Coaches' Corner: Christian Ruud
When Casper Ruud sought advice growing up on how to pursue his dreams of being a professional tennis player, he needed to only walk down the stairs of his house.
The #NextGenATP star’s coach is his father, Christian Ruud. Christian is a former ATP Tour player who remains the only Norwegian to crack the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings, peaking at No. 39 in October 1995. ATPTour.com spoke with him during his son’s maiden appearance at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
How would you assess Casper’s season overall?
I think he had a bit of a slow start to the season. He was almost training too much in the off-season. We were training for a lot of hours at the Rafa Nadal Academy [in Mallorca] and it paid off in the end, but it was a little bit hard to get going.
He’s been much more consistent this year. His lowest level has gone up, so he can still beat good players when he’s not playing his best. His top level has also gone up, and he’s had many good wins this year. He’s just improved his game overall.
Casper talked about how missing his first chance to be in the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings [at 2017 Rio de Janeiro] impacted him mentally. As a former player, how did you guide him during those difficult moments?
It was tough that year because he played a few matches for a Top 100 spot and that’s your first ultimate goal as a tennis player. I tried to put it to him in a different way. Maybe you got a little but lucky in Rio, maybe the draw opened up in your favour. He could have played Dominic Thiem in the first round and gotten zero [ATP Rankings] points.
Don’t misunderstand, he played great. But he was not yet at the level to play that way week in and week out. He had to go back to the ATP Challenger Tour and it’s still not easy to win there. But he had a decent season last year, coming back strong after falling outside of the Top 200 and almost finishing inside the Top 100. Now he’s well inside the Top 100. It’s been a good ride, so we have to be happy with this season.
From your experience on Tour, what are the things you wish you knew that you’re trying to pass on to him now?
When I was playing, it was a bit more separate. You had clay-court guys and then guys who were good on faster courts. But now, you have to be good on every surface. Casper has gotten most of his [ATP Rankings] points on clay this year, and we did that so he had the best chance of breaking into the Top 100, but now he has to improve on the faster surfaces.
I think he’s a good hard-court player. He made his first [tour-level] quarter-final two months ago in St. Petersburg. He’s taking small steps in all the right departments. It’s all about training the right way, having a good schedule and listening to the body so he can hopefully play for many more seasons.
Is it ever difficult to separate the roles of being a parent and being a coach?
Maybe when he’s younger, but now he’s a grown-up. I feel more like a coach and also a friend now because we travel and go out to dinners together. It’s not like I’m babysitting him.
We have a good relationship. He respects that I was a player on Tour and respects me as a coach. He was the one [who] wanted me to be his coach when his other coach quit 18 months ago. I’m just trying to help him be a good player and a good person.
How has it been adapting to the unique format of this tournament?
It’s been fun because every point is so exciting and one set can go so quickly. One break of serve and the set can almost be over. He’s aware that a few points can separate the difference between winning and losing. You have to take your chances and be focussed on the big points. Hopefully he can achieve that during the week.