During the first two months of the 2020 season, Casper Ruud was a man on a mission. After posting a pair of Top 20 wins at the ATP Cup to start the year, Ruud earned ultimate bragging rights over his father Christian, a former Top 40 player, with a week to remember in Argentina.
At the Buenos Aires event in February, the 21-year-old became the first Norwegian to win an ATP title when he triumphed over Pedro Sousa, and in the process, surpassed his father's benchmark ranking of No. 39 to also become the highest-ranked player in his nation's history by climbing to No. 34. Ruud would finish his Golden Swing at 8-2, adding a runner-up effort in Santiago, Chile, before the ATP tour was forced to pause for five months.
This week, following a third-round appearance at the US Open, Ruud has added another milestone to his 2020 resume. In defeating Karen Khachanov, Lorenzo Sonego and Marin Cilic, the Next Gen ATP standout contested his first quarterfinal at the ATP Masters 1000-level against No. 4 seed Matteo Berrettini on Saturday, and prevailed, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5), in just under three hours to extend his best run—another first for Norway.
TENNIS.com caught up with Ruud to learn more about his success at the Foro Italico and who he's been training with, and later put him on the spot for a specially-designed quickfire.
Well done on your week of success. You began by defeating three players you hadn't faced before on tour. What’s that challenge been like as you get back to competing on your preferred surface?
I’ve been pumped up because we’re playing on clay again. I was looking forward to the clay-court events in the spring after [having] a good run in South America to secure playing main draw in all those tournaments in Europe. It’s a different time of year in Rome, but it’s nice to be here.
I’ve been ready for it, playing clay before during this season. Khachanov and Cilic didn’t play the clay-court events earlier this year, so it’s been a year-and-half since they played on clay. I think that’s one of the reasons, but I’ve also been playing well, fighting good.
After your third-round showing at the US Open, did you fly straight to Rome, stay in the bubble for a period, go home?
It was a bit difficult, because I finished on Saturday. So I went home to Norway Sunday and stayed there for two days, flew to Rome last Wednesday morning. It was nice to be at home, not have to wear the masks. It was a tough situation to know where to go, but Norway’s been pretty good with the virus, so it was easier for me to go there first.
Who have you practiced with this week? Any interesting sessions you can tell us about for your first event back on the dirt?
I practiced with the King of Clay, Rafa of course. A session one of the first days I got here. Obviously I’m down at his academy as much as I can be, but I haven’t seen him for a while. So it was nice to catch up a little and do a good training session. I’ve been practicing with Schwartzman and Ramos a couple times, Anderson as well. I’ve tried to mix it up a little, trying to play with different styles so [I'm] prepared for everything. Couple lefties and righties, big servers. It’s been working out well.
You beat Matteo Berrettini at last year's French Open but he just got you at the US Open. How does it feel to have him across the net as the opposition?
Even though I won in straight sets last time we played on clay in Paris, it was a very difficult match. He has a great serve, really fast. More than 200 k.m. almost all the time with his first serve. He can be pretty tricky, has some fancy shots here and there, got good hands.
I'll try to get as many balls back as I can in play, and do what I’ve been doing the last three matches, feeling good from the baseline, trying to control the rallies as much as I can. Sometimes you have to play defense, but we’re all looking to be on the offensive.
During the pandemic, you began uploading content to an alternate Instagram account. So in honor of that, I have a themed quickfire for you.
Do you prefer to tee it high or tee it low?
I tee it pretty medium I would say, with the driver at least (smiles). It's not too high or low. I’m pretty focused on what I’m doing, so always try to do it exactly the same.
Which course is at the top of your bucket list to play?
I think everyone wants to go to Augusta to play, but the chances are slim to none. It’s on many bucket lists. The place they’re playing now, Winged Foot, where they’re playing the U.S. Open, looks pretty amazing. It’s not far outside New York, so maybe that’s a good chance to play one time. Anytime I’m in the states, I try to find nice courses because states is like a mecca for golf. I can name many to explore.
You get to spend the day learning from one golf champion, who is it going to be?
I have to go with the basics and say Tiger. He’s special and won so much, was so dominant for so many years. One of the biggest legends of the sport.
Which three tennis players would you invite to create the ultimate foursome for a head-to-head challenge round?
Rafa is really good at golf, he’s about a scratch handicap. I’ve heard Daniel Evans plays well. And Ivan Lendl is also a very good golfer. I would do this because I would like to have a high level on the round. I prefer to play to try and improve. You want to have fun but it’s nice to also have a good challenge.
And would you pair up with Rafa or want a shot at a head-to-head-win?
I’d choose Rafa as my partner. Then he could carry the team.