Cool Competitor

Casper Ruud’s Signature Professionalism

By Emilie Moeller

Men’s professional tennis has seen a notable breakthrough from what many are calling the “next generation,” a group hallmarked by names like Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner, and Casper Ruud, who have dared to challenge “The Big Three” trio of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal. 

One could spend plenty of time analyzing Alcaraz’s superhuman agility or the baseline aggression that has catapulted Sinner, but this story is not a tribute to the classical markers of talented tennis players. Rather, it is about the poise amidst the toughest losses, the professionalism during the rawest of competitions and the undeniable grit in reaching some of the biggest stages in tennis that have put Casper Ruud on the map.


Ruud was no stranger to tennis growing up in Oslo, Norway. His father, Christian Ruud, was a professional tennis player himself, achieving a career-high ranking of 39 in 1995 and holding the title of the highest-ranked Norwegian male player until his son surpassed him. Coached by his dad, Ruud started his road to the top as a junior, achieving a No. 1 ranking in January 2016. Two years later, he battled through the 2018 Australian Open qualifiers to reach the main draw of his first Grand Slam.

Ruud achieved a Top 10 ranking as world No. 8 in 2021, but it was his 2022 French Open run that bolstered his place among the next generation to watch. The 2022 French Open was Ruud’s first Grand Slam Final (the first for any Norwegian man, in fact), and one where he would face his childhood idol and mentor at the legend’s namesake academy since 2018, Rafael Nadal.

“He’s a perfect example of how you should behave on court, never give up, never complain … he’s been my idol all my life,” Ruud said on court after securing the semifinal victory over Marin Cilic and a ticket to the final.

“He’s the last player of the ‘Big Three’ and the very, very top player in the world I have never faced. To finally play him in a Grand Slam final will be a special moment for me. Hopefully a bit for him as well.”

The final was slated as one to watch — a match-up between two clay court aficionados, the master versus the student, the legend versus the up-and-comer. And yet, the outcome was sadly quite different. The Spaniard defeated the 23-year-old in straight sets, not even dropping a game in the third.

Despite the heartbreaking result, it was impossible to find Ruud dwelling on the outcome. Instead, the player on the podium and at the press table was gracious, and respectful of his opponent and what he had accomplished in his own right.

“Of course, I wish I could make the match closer and all these things,” Ruud said. “But at the end of the day, I can hopefully one day tell my grandkids that I played Rafa on Chatrier in the final. They will probably say, ‘Wow, did you?’ I will say, ‘Yes’ … I’m probably going to enjoy this moment for a long time.”


Ruud reached his second major final in September later that year when he faced Carlos Alcaraz in the youngest U.S. Open final since 1990, a final that also had the No. 1 ranking on the line. In a four-set thriller that was decidedly closer than his first Grand Slam final, Ruud again came up short for the title.

“I’m disappointed of course that I’m not No. 1, but No. 2 is not too bad either,” said Ruud on Arthur Ashe, following the championship match. “I will continue to chase my first Grand Slam and the No. 1 ranking.”

Ruud’s attitude and cool composure did not go unnoticed. In December 2022, he was selected by fellow players as the winner of the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award. While the award itself is an accomplishment, perhaps more impressive is the nearly 20-year streak Ruud broke to receive the honor. Federer and Nadal, two players synonymous with professionalism, had taken turns accepting the honor for 19 consecutive years.

Though it didn’t bring a Grand Slam title or No. 1 ranking with it, 2023 has still been a substantial year for the young Norwegian. He reached the French Open final once again and secured Team Europe’s only points in the 2023 Laver Cup.

“Everyone thinks that probably every athlete has this champion mentality. But it’s not always like that,” said Ruud. “Being from Norway, a small tennis country where we don’t have any big history, it’s not always been easy to realize that I can do it myself.”

Using the tunnel vision of total results, Casper Ruud may be easier to overlook, especially when paired with his humble, quiet demeanor. During an episode of Netflix’s Break Point, major champion Andy Roddick said, “[Ruud] is one of the people who hasn’t gotten enough hype. He’s not the person who brings attention to himself. He’s not a self-promoter.”

But when looking at the summation of intangibles, the indefinable qualities that separate competitors from athletes, and champions from one-hit wonders, Ruud is not to be discounted. His steadfast composure, which is complimented by a reliable baseline game, smart shot-making, and a strong forehand, means that Ruud still has plenty left to impart on the sport.

“The hunger to win grows even more after you lose the finals,” says Ruud. 

In that case, we haven’t seen anything yet