Kasper Ruud knew he had a lot to do this season. After making his Nitto ATP Finals After debuting to complete a 2021 breakout campaign, he was prepared for an ever-increasing challenge as he struggled to cement his place in the game’s elite.
The Norwegian delivered great performances, even exceeding his own expectations as he conveniently booked a return trip to Turin. After finishing last season at No. 8 in the Pepperstone ATP rankings, this year he rose to No. 2 in the world after winning three titles and reaching the finals in Miami. Roland Garros and the US Open.
“People sometimes say that staying in the top 10 or top 5 can be harder than getting there [the first time] because now you have all these other players who are kind of chasing you and coming from behind and wanting to kick you out and replace you,” Ruud told ATP Media on media day in Turin. “It’s a challenge but I was able to do well enough to be back here this year and I’m very happy about that.”
While Ruud enjoyed strong support from his players’ box in Italy last year – “I think every seat in the box was filled by my family and my team,” he said – this year his entourage will include two new guests: his grandmothers.
“You won’t get too much,” Ruud said of the VIPs. “Sometimes they get a little frustrated with me for not inviting them over too often. They’re great, but like all grandmothers, they can sometimes be a bit much,” he added with a smile. “But of course I love her and it’s nice for her to be here for the first time.”
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With his doting family in tow, the Torino 2021 semi-finalist has enjoyed being back in the familiar surroundings of the Pala Alpitour, where each player has the luxury of their own dressing room with their picture on the door and decorating the walls inside. Unlike last year, Ruud’s outstanding season sealed his qualification for Torino with time remaining.
“It’s a lot more comforting to know that you’ve qualified for some time. It was so stressful last year,” he said, reflecting on the race between himself. Hubert Hurkacz, Jannik sinner and Cameron Norrie. In the end, all four competed in Turin – Ruud and Hurkacz as direct qualifiers, Sinner and Norrie as substitutes. But experience made Ruud hungry to secure his place earlier this year and the Norwegian was successful in that quest, clinching qualification with a win in Seoul at the end of September.
“Think about that when you start the year,” he said of the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. “The first game of the year, you’re like, ‘I want to have a good year’ because you know there’s going to be that in November Nitto ATP Finals, and you hope you can achieve it. To be able to do this for the second time this year is very special.
“I knew this year was going to be an important and challenging year for me because when you make the top 10 for the first time or the first year you make that tournament, you know next year you have to defend everything what you may have done.”
After a grueling season in which he played 22 tournaments and racked up 48 wins, will Ruud still have enough in the tank to make a deep run in Torino?
“Let’s see. I hope so,” said the 23-year-old. “It will be difficult. You’re trying to pretend somehow that it won’t be the last time.
“This is such a great place, great city to play in. The Italian fans are so passionate that from the moment you step onto the pitch you will feel the energy that hopefully can lift you up a bit no matter who you are or who you play… you really know what they do here in Italy when it comes to tennis and that’s a great feeling for us.”