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"This was very giving": Casper Ruud's front-row seat to Federer's farewell and Nadal's touching tears
The world No. 2 never dreamed of being side by side with Roger when he bid adieu. "I enjoyed the moment, realizing that this will be probably some of the best days of my life."
Published Sep 29, 2022
LONDON—While Casper Ruud didn’t get to opportunity to put Team Europe on his back in the final match at Laver Cup, gratitude was the one word that defined the Norwegian's once-in-a-lifetime experience.
For the second year running, Ruud was the European squad’s third and final selection based on ATP rankings thanks to his breakout final run at Roland Garros. The 23-year-old would later back that up with a second major runner-up showing at the US Open, before Roger Federer announced he would retire at the men’s team competition.
It was a scenario no one, including Ruud, could have imagined falling into place. And as fate would have it, Ruud was nominated by captain Bjorn Borg to kick off his team's bid on the opening day ahead of the Maestro's last dance.
Before the world No. 2 launched his Asian swing in Seoul with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Nicolas Jarry, TENNIS.com caught up with Ruud for his perspective on being courtside at The O2 Arena.
After it was announced you were joining Team Europe, you wrote, “Am I dreaming?” on Twitter. Tell me about the contrast to a year ago when you completed the team in Boston?
RUUD: Last year, it was also similar to get picked last on the team. And I played with the players who are better than myself on a young, strong team. This was obviously different with the Big Four—the legends—and I was surrounded by them all the time. Our first official team dinner after the media event was fun with a good vibe.
I enjoyed the moment, realizing that this will be probably some of the best days of my life.
It’s never easy being the first one out on court, but Bjorn tipped you for that Friday. How was that, kicking off the event in the buildup to Roger’s final match?
RUUD: I had a great start. Sort of not relaxed, but nice to get that out of the way. And then Jack (Sock) broke me back when I was serving for the set, which was tough to accept. He played an unbelievable game with some great volley winners coming to the net. So not too much I could do there. Got it back luckily; broke him to win the set.
And the second set, I felt good all along, but just wasn't able to break him. Played a poor service game at 5-all, which can happen. And then the match tie break was back and forth, didn't start well. Won many points in a row and then stumbled a little bit towards the end. So was just very happy to get that 1-0 on the board for Europe.
The obvious questions: what was it like for you standing mere feet away from Roger when match point was over and all that followed? And reaction to seeing your idol Rafa get so choked up?
RUUD: I felt very lucky and privileged to be so close. Roger came after the match straight away and hugged all his teammates, which was very nice and an incredible moment for me. As I watched him on TV all my childhood, I never expected to be there and that close when he said goodbye.
He and Rafa both got very emotional. That was touching to witness—how they have been some of the greatest rivals in sports history, but at the same time, are such good friends. Just incredible.
What did everyone do after leaving the court given how late Friday’s night session finished?
RUUD: We were still quite emotional and sort of was tough to know what to say. Roger got up and held a little speech for us, which was very nice. He was grateful for all his years of course, but especially that we were all with him and that he could share the moment with his biggest rivals and some of his best friends on tour. I was just happy to be there.
Then we went back to the hotel; it got pretty late. It was tough to fall asleep and I'm happy that I didn't have to play. But the team did such a great job when we came back Saturday, winning three out of four matches.
What did it mean to share this priceless experience with your family and team?
RUUD: It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us. I got to share it of course with my teammates, but my family, friends, girlfriend, I think they also enjoyed it. They were watching from the stands every day. I just feel very grateful. When the time comes that the other three—Rafa, Novak and Andy—also say goodbye, I hope I can be there because this was very giving.