Combining coolness and finesse on the court, the 24-year-old Norwegian and multiple Grand Slam finalist, Casper Ruud, currently competes as ‘The Ice Man’ at UTS Frankfurt. We had the opportunity to meet the top 10 player on the sidelines of this innovative tennis event and talk to him about the fusion of technology and tennis, his secrets for maintaining a positive mindset, and the motivation that drives him to constantly elevate his game…
The UTS League aims to engage fans with its new rules and dynamic approach. How do you think this new format benefits the sport?
It’s new, it’s innovative, as we think about the future and what tennis could potentially look like. Tennis is a sport that has maintained its rules for many, many years, so maybe it’s time to begin changing certain things to make it more viewer-friendly, keeping the matches somewhat shorter and more intense. At the same time, you really like the long battles, such as the best-of-five sets in Grand Slams. It’s tough to move away from that, and I hope that they will stay, but I think maybe some tournaments could be interesting to see like they are doing here at the UTS. Having only one serve is a big, big change, maybe the biggest of all the rule changes here compared to the ATP Tour and normal tennis, because this really takes away the big serves and changes the dynamic a lot. The counting system is also different, and you play based on time, which is different. Usually, you have all the time in the world for playing a match, but now you only have 15 seconds between points and 8 minutes for a set. So I think it’s fun.
“Tennis is a sport that has maintained its rules for many, many years, so maybe it’s time to begin changing certain things to make it more viewer-friendly, keeping the matches somewhat shorter and more intense.”Casper Ruud
How will the new format affect our style of play?
Serving is, as I said, what I’m going to feel mostly. Maybe not so much on my own serve because my serve isn’t the biggest on tour. But when I’m returning, I’ll feel like I’ll have a little more time to return the shots. It’s going to be difficult to go for the big first serves every time because when you miss, you lose points. You have to be more ready for this kind of second serve return approach, and I think this way you’re going to be able to play more rallies. Hopefully, this will be positive for my side.
I think it’s cool. It’s the only platform for now where athletes can be like stocks, and you can invest in them depending on how they perform. They can go up or go down, and fans can get involved in a kind of ownership of an athlete. If you are a fan who wants to do something more than just watch the players, you can invest in them and hope even more that your biggest idols do well. It’s not just for tennis; you have it for football and UFC as well. I think it’s a fun concept. There are a lot of new things that have come on the table in the last few years in terms of technology and these kinds of platforms, so this was the one I felt most comfortable with and wanted to be a part of.
Personally, I haven’t tried it too much myself. I just tried it at the presentation, but I have used VR in the past with other types of games, including reaction games, being in different virtual environments, which is really interesting. Of course, it won’t be exactly like playing tennis because you will never get that same feeling. However, if you can practice certain things, especially reactions, serves, returns, and so on, I think it can be a good platform. It’s useful if you are injured, need to do something with less intensity than usual on the court, or want to work on your serve or volley technique. I think it can be a good platform to do so.
⠀”I think I lost too many matches
⠀where I was too passive, too defensive.”⠀
ARe there any specific aspects of your game that you’re currently working on?
In the last few weeks or even months of this year, I think I lost too many matches where I was too passive, too defensive. So, in the weeks and days after the US Open, when I went home, I tried to play more aggressively, step further into the court, and go for more chances, taking a little bit more risk and going for a more aggressive playing style. Now, I am playing on hard courts for the rest of the year, mostly indoors, so the pace is going to be fast. I have to be ready, so that’s something I specifically worked on in the last ten to twelve days.
How do you motivate yourself when you don’t feel like playing tennis or training?
To me, tennis is my passion, my hobby, and it has become my work and my life. So, I feel happy that I can have my passion as my job. But, of course, like anything else, there are some days when it’s tougher. However, I’ve always been motivated by the desire to improve and become a better player. Tennis is not like a video game where you can complete the whole game after winning all the levels. In tennis, there is always room for improvement – even, it might sound crazy to say that, for Djokovic! For sure, he also feels that there are things he can improve. No matter what level you are at, you always have the chance to improve. It’s not possible to play perfect tennis; you cannot hit every shot on the line and make every winner – it’s not possible. So, there is always room for improvement, and, of course, I have a lot of fun on the court. I am surrounded by good people, so I think it’s a mix of everything. But, of course, some training sessions and practices are a little tougher and more boring than others. In the end, though, that’s what helps you improve. If you really want to be a good player, you are able to do good work even on a bad day.
“Tennis is not like a video game where you can complete the whole game after winning all the levels. In tennis, there is always room for improvement.”
What do you generally do to regain a positive mindset after a lost match?
It depends a little bit on how I lost the match. The reaction can be different. The last couple of years have been very rewarding for me. So, I’ve reached a position that I used to dream about when I was young. Sometimes, I go to bed and think, ‘You’re doing even better than you thought when you were young. You’re on the right path.’ I’ve reached further than what I thought at the age of ten was really realistic for me. Of course, you dream of winning a Grand Slam or being world number 1, but dreams and realistic goals are two different things. So, when I have a tough day, I go to bed and then think, ‘You are doing better than you might want to acknowledge right now, so don’t worry too much about just today, and tomorrow is a new day.’ That’s how I overcome it and turn something tough and negative into a positive mindset.
What is tennis teaching you for everyday life?
It’s a cruel game. You can lose matches where you have match points and you are so close, but the same can also be true in general life. So tennis is teaching me discipline, structure, planning, and trying to be positive and a nice guy.
Photo: © The Tennis Circle, © UTS