There will be more to say about Casper Ruud as this tennis season continues. We know he will be intent on making a big push at Roland Garros and in the upcoming clay season. Clay is his best surface, so the Norwegian knows that the next few months are central to his season and how he will remember it.
Yet, even if Ruud doesn’t take that next step in his evolution, what he has done at the Miami Open should fill his house with happiness.
One of Ruud’s fellow ATP professionals in the top 10 of the world rankings is Cameron Norrie. The comparison with Ruud is obvious: Few expected Ruud to make this Miami final, much as few imagined that Norrie was going to win the October Indian Wells tournament last year.
Norrie, whose rise in the rankings has been achieved due to tremendous consistency at non-major tournaments, hasn’t made any huge splash at the majors. It is easy to devalue his accomplishments, and to be sure, one wouldn’t put him in the same category as other players in the top 10 who have major semifinals and finals on their resumes. Norrie needs to win a few statement matches at majors to elevate his place in the sport. Most people would agree with that, and it’s similarly easy to put Ruud in that category.
I don’t even think it’s wrong to do so.
However, let’s make one thing very clear about Ruud and — for that matter — Norrie: Don’t call their acomplishments cheap or insignificant.
One can note that they need to get some work done at majors without diminishing what they have forged at their hardcourt breakouts at 1,000-point tournaments.
What have we said the past several years, with Roger Federer injured, Novak Djokovic picking his spots, and Rafael Nadal having to carefully manage his schedule? Draws are going to open up. A vast, green field of opportunity will emerge. Someone is going to win matches. Someone has to be that guy. There’s nothing cheap or tainted about this. Sports go through cycles. Some are really punishing, others much more wide-open. Pouncing on an opportunity in an open draw is what ATP pros need to do. It’s what they envision when they arrive at a new tournament’s tennis facility.
Play the matches. Put in the work. Beat the opponent on the other side of the net.
No one can control what happens to the rest of the field. Winning a given day’s match is all Casper Ruud, or Cam Norrie, or anyone else can do.
Ruud seized this Miami moment in ways dozens of his fellow pros failed to do.
No Big 3? Everyone knew that going in. The conditions were the same for everyone.
Don’t call this a cheap result. Casper Ruud is earning his improved place on tour.
Clay preparation can wait a few more days.