WATCH: Ruud's dogged determination saw him make four big finals in 2022, culminating with a runner-up finish at the ATP Finals in Turin.

Memorable Moment: Ruud reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal, semifinal and final at Roland Garros, where he finished runner-up to idol Rafael Nadal.

Missed Opportunity: The Norwegian came within two sets of winning his first major title and becoming world No. 1 at the US Open; Carlos Alcaraz would end up earning that dual distinction.

2023 Projection: Becoming a consistent factor at Masters 1000 tournaments and figuring out how to beat the best guys on the game’s biggest stages.


Ruud fell just short of four of the game's biggest trophies in 2022; can he do one better in 2023?

Ruud fell just short of four of the game's biggest trophies in 2022; can he do one better in 2023?

Before Casper Ruud was a serious young man, he was an even more serious little kid. A resurfaced video featured a then-13-year-old Ruud setting modest goals, both for that week’s tournament—“Quarterfinal, maybe?”—and for the future, predicting a Top 50 debut “if [he] worked hard.”


Ruud has indeed put in the work over the last decade, to the point that while his dedication is the envy of his ATP peers, the 23-year-old questions how much longer even he can maintain this intensity.

“I feel like I've been living professional tennis player life for 10 years already,” he said at the US Open, implying a sense of middle age. “Obviously, it's paid off well. The last two years, they have been great for me.

“I sort of feel like I'm going into what could be considered like sort of that I'm halfway in my professional career already. The next 10, hopefully 12, 13, 14 years, I can stay focused and determined and serious in my career.”

There’s that word again: serious, one that has long defined his off-court persona as much as his work ethic. In press conferences, Ruud doesn’t spout motivational quotes like Stefanos Tsitsipas or crack self-deprecating jokes like Frances Tiafoe. He answers questions the way he rallies: technically sound, if lacking much improvisational flair.


Some would call that boring. Others have become paradoxically endeared to Ruud’s mechanistic tendencies, seeing him caught between two idols—his father/coach, former ATP pro Christian Ruud, and Rafael Nadal—and trying to land somewhere in between.

“I got a lot of help from my father at a young age because he knew what this life, this career, if you want to have a good one, what it costs, what it takes,” Ruud said in New York.

“Already when I was 12 years old, I quit doing other sports, said I wanted to be a professional tennis player, I think he sort of said, ‘Okay, then I'm going to do as best as I can to help you.’ He knew that already from that age I needed to be serious.”

He quickly surpassed his father in his initial ascent, ending 2021 ranked among the Top 8, and though he remains a full 22 Grand Slam titles away from Nadal, his results in 2022 were as serious as anything else about him.


I feel like, of course, I've been playing great tennis this year, but I still feel like I haven't maybe peaked or played hopefully my best tennis of my life so far. Casper Ruud

He began the year a step slow when he had to sit out the Australian Open but made up for lost time in Miami, not only roaring into his first Masters 1000 final but also ending the notion that he could only compete on clay courts.

“I never felt like too bad on the surface playing on hard court, but it's just that my game seems to suit the clay a little bit better,” he said after defeating Francisco Cerundolo in the semifinals.

“Things changed a little bit now, but that gave me some confidence. And then I think I reached, was it three more quarterfinals I think in the 1000s on hard court last year, so that also gave me like good confidence and experience to feel like, ‘Okay, this is something I can do more often.’”

Ironically, it was the more “concrete” approach that shook him out of a clay-court rut this spring, precipitating a run to the Roland Garros final that filled in yet another resume hole.

“The Slams have been something I haven't performed as well as I hoped before, but this year the goal was really just quarterfinal when we started the year,” he said in Paris, echoing his 13-year-old self, “and here I am in final.”

“When you are a kid, you're just thinking, ‘Oh, it would be fun to be on TV myself one day playing.’ As I grew older and started playing myself, I was not like the super kid that was unbelievably talented. At least around the world I didn't stand out too much when I was 12, 13, 14, like other junior stars do.”

Other junior stars like Tsitsipas or Alexander Zverev both reached major finals sooner than Ruud, but both have struggled to match those heights, much less usurp the Big 3 the way they believed they would. Despite Ruud’s traditionally more modest goals, the Norwegian has edged past both where it matters by reaching a second Grand Slam final in Flushing Meadows, thumping an in-form Matteo Berrettini, and pushing Alcaraz to the brink in a hard-fought championship match.


“In Roland Garros, was hard for me to believe that I could beat Rafa,” he explained, contrasting his two runner-up finishes. “Today was not easier, but I believed it more. I think these two tournaments have sort of made my self-belief to win a Grand Slam grow. Hopefully these two experiences can help me.

“I guess I hope I don't play a Spanish player if I ever reach another Slam final,” he added, the serious man cracking a rare joke. “They know what they’re doing in Slam finals!”

Ruud peaked at No. 2 in the rankings after the US Open but arguably saved his most impressive performance for when he returned to the Nitto ATP Finals to compete in a crowded field of talented 20-somethings—and, not to mention, both Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Bettering his 2021 finish, he posted perception-boosting wins over Félix Auger-Aliassime, Taylor Fritz and former nemesis Andrey Rublev, who had won the first four matches of their rivalry, to reach his fourth big-time final of the season.

“Technically I'm not perfect at all,” he insisted after losing in straight sets to Djokovic. “Many things I can improve technically. My base as a tennis player has improved a lot this last year, but there are many things that I can improve, many things that I still find uncomfortable, shots that I don't feel comfortable hitting, especially maybe moving forward, coming to the net.

“I feel like, of course, I've been playing great tennis this year, but I still feel like I haven't maybe peaked or played hopefully my best tennis of my life so far.”

Good to know that, even as Ruud makes the transition from serious to dangerous, the young man remains as grounded as ever. Much as he may lack the so-called “X”-factor of his contemporaries, his single-minded focus is its own secret weapon—one that would make that 13-year-old kid wide-eyed with wonder as he achieves more than he’d ever dreamed possible.