Rafael Nadal is undoubtedly the greatest claycourt player in tennis history, with a whopping 13 Roland Garros titles to his name. But Nadal also has seven Major titles outside of the French Open, which is a testament to his ability on faster surfaces as well.
Like the Spaniard, Casper Ruud also started his career as a bit of a claycourt specialist. Ruud's heavy top-spin forehand does a lot of damage on slower surfaces, and most of his early success came on red dirt.
However, the Norwegian's game on hardcourt has improved considerably in recent months. His runs to the quarterfinals in Toronto and Cincinnati are proof of his prowess on the surface.
In a recent interview with the ATP Tour, Casper Ruud pointed to Rafael Nadal's success on hardcourts to drive home the point that players with heavy top-spin can excel on surfaces other than clay too.
"Rafael Nadal is the perfect example and I think also (Dominic) Thiem a little bit," Ruud said. "I think the general media has considered both Nadal and Thiem (as) you know, big-time claycourt specialists. And Nadal has won even two times in Wimbledon so it just goes to show that it's possible for the heavy topspin players to play well on the surface."
Casper Ruud idolized Rafael Nadal growing up, and he has frequently practiced with the Spaniard at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca. It's no surprise that Ruud wants to try and learn the Spaniard's tricks with respect to transitioning from clay to hardcourt.
"He is the type of player that I looked up to for many years and we'll try to learn from when it comes to this transition from clay court to hardcourt," the Norwegian said.
The full interview with Ruud can be seen below:
Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem have shed their tag of claycourt specialists
Rafael Nadal's claycourt skills are unmatched on the ATP Tour. In addition to his 13 Roland Garros titles, Nadal has also amassed 26 Masters 1000s on the red dirt. However, the 35-year-old has enjoyed plenty of success on hardcourts as well, winning 10 Masters 1000 titles and five Grand Slams on the surface.
Dominic Thiem, meanwhile, has won his only Masters 1000 (2019 Indian Wells) and Grand Slam titles (2020 US Open) on hardcourt. He reached the final of the Australian Open last year, losing to Novak Djokovic in five sets, and also reached back-to-back finals at the ATP Finals in 2019 and 2020.
Casper Ruud seems to be following in the footsteps of Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem, having made several hardcourt breakthroughs in 2021. Apart from his quarterfinal appearances at the North American hardcourt Masters, Ruud is also into his first ever hardcourt final at the ongoing San Diego Open.