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The foundations have been laid. Casper Ruud is getting ever closer to lifting his first ATP crown and in the first four months of the season he has taken the steps required to put him on the verge of his first title. The player from the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar battled it out on Sunday in the Houston final, but he will have to wait a little longer before he gets the first trophy for his cabinet.

 

The result takes nothing away from a fantastic week in which he continued the form that saw him produce an outstanding start to the season. He started to see the fruits of a good preseason when he reached the quarter-finals in Rio de Janeiro, where he also had to come through qualifying. Shortly afterwards, he played in the semi-finals in Sao Paulo. And recently in Houston he took part in the first ATP final of his young career, although he was unable to beat the Chilean Christian Garín in the title match.

 

“I feel like I played a good match, but he was a little better in the final and he deserved the victory”, he recognised after the tie. But his performance was deserving of recognition. In the first round he knocked out the Bolivian Hugo Dellien (7-6[7], 6-4), and he later came through a tough clash which was decided in the final set against local player Reilly Opelka in the second round (4-6, 6-4, 6-4). Veteran player Marcel Granollers was also unable to deal with Ruud (6-1, 6-0) and in the semi-final he made easy work of the tournament’s surprise package, the Colombian Daniel Elahi Galán (7-5, 6-2).

 

With two hours and 29 minutes of play, Ruud was unable to cap off his brilliant performance in Houston. Despite fighting back from a set down, he ended up losing the final 6-7(4), 6-4, 3-6. “This result gives me even more confidence that I can play at this level”, declared the player, who was born in Oslo 20 years ago.

 

Huge positives have come out of a week when the Norwegian enjoyed the biggest leap in the ATP ranking, climbing 27 positions from no. 95 to his highest point in the world ranking at no. 68. The 150 points he picked up in Houston mean he climbed more than any other player this week, beating the 26 positions gained by French player Benoit Paire and Christian Garín himself.

 

In addition, Ruud can now boast to being the sixth best under-21 player in the ATP ranking. This means that, if he maintains that position through the end of the season, he will have a place at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, a tournament that Jaume Munar, his fellow student at the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar, played in last year. The Norwegian has collected 410 points in 2019 thanks to a 9-4 record on the ATP tour and 4-4 on the ATP Challenge Tour.

 

Casper is progressing at a rate of knots and he is just 29 positions short of the highest ranking occupied by his father Christian on the ATP tour (no. 39 in the world in 1995). He has already equalled another of his father’s marks; being an ATP Tour finalist. Will the apprentice outdo his master? He has plenty of time to do so.

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