Casper Ruud, by his own estimation, overachieved during the 2022 ATP Tour season. Following his defeat to Novak Djokovic in Sunday's Nitto ATP Finals title match, the 23-year-old Norwegian will finish the year at World No. 3 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
"In the end it's been disappointing to end up losing these big finals," Ruud said, reflecting on the past 11 months. "Overall, if you gave me an offer to end the year at No. 3, play the finals that I've played, at the 1st of January this year, I would probably sign the contract right away. No doubt about it."
Asked again about his record this year in finals, he later added: "It gives me motivation and a hunger to maybe next time, if I ever get to another final like this... I hope I can learn from what I have done this year and not been able to do and see how it goes. I just feel like I still have room for improvements, even though I'm very happy with my game and how things have turned out this year."
Ruud was particularly surprised by his run this week in Turin, the indoor surface not favourable to his looping ground strokes.
"This result to me is maybe one of the most surprising, finishing the year here on a blistering fast indoor hard court, making the final — not something that I found very likely," he said after his 7-5, 6-3 defeat to Djokovic. "Maybe neither did I, in the US Open, [expect] to make the final.
"I've overachieved compared to my own mind, so I'm very happy about that."
By surpassing his goals this season — which initially included reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final — Ruud has raised the bar for 2023. He is already eying his next big opportunity at the Australian Open, where he does not have any Pepperstone ATP Rankings points to defend.
"This year I was not even able to play the Australian Open, so it's a big chance for me to get some sort of revenge down there and hopefully have a good result," said Ruud, who will end the year 1,000 points behind World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz. "I look forward to going to Australia and starting a new season. I look forward to playing best-of-five sets again. I think for the Australian Open I can say I'm already hungry to have a good result and let's see how next year plays out.
"There will be a lot of points and results for me to defend [after Australia]. I hope I can do that and achieve even more. That's not going to be easy because this year I've done very well in certain tournaments, but I will try my best."
Ruud finalised his 2022 ATP Tour season with a 51-22 tour-level record, his second straight year with more than 50 wins. His many deep tournament runs have sent his match count climbing above 70 in each of the past two years, but Ruud is looking forward to another marathon season, with injury prevention among his main goals.
"I'm probably going to have more eyes on me from next year on. That's something I'm going to just try to deal with and see how it goes," he said.
"I'm just going to focus on the matches that I play, take it from there. When you're starting in Australia, you know you probably going to play tens of thousands of points in the year, hopefully if you have a good one, close to 80 or 90 matches. It's just one of many [tournaments].
"It's like the start of a marathon and you are motivated for it."