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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday May 7, 2021

 
Casper Ruud

Norway's Casper Ruud has hit his stride on clay and there may be no turning back.

Photo Source: MadridOPen

Casper Ruud is rising in confidence at a rapid clip in 2021. The Norwegian, who recorded his first Top 5 win on Thursday in Madrid when he knocked off Stefanos Tsitsipas, is into his third consecutive Masters 1000 semifinal on clay after his victory over Alexander Bublik on Friday at the Magic Box.

Tennis Express


It has been a steady rise for the highest-ranked player in Norway’s history, and he has emerged as one of the game’s premier clay-courters—with one of the game’s most wicked forehands—in the last two seasons.

Casper Ruud on Clay:

Career Record, ATP Level: 57-28
Record since 2020: 27-9
Last 11 Matches vs. Top 20 on Clay: 8-3
Threepeat: Semifinals in last three clay-court Masters 1000 events

Wins like the one over Tsitsipas (his first Top 5 win) are exactly what Ruud needs right now. The ability to have success has always been there, but the confidence to pull of important victories against high quality opponents takes time.

“It gives you a lot of confidence, gives you belief in yourself that you can compete with these guys, actually beat them,” Ruud told Tennis Now during a Zoom press conference on Thursday. “It's probably the best confidence booster you can give to yourself. Those guys in the top 10 is what all the other players are looking up to, trying to figure out how to get there themselves. When you beat the players within the top 10, it feels that you're closer to reaching that goal than maybe if you're losing to them or losing to a lower-ranked players, for instance.”

Today’s follow-through victory over Bublik, which saw Ruud win eight of the last nine games en route to a 7-5, 6-1 triumph, don’t hurt either. Now that he’s reached three semi-finals at clay-court Masters 1000 events in succession, Ruud says he knows he can play elite tennis on the biggest stages in tennis.

I asked him today if he believed, with all his obvious abilities on clay, that he SHOULD be winning events like these. His answer might give you a window into his current mindset.

“Those I think are strong words,” Ruud said. “It still feels like I'm very new to this level, making the long stages at this level. I think now I've proven also to myself that it's just not a one-hit-wonder when I did my first one in Rome and the second one in Monte-Carlo. It felt even more like it was a new feeling. This is the third time. I feel more confident in myself. Knowing that I've been there twice before I think will hopefully help tomorrow.”

Ruud, who will rise to No.16 in the world at the very least in next week’s ATP ranking, could climb as high as 11 if he wins the title. He’ll face Matteo Berrettini in the semifinals on Saturday, the Italian he defeated to reach his first Masters 1000 semifinal, last year at Rome.

He may not believe he should be winning masters 1000 titles at this stage of his career, but it feels like Ruud's time is most certainly coming.

At the very least, Ruud believes he is a more complete player than he was a year ago, and it’s a trend that he hopes to continue.

“I think a lot of things have improved in my game,” he said. “Even though I don't do the big, flashy shots with my backhand, it has become a more reliable shot. I can play it more heavy in the defense than maybe I was able to before. I am still able to run around my forehand and go for the winners from that side. I'm definitely becoming a more complete player now than I would say I was a year ago, yeah, months and years ago.”

 

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