Every week Baseline will select a “Player of the Week.” That athlete may not always win the highest category tournament that week, but perform the best compared to their recent playing history.
It isn’t often that you find a tennis prodigy in Norway, but for the Ruud family, you can say that the sport runs in their DNA. Christian Ruud reached a career-high of No. 39 in the rankings in 1995, higher than any Norwegian man in history.
Three years later, his son, Casper, was born. And if the 18-year-old’s performance at the Rio Open has shown anything, it is that he could challenge his father’s best ranking, and with it his country’s, sooner rather than later.
"We are both very competitive and both love to win at everything,” Casper told the ATP. “He is an essential part of my team. I don't feel any pressure that he was a professional player. In fact, it's the opposite; it has helped me a lot."
Christian Ruud was solid at a young age, competing in two junior Grand Slams. But his son made a far larger splash, reaching the top of the ITF Junior rankings just after his 17th birthday.
Perhaps what is more impressive has been his rapid ascent up the professional rankings. A year ago, Ruud was ranked No. 1,148. Now after a tremendous week in Rio de Janeiro, during which he came within a point of making the final, the Norwegian is up to No. 133. How about that for a year’s work?
Ruud may have been upset about missing a concert back home this week, but little did he know that he’d make more prize money in one week than he had in his entire career previously. With a wildcard entry, he won his first, second and third tour-level matches in just his third ATP World Tour main draw appearance.
Entering the week at No. 208, Ruud ended up on the fringe of the Top 100 after holding a match point against world No. 23-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta.
Even though he eventually lost the semifinal against the gritty Spaniard, 2-6, 7-5, 6-0, Ruud made it clear that he belongs.
Thanks for all @RioOpenOficial it's been an amazing week, it hurts like never before right now, but I'll do all I can to bounce back up!!????????????— Casper Ruud (@CasperRuud98) February 26, 2017
He was up a set and a break against the favored Carreno Busta, using his forehand to control points, even on the slow red dirt of Rio. At 4-4 in the second set, the Norwegian held after a 14-minute game. After hanging on, Ruud earned his sole match point the next game on Carreno Busta’s serve, but didn’t manage to put the ball in play.
So while Ruud did eventually lose the second set and the decider (convincingly), he certainly impressed the field, even catching the eye of eventual champion Dominic Thiem.
"I saw him (Ruud) for the first time here in Rio and I was very impressed. And Norway didn't have a big player for a long time". - #Thiem— Rio Open (@RioOpenOficial) February 25, 2017
Dream runs aren’t new for Ruud; he went through qualifying in his first-ever ATP Challenger in Seville last fall to win the tournament.
"Norwegians really like to see young, home-grown talent making progress," Ruud said.
Also thanks to everyone for all positive feedbacks and kind words it motivates and helps a lot!!????????— Casper Ruud (@CasperRuud98) February 26, 2017
The Norwegian talent made a lot of progress this week, and both his country and the world have taken notice.