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The rise of Casper Ruud

  • Matt Trollope

In 2020, Casper Ruud showed clear signs of his potential thanks to a maiden ATP title, a first Masters-level semifinal in Rome and his top-30 debut.

But in 2021 he truly made the tennis world notice his presence.

He collected five ATP titles, developed into a consistent force at Masters events, won 56 matches and became the first Norwegian player to ever crack the world’s top 10.

He also enjoyed a Grand Slam breakthrough at Australian Open 2021, and it’s there where we begin to document his rise to elite top-eight star.

15 February 2021: Fourth round at Australian Open, cracks top 25
Ruud advanced to the last 16 at a major tournament for the first time at Melbourne Park, before an abdominal injury ended his prospects during his fourth-round match against Andrey Rublev. Despite that disappointment, it was an impressive result given it came on a different surface to his preferred clay and saw him emulate his father Christian, who reached the same stage of the draw at Australian Open 1997.
(Rankings rise after Australian Open: +4 to world No.24)

16 April 2021: Reaches Monte Carlo Masters semifinals
In his second tournament of the year on clay, it didn’t take Ruud long to find his groove. He beat a succession of seeds – Diego Schwartzman, Pablo Carreno Busta and 2019 winner Fabio Fognini – to arrive in the semifinals, where eventual champion Rublev again stopped him.
(Rankings rise after Monte Carlo: +3 to world No.24)

8 May 2021: Advances to Madrid Masters semis, cracks top 20
Ruud made it back-to-back Masters semifinals by reaching the final four in Madrid; he did not drop a set along the way, progress that included wins over 15th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. While Matteo Berrettini ended his campaign in the semis, Ruud had already built an 11-4 win loss record on European clay in the spring, and jumped 10 ranking places in that same span.
(Rankings rise after Madrid: +6 to world No.16)

23 May 2021: Wins ATP title in Geneva
Ruud improved his clay-court record to 16-4 after storming through the draw in Geneva, dropping just one set en route to the 250-level title. He had slipped back to world No.21 after not playing in Rome – and thus not defending his 2020 semifinal points – but restored his ranking with a winning week in Switzerland, capped with a 7-6(6) 6-4 triumph over No.2 seed Denis Shapovalov. It marked just the second ATP title of Ruud’s career, but the first of five he would win in 2021
(Rankings rise after Geneva: +5 to world No.16)

31 July 2021: Post-Wimbledon clay-court sweep
After losing to Jordan Thompson in five sets in the first round of Wimbledon, Ruud returned to clay and made a statement with three consecutive ATP 250 titles – Bastad in Sweden, Gstaad in Switzerland and Kitzbuhel in Austria. While dominant in Bastad and Gstaad, the 23-year-old laboured in Kitzbuhel, extended to three sets in all but one of his matches and forced to save a match point in his quarterfinal against Mikael Ymer. He ultimately beat Pedro Martinez in the Kitzbuhel final to become the first player since Andy Murray a decade earlier to win trophies in three successive weeks. In that same timeframe he built an 11-match winning streak and improved his ranking by four places.
(Rankings rise after Kitzbuhel: +2 to world No.12)

13 September 2021: Cracks top 10 after US Open
He may have fallen in the second round at Flushing Meadows to Botic van de Zandschulp, but it was enough for Ruud to ascend to world No.10 as Shapovalov exited the top 10 for failing to match his quarterfinal run in 2020. Earlier in the North American summer hard-court swing, Ruud made back-to-back Masters quarterfinals in Toronto and Cincinnati.
(Rankings rise after US Open: +1 to world No.10)

4 October 2021: Wins first career hard-court title in San Diego
After heading home and notching two wins in Davis Cup play for Norway, Ruud returned to the United States and enjoyed a brilliant week on the hard courts of San Diego. He beat Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov on his way to the final, where he crushed the vastly-improved Cameron Norrie 6-0 6-2. It was his fifth title of 2021 and the first of his career off clay. He then headed to Indian Wells and took his winning streak to eight matches before a fourth-round loss to Schwartzman, a run elevating him to world No.9.
(Rankings rise after San Diego: none)

RELATED: The rise of Cameron Norrie

25 October 2021: peaks at world No.8
A week later, Ruud hit a career-high ranking of No.8, then went on to make indoor hard-court quarterfinals in Vienna and at the Paris Masters. Reward for his consistently excellent results came in the form of a debut at the ATP Finals in Turin, where he advanced to the semifinals – helped by a first career victory over Rublev.