Casper Ruud: the Martin Ødegaard of tennis
Teenage Norwegian tennis player ranks first on junior tour, prepares for adult competition
Norwegian American Weekly
At only 17, Casper Ruud is already following in the footsteps of his father, Norwegian tennis legend Christian Ruud. The teenage tennis star from Bærum has earned the spotlight not only in Norway but also on the international scene.
In 2014, Ruud became the youngest athlete to ever win the Norwegian Championships in tennis at the age of 15. The following year, Ruud won the Norwegian tournament a second time, made it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Junior Championship, won the prestigious Osaka Majors Cup junior tournament, and took his first senior points.
Following such an outstanding year, it is no surprise that Ruud started off 2016 ranked number one worldwide for singles on the junior tour, becoming the first Norwegian to reach the number one spot.
“I was aiming to make it into the top ten in 2015, so being number one is very fun,” said Ruud to NTB.
“We must be proud and excited about this,” said the Norwegian Tennis Association Sports Director, Øivind Sørvald. “It is important for Casper, and it is important for Norwegian tennis. It will be noticed internationally and is perhaps more important for smaller nations where tennis is not as big.”
And his 2016 successes were just beginning. On February 13, Ruud took his first win in an international senior tournament at the Futures tournament in Spain against Spanish Carlos Taberner. The Spaniard had easily won the first set 2-6, but Ruud continued to battle for the victory. In the second set, the Norwegian trailed 3-5 but won three consecutive games before Taberner tied it up again, leading to a tiebreaker. After an even start, Ruud eventually won the battle for the seventh game and secured a third set, which he dominated, winning 6-0.
“I did not play very well in the beginning. But then I thought that I just had to give it one last chance and got it together. It seemed like he was a little nervous, and he began to miss some easy balls. Then I believed in it and used it to my advantage,” said Ruud to NRK.
Ruud credits many hours of mental training as a key factor in his success and thinks it is one of his primary advantages over his competitors.
Although he is no stranger to winning matches, a victory in senior competition is especially significant as the tennis player transitions into the new, tougher level.
“I had it as a goal to win a tournament like this one this year. And to manage it so early gives me an unbelievably great feeling. It is great for my self confidence, so I just need to use that to continue on in the same way,” he said.
With this win against Taberner, Ruud gained 18 ATP-points, which moved him from a ranking of 1146 to around 800.
“It’s not so bad with such a leap in the rankings. My goal is to get among the 500 best in the world during the year. Then I will begin to start directly in the tournaments,” he said.
His father and trainer—who ranked 39 at his best—agrees that the top 500 is a realistic goal for his son this year.
On April 10, Ruud made it to the final of the Junior Masters in China. Unfortunately he lost 5-7, 3-6 to Hong Seong Chan of South Korea but was happy to have made it that far.
“It has been a very good year so far—I’ve climbed a bit in the men’s rankings, and I will probably play some more men’s tournaments this year. And also the French Open junior and Wimbledon junior, which will be some of the highlights this year,” he said to VG.
As of April 11, the Norwegian reached a ranking of 657, approaching his goal of making it into the top 500.
This article originally appeared in the April 29, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.