the semi-finals where he went down to world No 2 Daniil Medvedev.

When the season resumes in January, Ruud will be one of the players to watch out for on the Australian hardcourts as he chases his breakthrough at a Grand Slam.

Ruud’s best Grand Slam performance: Fourth round of the Australian Open

Ruud, whose training base is the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, Spain, began the season on a high note by reaching the last 16 at the Australian Open, where he defeated Jordan Thompson, Tommy Paul and Radu Albot before retiring during his fourth round match against Rublev after going down two sets to love due to a a lower left abdominal strain.

His performance in Melbourne marked his first appearance in the fourth round at a Major – and also equaled his father’s best performance at a Grand Slam, which incidentally also came at the Australian Open.

While Ruud would undoubtedly be disappointed by his third round exit at the French Open and second round finish at the US Open, the manner in which he rebounded from those losses and qualified for the ATP Finals showed his mental fortitude.

Ruud’s low point: First round exit at Wimbledon

While no one was expecting miracles form Ruud on the hallowed turf of the All England Club, the Norwegian’s first-round exit at Wimbledon would have surely disappointed him.

After putting up consistently good performances through the first six months of the seaosn, Ruud went down to 78th ranked Australian Jordan Thompson in the first round at Wimbledon in five sets. Ruud bounced back from losing the first two sets in tiebreaks to level that match and take it to a decider before finally bowing out 6-7, 6-7, 6-2, 6-2, 2-6.

Casper Ruud’s High Point: winning three back-to-back titles on clay

Ruud rebounded from his disappointing exit at Wimbledon int he best manner possible – by winning clay court titles in Bastad, Gstaad and Kitzbuhel. This made him the first player to win three titles in as many weeks on the ATP Tour since Andy Murray in October 2011.

Casper Ruud on Social Media

Casper Ruud is active on Twitter and Instagram where he has been keeping his fans updated with his on-court and off-court activities, including his personal life.

Casper Ruud off the court

Off the court, Ruud has been honing his skills on the golf course and spending time with his girlfriend and his pet when he is not practicing.

Ruud’s self-assessment: “Proud”

Acknowledging the huge strides he made this year, Ruud said he was proud of his season and is looking forward to 2022, where he wants to perform better against the top players.

“I got the perfect feedback on what I have to work on in my game to compete with the top guys in the world for next year,” Rudd said. “I played the World No. 1 and No. 2 this week and they beat me fairly comfortably, so that makes me want to seek revenge and become a better player next year,” Ruud said at the ATP Finals.

If I can keep playing well, I can have another year like this year

Casper Ruud

“When next year starts, I will have it in the back of my mind. Every week and every match matters. It was only a couple of matches that made the difference of qualifying for the tournament. I am proud of the year and am looking forward to next year. If I can keep playing well, I can have another year like this year.”

Tennis Majors Assessment

While Ruud’s clay-court skills have never been in doubt, the Norwegian improved leaps and bounds on hardcourts. With his strong work ethic and young age (he turns just 23 later this month), Ruud’s game and mindset should help him win a lot of matches in 2022 and the years to come.

A breakthrough result at the Masters and the Slams should help propel him even further up the ranks next season.

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