Casper Ruud, in season 2022, has managed to achieve a feat that almost defies belief. This US Open, Ruud had the almighty opportunity to clinch the world number 1 spot solely if Carlos Alcaraz lost at an earlier point in the tournament to him. For a player who has never won a tournament above ATP 250 level (the lowest level of men’s professional tournaments, 1 tier above the Challenger tournaments), it is almost unfathomable that the most prestigious position in the world was his for the taking. Despite his poor record in finals above the ATP 250 level, one thing must be acknowledged: Casper Ruud has picked up enough points at every level of competition, without ever being the outright winner in any of the highest level of tournaments.
In years gone by, tennis has been blessed with phenomenal players who have never touched the number 2 ranking, let alone the number 1 ranking. Stan Wawrinka, winner of 3 grand slams, never peaked at any higher than world number 3. Juan Martin del Potro, winner of the 2009 US Open against an almost peak Federer, also never touched the number 2 ranking in men’s tennis. David Nalbandian, one of the most electric baseliners in men’s tennis history, never became world number 2 despite playing at a tennis level which went toe-to-toe with the Nadal and Federer at their prime.
However, Casper Ruud defying expectations with his ranking his not a first time occurrence in the slightest. Less than a year ago, Casper Ruud clinched a number 8 ranking in the world, despite never making to to the quarterfinal of any slam. In his whole career up to that particular point in fact, he had only once made it to the 4th round of grand slam. To add to this further, Casper Ruud also never even made a Masters 1000 final at that point. In history, only Ivan Lendl and Marcelo Rios have ever clinched the world number 1 spots without winning a slam at that time. However- Ivan Lendl won the equivalent of the ATP finals, as well as 5 Masters 1000 titles. Marcelo Rios also won 3 Masters 1000 titles. In all of history, those are the only 2 players who have ever come remotely close to achieving the world number 1 spot without winning a major.
Casper Ruud has the ability to be an incredible player that perhaps maybe even be remembered amongst all the players who have played the game in the past 50 years or the next 50 years. However, it maybe certainly be a trivia question for the ages if Casper Ruud gains the number 1 spot without adding more to his resume. A grand slam win will silence the critics. A loss will surely add more questions over his ability to win big titles. Hypothetically, given the season is not even over, Ruud is more than capable of sneaking in several more 250 tournaments and finish the year as the year end world number 1.
All in all, If Casper Ruud was to hypothetically lose the US Open but obtain the world number 1 spot in a few months time, would he be the worst ever world number 1 in men’s tennis history?