Rafael Nadal plays the game like no other: Casper Ruud | Tennis News

I want to be remembered for being a nice guy, says Norwegian
Casper Ruud’s breakthrough form in 2022 which took him to maiden Masters and Grand Slam final sparked his charge in the US Open swing, which the world No. 5 opened with a semifinal showing in Montreal last week. The 23-year-old Norwegian, marked out as a clay-court specialist, now dares to dream big on hard courts.
Excerpts:
How would you describe your relationship with hard courts?
If you’ve played on clay for months and then come to hard court, it is nice because every ball will bounce in the right way. There are no wrong bounces on hard courts. Reaching the final in Miami (in April) was an important step in my career, I know I can have a big result on hard court as well. I didn’t think I could reach far in these big tournaments on hard courts because other players were better on hard courts. At the same time, the clay court game can work on hard courts too. Rafa (Nadal) has won the US Open so many times. (Dominic) Thiem, the one Grand Slam he has won, is on hard courts. Yet he’s known as one of the best players on clay.
Can you describe how Nadal competes? What’s it like to go up against him?
Playing Nadal best-of-five on clay is not something many can be prepared for. I’ve practised with him many times, but a match is always different, especially in a Roland Garros setting, the final. He wants to win every point, which makes it so tough physically. He plays every single point as if it’s his last point. Against most players you’ll get some unforced errors, some mistakes, of course against Rafa too you’ll get it, but it doesn’t feel like a free point. He makes you work for it. He’s greedy and doesn’t give away too many mistakes. He plays the game like no other.
Every player wants to win every point, but Roger (Federer), Novak (Djokovic) and Rafa have a different mentality from the rest. It is tough to break through that wall. Rafa takes being competitive to a different level. I have learnt a lot from being at the Rafa Nadal Academy, we practise. When he steps on the court he switches on a button, he wants to win every single point, but as soon as he steps off the court, he’s a very nice guy. It’s incredible how he’s able to switch on and off so quickly.
Did your father Christian’s success help him as a coach? When then did it become your dream instead of his?
I started playing tennis before I can even remember. It was my father who started me off, bringing me to the courts. As I grew older, I was watching tennis on TV, looking up at those players – Federer, Djokovic and Rafa – who are still the best today. That’s where it really started for me. The first memory I have of watching TV is Rafa winning his first Roland Garros title. I was six and he was wearing his green sleeveless tee. I decided that I wanted to play on TV.
It became more and more serious the older I got. My father was a big help because he pushed me in the right way. Coming from a small country like Norway it was important that my father had done it before. My father was commentating for almost six seven years. He realized then that if you want to do well in this sport you have to have a big weapon. Roger and Rafa have their forehands, playing it with power and precision, Novak has a better backhand, it is a little better than his forehand. He is such a complete player. You need a weapon to be able to reach far in this sport. We have worked very hard on developing my forehand, it has become a killer weapon.
Samir Banerjee spoke about how good and open you and your family were to him during the ATP Finals in Turin last year. As a former No. 1 junior, what is your advice to him?
After I became junior No. 1 I started playing Futures. I was able to play a lot of matches in the Futures, reach a lot of finals, win tournaments. Then when I played my first Challenger ever, I came through the qualifiers and won the whole thing. That kind of changed everything for me. My ranking moved from 550 to top-250. Then I could play Challengers pretty much every week.
My advice to Samir is to keep trying to improve. But knowing that if you are going through hard times everything can change in a week if you have a dream week. He obviously has the level and skills to go far. He’s the Wimbledon junior champion, he has to have a bright future. It is different playing the men’s though. Especially in the Futures and Challenger Tour they will eat you alive if they can and you really have to be ready for it. Every player there really wants to succeed and reach far and are willing to do a lot of things to reach far and win, that’s a little bit different from the juniors, so just keep going.
How important is being a nice guy to you?
Even though we are all competing and there’s plenty on the line, it is important to show respect to yourself and those around you. Applauding a good shot from the opponent helps you see that other players can do good things as well. That is something my parents wanted me to do, be a good person along with being a good tennis player. As I grew up it became important to me as well. I want to be remembered for being a nice guy. It is hard to describe a nice person, but it is easy to recognize a nice person when you meet him or her.

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