Casper Ruud: Confidence On Clay Growing Win By Win

Casper Ruud (photo: @MutuaMadridOpen/Twitter)

MADRID/WASHINGTON, May 7, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Thursday was a very good day in the life of 22-year-old Norwegian tennis player Casper Ruud. He beat a Top Five opponent for the very first time when he took down World No. 5 and fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, 7-6 (4), 6-4, reach the quarterfinal round of the ATP Masters 1000 Mutua Madrid Open in the Spanish capital city.

During the duration of the one hour and 34-minute, third-round tussle on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium, one lone service break, separated the 22nd-ranked Ruud from Tsitsipas, who last month began the European clay season by winning the Masters 1000 in Monte-Carlo, a tournament in which Ruud was a semifinalist.

Ruud praised Tsitsipas, 22, one of his contemporaries on the ATP Tour following the match during a virtual press conference attended by a small handful of tennis press including Tennis TourTalk. He expressed: “He is one of the best players this year on the Tour, one of the ones who has won the most matches. He’s won his first Masters 1000 in Monte-Carlo. Barcelona he was very close to getting the tittle there as well. But the conditions are a bit different here than other clay courts with the fast shots, the ball traveling faster through the air because of the altitude. You get a lot of free points with the serve that you don’t usually [get] on the clay courts. I think that also today went a bit in my advantage.

“I felt like he was doing some mistakes that he doesn’t always do. I was just trying to take care of the chances that I got.”

This season, Ruud is 10-3 on clay, with eight wins in his last 10 on red dirt. Overall, he’s 15-6 as he heads into Friday’s quarterfinal action against No. 44 Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, whom he has beaten once, two years ago in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Mutua Madrid Open is the third consecutive ATP Masters 1000 event that Ruud has advanced to the quarterfinals or better going back to last fall’s transplanted International BNL D’Italia in Rome.

When Tennis TourTalk asked Ruud what this year’s clay season done for his confidence and if his success on it has surprised him, he said: “It’s given me more and more confidence the more matches I’ve won. I’m feeling good, especially here in Europe on the clay.

“I think it was a part of the season last year that I was looking extremely much forward to and, unluckily, it was taken from not only me but all of the players when it was postponed and tournaments were cancelled. That was a shame. I think I just kept my motivation for a year and have the double motivation to be here this year. This was one of the tournaments we didn’t get to play last year. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and take care of the chances that I get. In Monte-Carlo and here, I’ve been playing really well and I hope to continue for the next week also as there are more tournaments left on the clay and I have a tough match [Friday].”

Daniil Medvedev: See you at McDonald’s, Daniil

It’s not uncommon during this era of virtual press conferences between the tennis press and players via Zoom that players are sometimes asked “non-tennis” questions. Most of time, players are pretty cool about it. For instance, earlier this week, men’s No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev was asked: “If you decide you want to eat something that is just absolutely disgustingly unhealthy, what would it be?”

Medvedev, who has a very good sense of humor and is quick on his feet to give a good and honest – if not sometimes funny – answer said: “What would it be? I mean, disgusting, I don’t want something disgusting. I want something good! Many times, when I lose a match or when I finish a tournament, I take McDonald’s. I like McDonald’s because it’s really good in Russia. It’s much less good in the USA and Europe, I don’t know for which reasons so I many times regret taking it. But, that’s kind of a child dream. Many times, if I lose a match, like when you are depressed, I don’t know, you take ice cream. Yeah, I take McDonald’s.”

One can only wonder if Medvedev went looking for the nearest McDonald’s in Madrid after losing to No. 16 seed Cristian Garin in three sets on Thursday?

Aryna Sabalenka: She just wants to have fun

During Aryna Sabalenka‘s virtual press conference following her quarterfinal win by retirement over her friend and doubles partner, Elise Mertens, Tennis TourTalk brought up the subject of the atmosphere surrounding Manolo Santana Stadium, specifically the music.

During a medical timeout, the TV cameras caught a glimpse of Sabalenka sitting at her bench singing along to the popular techno pop song “Friday.” Asked about it, Sabalenka said: “Yeah, I like this one (singing the lyrics to “Friday”). It’s a good one. Every time I hear this song, I start to dance automatically and like singing it. It was kind of good, like, switch off on the match. Right, it helped me to relax a little bit.”

Rafael Nadal: When Rafa speaks, everyone listens

After Rafael Nadal‘s second-round victory over his fellow Spaniard, the just-turned 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, there were many questions during the King of Clay’s virtual press conference about the #NextGenATP rising Spanish star. One reporter asked: “What is it about his game that you think shows promise for a good future for him?” Nadal spent quite a bit of time giving a thoughtful answer that eventually turned to tossing a salad with different ingredients. …

“Yeah, when somebody at his age is able to do the things that he’s doing is because you have something special, no? And at the same time, he’s humble enough to keep working. He’s passionate about the game So, I really believe that he’s going to be able to burn cycles very soon, very fast,” Nadal said as everyone took a keen interest in where this was going.

“I really believe that he’s a complete player. I mean, he’s brave, he’s able to go to the net very often. Great forehand, great backhand.

“Of course, needs to improve a little bit the serve, but he’s just 18 today, so he has plenty of time. As I said, he’s humble enough and he’s a hard worker, so I don’t have a doubt that he will do it, no? His movement is great.

“I mean, when you make a salad and you are putting ingredients inside the salad, he has, I mean, plenty of ingredients to become a great player. That’s the main thing. Then, of course, nothing is easy. You’re going to have big opponents in front. I mean, nothing is easy in this life. Be one of the best players in the world and fight for the most important titles is something very difficult, but I really believe that he’s one of the guys that he can do it.”

Alexander Zverev: At the end of the day, doing what he loves

This week in press with Alexander Zverev, the subject of his (lost) youth came up when a reporter asked: “When you look back, did you miss anything from your life because so much of it was being dedicated to tennis and becoming a pro tennis player?”

Zverev responded by saying: “Yeah, definitely. I think you miss out on the normal teenage life, a little bit of the parties, the going-out things. But I was always very determined. I knew what I wanted I knew that I had to be disciplined and work extremely hard for the things that I wanted to achieve, because if you want to have both, you’re not going to be successful.

“So, yes, I needed to let a lot of things out of my life, you know, from a young age, but I was happy to do that because now, at the end of the day, I’m doing what I love.”