Casper Ruud has once again been in good form. The Norwegian began his year with big wins over Isner and Fognini at the ATP Cup but failed to win in Auckland or Melbourne.
A few thousands miles away on the clay in Buenos Aires the 21 year old has played some of his best tennis on the clay this week.
The highlight of his game has been how he is able to generate power and the flat strike he pulls off that inside-out forehand and that one he steps inside the middle of the court and can curl cross-court or down the line but the backhand issue is still a problem.
I’m a big or Casper’s I’ve been following his game for some time but I am still unconvinced by his backhand.
I was pleased to see the Norwegian make it to the final of the ATP event in Buenos Aires but he did struggle with the backhand. In my write up I spoke at how Londero peppered the backhand of Ruud and I was pleased to see the latter advance but in all honesty it was mostly down to the body of Londero running out of steam, so what was the problem with the backhand?
The first thing that was clear is the net clearance.
If you aren’t completely comfortable with a shot then you would give it a bit more height and pull it short but it will hurt you more than dropping it and going for the depth.
Instead the height killed Ruud in this match. You can see above the average height clearance off the backhand compared to the net which isn’t a major problem but he dipped the backhand into the court.
For me, in the list of problems here the net clearance is one of the lowest it was the lack of depth and penetration on the shot. You can add height but still be a nuisance with it but you can see how close to the baseline Londero is. This isn’t a backhand that is coming in and forcing him on the defence and when you stand at the two handed stance you have to move people back.
Moving on, the rotation of the backhand slightly bothers me. Ruud has the game for me to play a cleaner flatter backhand and should be able to open up the court more with it.
This is a backhand of his from the match against Londero…
It’s a bit of cricket swing. Ruud must be hitting more height as a plan or is it as a consequence of his body position. His left side has his left arm going across to up and the left leg bends as he digs the ball up.
Londero was very good at sending a ball that skidded off the clay but a slight step backwards and a hooked backhand down the line is something I’d like to have seen.
The final backhand is that sliced one. For me it’s not just a problem for Casper but for many others. When the backhand corner is penetrated with speed and depth the slice is the only option at this point, or is it?
The issue is with the slice is it’s mostly an instinct shot and not one you can direct so it goes down the middle in return.
This is where options come to the defending player.
Could you try and hit the two handed backhand down the line or cross court, you won’t have time to set so it would be a pick up. Someone like Thiem for example has struggled with this in the past and something Tsitsipas has done a lot of is go hard right with the one-hander into the middle of the court trying to force a heavy volley from the opponent.
For me, Ruud just has to be consistent on the inside out forehand and flatter with the backhand to not find himself in that position.
Overall I am so happy to see Ruud win in Buenos Aires, his game has come on soo much and I expect him to take it to another level in what is working out to be a big season!
I wouldn’t read too much in him losing early in Rio following such a big week but there will be more focus on his in Santiago this week where he is the second seed. We don’t know who he will play yet but he will like to temporarily leave the clay before Indian Wells and Miami in good form!