‘Crosscourt Casper’ now delivering Ruud awakening down the line

Norwegian beefs up backhand options to work his way back to top of the game
April 26, 2024
By Paul Macpherson

Casper Ruud has made a living dictating with his forehand. Scouting reports generally say the crosscourt backhand is solid but don’t expect any five-alarm fires down the line.

That appears to be changing. It may seem like a subtle shift to some, but the Norwegian’s willingness to develop a penetrating down-the-line backhand has caught opponents by surprise this clay-court season and been a significant factor in his run to the Monte-Carlo final and his first ATP 500 title in Barcelona.

Analysis from Tennis Data Innovations and Tennis Viz shows that Ruud has hit 23.6 per cent of backhands down the line on clay this year, compared to 21.9 per cent of the time when playing on hard. He’s also putting more of those high-risk shots into play on clay (88.4 per cent vs. 82.6 per cent).

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"Definitely in Barcelona I was making it a lot and in Monte-Carlo generally it was working well,” Ruud told this week in Madrid. “In the [Monte-Carlo] semis against Novak there was one that set a break point and in the third set I hit one down the line where I seemed to surprise him a little bit.

"The element of surprise is always good in this sport and if you can develop shots that you haven't hit before it can work out well."


The TDI data also shows Ruud is hitting his down-the-line backhand with more speed (70 mph vs. 66 mph), less spin (2292 rpm vs. 2322 rpm) and with far more accuracy, landing the ball within 1m of the sideline 22.5 per cent of the time vs. 19.9 percent on hard.

"Cross is the play most of the time, but if I have the opportunity, which I do a bit more on clay, then I like to use it more,” Ruud said.

"Clay gives you a few extra split seconds to think about where you want to hit the shot. For me the cross is more natural but when I have a little more time to set up a shot it's a little easier to go down the line if I am on the back foot or on defense.”

Already 2024’s match-wins leader with a 29-7 record according to Infosys ATP Stats, Ruud has the opportunity with a deep run at the Mutua Madrid Open to surpass Daniil Medvedev in second place in the PIF ATP Live Race to Turin as the 25-year-old looks to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the third time after missing out last year.

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