Casper Ruud has been training at the Mallorca academy of 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal since September 2018. The Norwegian has observed that Nadal has a calm and relaxed demeanor off the court as compared to his fearless and ruthless attitude on the court, and he said as much in a recent interview.
"Rafael Nadal is an extremely different person off the field compared to how he is on it," Ruud told Nettavisen. "On the field, he is both fearless and a little ruthless towards the opponents. One would almost think that he enjoys bothering them with the game he plays."
"But off the field he is extremely calm, and a normal, humble person," he added. "It's a bit like he just turns on the switch and is a different person when he goes out on a tennis court, so it has been fun for me to experience and see."
The 21-year-old Ruud has been one of the breakout stories of 2020 on the men's tour. After beginning the season as World No. 54, he has climbed up to a career-best No. 25. In the process, he has surpassed the previous record by a Norwegian player in the rankings (No. 39) - which incidentally was set by his own father Christian Ruud in 1995.
Ruud, who has 22 wins on the tour this year - the same as Rafael Nadal - added that he has he has been trying to incorporate the Spaniard's attitude in his own approach to the sport as well.
"When Rafael Nadal sits at the facility and eats lunch before the game, he is quite calm, but as soon as he starts to start the match, there is no stopping," Ruud said. "It's something I've also tried to look at and bring to my game and my tennis. When you are on the field you are there to do a job and nothing more than that."
Rafael Nadal and I have reached a stage where we look at each other as competitors: Casper Ruud
In the interview, Ruud also spoke about how his equation with Rafael Nadal has changed over time. The Norwegian now sees the Spaniard as a competitor rather than a mentor, which he believes is how it should be.
While Nadal and Ruud have played very often in practice at the Rafa Nadal Academy, the two have yet to meet on the professional circuit - something that Ruud hopes will happen soon.
"Now we may have reached the stage where we look at each other as competitors," the 21-year-old said. "We are probably more there now rather than him being a babysitter holding my hand and supporting me. That is completely wrong. Now this is how I want it to be, because it proves that I have come a long way."
The Norwegian added that Rafael Nadal does follow his results on the tour and that he had sent him a text message after his run to the semifinals of the Italian Open last month, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
"I reckon that he thinks it's great that someone from the academy has come to where I am now," Ruud said. "He sends 'congratulations' when I do well and things like that, so it's a nice gesture from him. I got a message from him after Rome. He congratulated me, and it is nice for me that he follows (my matches) a little."
Ruud is next scheduled to play the ATP event in Vienna, where 7 of the top 10 have entered, including Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem. The organizers said they have also reached out to Rafael Nadal, but it is unlikely that he will play the event.Published 17 Oct 2020, 16:34 IST