As always when clay season arrives, Casper Ruud proves he can play with anyone. The Norwegian talent, semifinalist at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia last year (when he also challenged the world number 1 Novak Djokovic), reached the penultimate act both in Monte Carlo and in Madrid in 2021.
In the Principality his race was arrested in front of Andrey Rublev, while in the Iberian capital it was Matteo Berrettini who prevented him from hitting his first ever final in a 1000. The 22-year-old leaves Caja Magica with excellent sensations, having taken away the satisfaction of eliminating Stefanos Tsitsipas along his way.
A few hours ago the news came that Ruud will not take part in the Masters 1000 in Rome next week, a choice perhaps dictated by the need to recharge the batteries in view of Roland Garros. Casper has a respectable record on this surface, with 53 wins versus 28 defeats.
In a press conference at the Mutua Madrid Open, Ruud admitted that he has received a lot of advice from Rafael Nadal and his uncle Toni in recent years.
Casper Ruud pays tribute to Rafael Nadal
"Pedro Clar is the one who travels the most with me," Casper Ruud said.
"We have a very good relationship. He's here this week. He's been with me with some of my biggest tournaments and wins. When I won my first tournament in Buenos Aires, my first semi-final in Rome last year, Pedro was with me.
I think it helped me a lot." The Norwegian went on to attribute a part of his recent run of strong results to the 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal himself. "I must mention it - Rafa has helped me a lot in recent years, to reach this level, it's obvious," Ruud asserted.
Toni Nadal is now part of the coaching team of Felix Auger-Aliassime, whom Ruud beat in the first round at Madrid. However, the Norwegian revealed that Toni still gives him advice from time to time. "Getting help from Toni is invaluable as well and although he helps Felix more personally, he is still involved in my tennis," Ruud said.
It is highly unlikely that Nadal will play another tournament apart from the coming Italian Open 2021. Italian Open 2021 finishes by the 16th, which gives Nadal just two weeks to prepare for French Open. He will use that time to rejuvenate and prepare for it rather than play another tournament.
At the Italian Open 2021, Nadal has no scope for improving his ranking. The Spaniard still has 1000 points from his 2019 triumph, hence he can only lose points and further widen the gap between him and Medvedev. The dip in ranking can be attributed to Nadal’s poor form in the clay tournaments. Nadal was already World No.3 when the clay-court season began.