Ruud Rolls Past Norrie In San Diego For Tour-Leading Fifth Title Of 2021

Norwegian claims first hard-court crown

No clay? No problem for Casper Ruud.

The Norwegian, who has shone brightly on clay, won his first hard-court title on Sunday by defeating in-form Briton Cameron Norrie 6-0, 6-2 n the final of the San Diego Open. All-time great Rod Laver presented Ruud with his trophy.

"Special thanks to Rod, obviously the legend. I think you need to come to all my matches now because I'm playing really good when you come and watch," Ruud said during the trophy ceremony. "I hope you will come to Indian Wells next week to watch, so let's see [what happens there]!"

The second seed battled past a series of tough opponents at the California ATP 250 — and lost just one set in four matches — to become the first player on the ATP Tour to lift five titles this season. Before 2021, he had earned just one tour-level crown.

2021 Title Leaders

 Player  # of Titles
 1) Casper Ruud  5
 T2) Novak Djokovic  4
 T2) Daniil Medvedev  4
 T2) Alexander Zverev  4
 T5) Hubert Hurkacz  3
 T5) Jannik Sinner  3

"It's a fun thing to say it, but obviously Daniil and Novak have bigger titles, so I wouldn't mind switching up with them if I had an opportunity to switch five 250s to three Slams and a 250 Novak has. It's a bit higher level, but that's fine. I think that's more impressive obviously than five 250s, but I will take it," Ruud said, cracking a laugh. "It would be fun to end the year with the most titles, I cannot lie about that."

Ruud will importantly climb into eighth in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin as he tries to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November.

The Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals alumnus made his mark early in the match, breaking in his first return game, and he never looked back. Ruud allowed Norrie to win just three service points in the first set, and that set the tone.

The Norwegian took advantage of uncharacteristically sloppy play from his opponent early and then dictated play from his backhand corner, unleashing heavy forehands to keep Norrie from finding his comfort zone.

The Briton, who upset top seed Andrey Rublev in the semi-finals, made a better start to the second set as he cut down his unforced errors. But Ruud hit a perfect backhand passing shot to go up 4-2, and showed no nerves in closing out the match after 62 minutes.

Ruud had never made an ATP Tour final on hard courts before this week. But he showed great balance throughout the tournament behind his physical baseline style and coming forward when he needed to finish points at the net.

The 22-year-old, who beat Andy Murray, ninth seed Lorenzo Sonego, former World No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov and Norrie to triumph in San Diego, has won all five of his finals this year. He credits a difficult defeat in last year's Santiago final for making sure he plays his best with hardware on the line.

"I tried to be playing really good in finals knowing it's now or never. This is the time to bring your 'A' game," Ruud said. "This year I've been perfect in finals, five of five and playing against good players in all of them."

Norrie excels on hard courts and like Ruud has enjoyed the best season of his career. But this year's Los Cabos champion was unable to add a second tour-level trophy to his resumé.

Did You Know?
Earlier this season, Ruud won titles in Bastad, Gstaad and Kitzbühel in three consecutive weeks to become the first player to win three titles in as many weeks since Murray in 2011.