The 21-year-old Casper Rudd will lead Norway at the inaugural ATP Cup, trying to reach the quarters from the challenging group D against Russia, Italy and the USA. Norway is among the smallest tennis countries that secured a spot at the ATP Cup and it was Casper who achieved that honor for them, making steady progress through the ATP ranking list to finish the season just outside the top-50.
Last year, Ruud and his family (his father Christian is a former top-40 player) had moved to Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca where he and his sister started full-time courses with Toni Nadal and other established coaches. In 2019, Casper jumped in front of some 60 rivals on the ATP list, winning 23 ATP matches and advancing into the first ATP final in Houston, together with other notable results on his beloved clay, having a chance to play against Roger Federer at Roland Garros.
Hoping to improve his game on the hard court even more in 2020, Casper is eager to find those 10 or 20% more in his game that would make him a top-10 contender one day, working with the desire and dedication at the Academy and having a chance to learn a lot from Rafael and Tony Nadal.
"I always felt I need some extra 10 or 20% to get my game to the desired level, that's what separates top-10 players from us in the top-60," Ruud said. "At Rafa Nadal Academy, they have helped me to improve my physical shape and strokes, it is stimulating to have Rafael and Toni Nadal around you, together with some other upcoming youngsters.
After splitting with my coach in February 2018, I trained in Norway with my dad Casper, making nice progress but feeling I need to be surrounded by other players. Nadal is one of my idols and when they invited me to the Academy there wasn't a single reason to turn down the offer; I went to Mallorca with mom, dad and a younger sister who also plays at the Academy and attends the school there.
Practice sessions with Rafa are an incredible experience, if he goes with 100% intensity in matches, there's 120% involved on the practice court; he rips the ball so hard and goes with risky shots, knowing he can turn the pace down during the matches if necessary.
That has been working for me as well; I'm trying to go for the shots during training, hitting with higher intensity and faster balls and also working on things you don't dare to take on during matches. When I practice with Rafa, he gets to push me around and I'm usually exhausted after a couple of hours; those sessions are very tough to endure but at the same time, you can learn a lot from them."