Casper Ruud, the afterthought
Even with all of this success, Ruud was still an afterthought in the mainstream of tennis minds. Sure, he was a nice player racking up titles against weaker fields, but he had not done anything on the big stage to prove his worth. Enter the 2022 season for the Norwegian.
The man from Norway bagged three more clay court trophies for his cabinet, but it was the Finals he made that introduced him to the world; Masters 1000 in Miami, Roland Garros, the US Open, and the Nitto ATP Finals.
While his run to the French Open final in 2022 saw him routed by Nadal, it clearly gave him a confidence boost that he rode all the way to New York where he reached the Final at a hard-court Grand Slam event squashing any remaining doubts that he was a one-trick player.
Ruud buoyed his self-belief that he belonged in the upper echelon in the game when he capped the year by making the Finals of the year-end championships on an indoor hard court. A far cry from the clay courts in Gstaad or Geneva.
This was followed by an off-season exhibition tour with the great Rafael Nadal that while a once in a lifetime opportunity, it clearly hampered his game to begin this season. Ruud struggled for consistency as the clay court season began. But, as he has done his whole career. he steadily improved and raised his game to meet the moment.