For some time there has been competition between Kasper Ruud and his father Christian Ruud. As a professional tennis player, Casper had to top many grades to “beat” his father. It was a fun competition, but competition nonetheless.
Christian won 115 tour-level matches and climbed to 39th in the Pepperstone ATP rankings, both impressive feats. However, their “rivalry” didn’t last long.
In recent years, Casper has stormed past these benchmarks. Now to the semifinals US Opena first major trophy and world No. 1 are both within his reach.
“We’re just trying to take one game at a time. It’s still a long way off, I think,” said Christian. “But of course it’s nice that it’s possible and Casper has a bit of motivation with him because even when he was little his biggest goal was to become world No. 1.”
Christian was there to help Casper every step of the way. With the exception of two and a half years as a teenager – in which Pedro Rico went ahead – Christian trained Casper and still does today.
“I think that goes without saying for us. I think we’re more like friends too. We have the same hobbies. We play golf together. We watch movies together. We kind of have the same hobbies sometimes,” said Christian. “I think when he was 16 I stepped aside a bit. For two and a half years he had a coach from Spain. I think that was the age where not having your father two steps behind is a good setting.”
Christian Ruud, Kasper Ruud” />
When Rico Casper coached, it wasn’t like Christian wasn’t in the know. He simply withdrew from everyday life on the pitch.
“In a way, he was still the head of the team,” Casper recalled. “He still did all the planning for us and he was still in touch with my other coach almost every day during the training weeks and he came to some tournaments.”
When Rico and Ruud stopped working together, Christian started looking for other potential coaches for his son. Casper didn’t want that.
“We looked at a few options, but I said, ‘I’m more comfortable when you’re around,’ and have him around,” Casper said. “I know a coach will do so much for you and help you be very helpful, but when it’s the dad too, you feel like you care a lot because maybe a dad cares about those extra percentages because he’s your family.”
It also helps that Christian is in Casper’s shoes. Although not quite as successful, he played in 24 Grand Slam main draws and faced 22 top 10 opponents, winning four of those games. That’s why he never gets upset when his son loses a match.
“I know the feeling. I try to tell him from day one: ‘As long as you do your best in every game, I will never be disappointed,'” Christian said. “So I think he has that calmness that he know that I understand the game and that I was there and that in a way we’re in it together.”
As a coach, Christian also knows which training techniques lead to games and which waste of time.
“I think I’m maybe a little better than a lot of other parents who don’t know tennis to have that quality during training [to] doing the right things,” said Christian. “All the other things I learned playing myself, I made a lot of mistakes and got some things right, and I was just trying to pass that on to Casper, to the good experiences and the good things to the i remember I tried to pass that on to him and tried to avoid the bad things or the stupid mistakes I made along the way.”
Christian well remembers being told by a teenager, Casper, that he wanted to focus on tennis. After playing well at the U14 European Championship as a 13-year-old, Christian saw that he had “something special”. But nowhere on the journey did Christian force his son to play tennis.
Now Casper is among the best players in the world. With two more wins, he will leave New York as the Grand Slam champion and world No. 1.
“I think he really wanted to see how far he could go. He was already starting to look at Rafa and that was his idol, so he was really in the tennis world and he wanted to be on this center court one day,” Christian said. “I can’t say I remember too many times where I felt like we were pushing him too hard in the first place. I think it was almost, or always was, his will to do it in a way. I think I was a pretty quiet parent, and so was my wife.”