Sports

Casper Ruud Is Norway’s Answer to His Father

In October 1995, Christian Ruud became the highest-ranked Norwegian tennis player ever. He was No. 39 in the world, reached the round of 16 at the 1997 Australian Open and represented his country at the Olympics three times.

It took about 26 years, but in February 2020 Ruud’s ranking was eclipsed — by his son, Casper, 22, who has obliterated his father’s accomplishments, winning four ATP clay-court tournaments this year, and reached a career-high No. 10 ranking.

The former No. 1 junior player, Casper Ruud lost in the second round of the United States Open to Botic van de Zandschulp, an eventual quarterfinalist. But, his stellar season prompted Bjorn Borg to include him on his eight-man European team in the Laver Cup. His father is his coach.

The following conversation has been edited and condensed.

Do you remember the first time you beat your father?

Yes, I do. I was 14 or 15, but my dad thinks I was 16. We had spent a year playing tournaments all over Europe, so we stayed home the next year to work on my physique and developing my character on court. On the weekends, we would try to play a little bit against each other.

After a couple of tries, I beat him 6-2. He wasn’t too pleased because he didn’t play well. He gave it away with a lot of mistakes.

Christian Ruud, right, congratulating Casper Ruud after he won a match in the ATP Cup group stage in Australia in January 2020.Credit…Paul Kane/Getty Images

You’ve had most of your success on clay courts, but the Laver Cup is indoors on a hard court. How will you adapt?

My kind of game suits the clay better. The way I hit the ball is with a pretty good amount of topspin. It’s a heavy ball that bounces up from the clay courts. But I shouldn’t forget that I grew up half the year playing indoors on a hard court because Norway is a cold country.

Your Laver Cup teammates will be among the best in the world. If you could take one stroke from Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev and Matteo Berrettini, what would it be?

From Medvedev, I would love to have his return of serve. With Zverev, the backhand is pretty phenomenal. I think Tsitsipas has got great hand skills on the net and great volleys.

It’s tough with Rublev and Berrettini because they have deadly forehands, but I’m going with Rublev’s forehand and Berrettini’s wicked slice on the backhand side. Then I have it covered.

No, I’m going to go for Berrettini’s serve. Then I can leave the slice for myself.

What is your hometown, Snaroya, best known for other than you?

It’s by the sea and very nice and calm. The Oslo airport used to be a kilometer away from where I grew up. They moved it outside Oslo the year I was born, but they kept the runway there as a historic site. When it comes to sport, all the kids play soccer in the summer and hockey in the winter. And they go boating in the summer. It’s also known for tennis because my dad played.

If you could have dinner with one famous person, who would it be?

I would say the Canadian singer the Weeknd. He’s an artist I’ve listened to a lot and really like. He’s a star around the world now, but when I started listening to him he was more anonymous, a bit darker than he is now. I would be pretty star-struck if I were at that dinner, but it would be cool to meet him one day.

Did you set any goals for this year?

It’s tough to set goals by numbers. At the beginning of the season, I said to myself that if I could end the year in the Top 20 it would be a great year. Now, I’m in the Top 10.

But it’s more important to end the year Top 10, not just get into it for a week and then drop out. The result at the end of the year is the really big achievement.

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