Game, set and match. Those words have become all too familiar for the world number 7 this year, Casper Ruud, who is riding an unbelievable wave of form. The Norwegian, known for his impressive work on the clay courts, has been lighting up Flushing Meadows this US Open, whilst showing significant signs of growth in his hardcourt game. The twenty-three year old may even be surprised by his own run of form in New York this fortnight, having beaten the likes of Kyle Edmund, Tim Van Rijthoven, Tommy Paul, Corentin Moutet and Matteo Berrenttini. These are some impressive scalps for Casper who struggled recently in his lead up match into the US Open, losing to nineteen year old, American rookie, Ben Shelton, in Cincinnati.
The average tennis fan would would have heard Ruud’s name associated with the red clay having won 8 out of his 9 career titles on the surface, including three this year in Gstaad, Geneva and Buenos Aries. His career best form has spanned over the past two seasons, sweeping clay court titles in Baastad, Gstaad and Kitzbuhel last year in a matter of weeks. The last player to win three consecutive titles in such a short period was Andy Murray in 2011.
Ruud has made a conscious effort in recent times to improve his hard court skills, proving that he can win tournaments on the surface. He won the ATP San Diego title last year, and will be hoping to go all the way this year to add a Grand Slam title to that mix. Silverware is not the only reward up for grabs this tournament – Ruud has the chance to claim the mens world number one ranking. With Daniel Medvedevs’ early exit this week, Ruud, Rafael Nadal, and Spanish teen sensation, Carlos Alcaraz, all have opportunities to claim the number one crown. It leaves the prospect of a mouthwatering final ahead. If Ruud and Alcaraz meet in the final, not only will they be competing for their first Grand Slam title, they will also be competing for the world number one ranking.
“I don’t want to think too much about it, honestly,” said Ruud on the race for number one. “It’s something that of course all young players dream about, so if I’m in a position to do it, let’s see if I can accomplish it… Of course, it’s a little bit of extra motivation to dig in, and even if you’re down on the score, to keep fighting. You never know what’s going to happen and if I’m very, very lucky I can leave New York as World number one, so I’m trying to go for it of course.”
Ruud’s fighting spirt and vicious forehand have been the catalyst for his success this week. His confidence is sky-high heading into his semi-final match up tonight with Russian, Karen Khachanov. The pair have met one time previously, with Ruud winning that match on clay. With Ruud starting to develop consistency on hard courts, is it possible we’re seeing a glimpse into a player who can contend for Grand Slams on a regular basis? You would have to imagine that Ruud will take over the reigns as the ‘clay court king’ once Nadal retires. He will definitely be in that conversation, along with Alcaraz and Lorenzo Musetti, who are both fast making a name for themselves on clay. None the less, the door to claim Roland Garros’ titles for the foreseeable future has swung wide open for Ruud. But, if you’re needing a recent sign of how much Ruud has improved, look no further. He is two matches away from claiming a maiden Grand Slam title on a non-preferred surface, and could potentially be world number one come Monday.