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‘High expectations can be dangerous’ – why Casper Ruud is trusting the process ahead of Rome

The Norwegian has had a comparatively poor start to the season but is hoping to reboot it in Rome

Casper Ruud Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell 2023 – Day Two BARCELONA, SPAIN – APRIL 18: Casper Ruud of Norway looks on during day two of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell at Real Club De Tenis Barcelona on April 18, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain. (Imago/Panoramic)

Casper Ruud knows that he has not lived up to the standards he set for himself last year – but heading in to Rome he hopes that he will be able to revitalise his season, with three more Grand Slams still to play for.

“I knew that this year was going to be a big challenge because the things that I did last year is not maybe going to happen every year you play,” he told journalists. “To reach two Grand Slam finals, obviously the Nitto ATP Finals in the end of the year, it’s not something that I expect to do every year. Obviously I’m trying my best.

“The thing is, when you’ve done something before, to reach for example a Grand Slam final, you know that it can happen again because you have been able to do it before, so why not again? I think your expectations are a little bit higher coming into tournaments, which can be dangerous.

“If it doesn’t go well, you think, What am I doing wrong? What happened? Last year I was able to do this, why can I not do it this year? It can be a little bit challenging.

“I said the main goal this year is just to try to defend some of the tournaments, some points, try to keep myself in the top 10 in the end of the year, is something that will still be my main goal.”

Ruud: I’m fresh, motivated, and ready

Last year, Ruud won three titles on clay – in Buenos Aires, Geneva and Gstaad. In fact, all but one of his ten ATP crowns so far have come on the surface.

The 24-year-old has a decent record in Rome, reaching the semi-finals last year, losing 6-4, 6-3 to Novak Djokovic – the same opponent who beat him in the 2020 semi-final, 7-5, 6-3. (Ruud’s 2019 campaign was marked with the bizarre episode of a Nick Kyrgios default in the second round, when the Norwegian was 6-3, 6-7 (5), 2-1 up.) Having reached only one final so far in 2023, he will be looking for something of a resurgence on courts that have proved his friend previously.

“It has not been the best start this year. I have a lot of points and tournaments to try to catch up on. But I think it’s still many months to go during the year. It’s a long year, as we know. Maybe the fact that I didn’t play too many matches in the beginning of the year can help me maybe for the rest of the year, that I’m feeling fresh, motivated, ready.

“I feel good, like, playing-wise. I’ve just been losing some matches here and there to players who have been playing really aggressive, really well. Last week in Madrid when I lost to [Matteo] Arnaldi [6-3, 6-4 in the round of 64] – he said after the match it was the best match of his life.

“It’s sort of like when players play like this, you have to accept there are so many great players these days that have a big potential. There’s so many Italian players who are top 100, top 200 in the world. It’s incredible to see how many Italian players are coming up.

“Yeah, I feel good, but of course I want to try to do better in the next months.”

Ruud: I’m still doing the right work

‘Trusting the process’ is something that a lot of players talk about, and the Norwegian explained what that means to him.

“Things will obviously go up and down in one’s career. You won’t be able to perform at your best every single match you play for the rest of your career.

“For me, I’ve been sort of expecting like a little down period to come at some point in my career. But it’s not fun when you’re in it. You just want to get out of it and try to find your game, try to find your best level.”

He added: “When you’ve done something in the past, incredible, last year where I reached two Grand Slam finals, and this year I haven’t been able to do well in the big tournaments, I’m sort of thinking, What’s going on here? I did it last year, so why can’t I do it this year?

“It shows that I’m able to do it, but have I just sort of stopped in the place with my level and all the players have become better or how is it?

“I realised that so many matches during the year, it’s decided by a couple of points. The margins are small. Last year maybe went too much in my favor. This year it’s been going a little bit opposite direction. But I’m still doing the right work, practising hard, motivated. It’s a long year, and I still have many years hopefully in my career to try to find my form again.

“I’m just going to try to have a good tournament here, maybe get a couple of wins hopefully, and see what can happen now in the nearest future.”

‘The year is so long anyway’

And he is even seeing the bright side of an early exit from Madrid, as it meant he got to spend some time at home.

“I can only blame myself because I lost early. I would obviously like to do better in Madrid than I did. But if you lose early, you lose your first match in Madrid, it is two full weeks before you play again in Rome, which can be a little long.

“At the same time the year is so long anyway, to have a little break, to go home for me was very nice. I hadn’t been home very much since February anyway, so it was a nice opportunity to go home a little bit.

“We’re back here in Rome. It’s still three, four more weeks of the clay season. Four, five weeks even. I’m hoping this last sort of stretch of clay tournaments can be giving for me and sort of try to remember from last year what I did well.”

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