Maybe Roger Federer should put on an ATP Tour serve clinic?
After Swiss teen Dominic Stephan Stricker cited the former World No. 1’s advice as the reason behind a tweak in his serve earlier in the week, Gonet Geneva Open champion Casper Ruud revealed that he too looked to the Federer service motion for some inspiration of his own.
Ruud served up some head-turning numbers on serve in his 7-6(6), 6-4 victory against Denis Shapovalov in Saturday’s final. He controlled the match by winning 79 per cent of points behind his first serve (26/33) and 81 per cent of second serve points (22/27).
It was a marked improvement for the Norwegian player, who explained that the difference was only a matter of inches – moving the toss forward by a few centimetres, turning his head a certain way at the point of contact – and a matter of following Federer’s example.
“It’s a little bit like the movement that Roger [Federer] does when he rotates with his head and it almost looks like he can see the ball at impact,” Ruud explained in his post-match press conference. “That gave me some inspiration looking at the way he’s serving. He’s not the tallest guy, but he always had a big serve.”
“I think it’s been [a] positive [change] that is helping the arm and body feel better, and also I’m serving better,” he added. “I’m placing the ball better and I have better pace on the ball. I think it was a great change and a great improvement. And it was an easy change. Sometimes changes can be tougher, but this time it was only to move the toss further in front and try to look at the ball at impact.”
Ruud’s revamped serve has been firing throughout the clay-court season, where he previously reached three semi-finals, including two at the ATP Masters 1000 level: Monte-Carlo (l. Rublev), Munich (l.Basilashvili) and Madrid (l. Berrettini). He only dropped one set en route to the trophy in Geneva, his second ATP Tour title, and did not face a break point during the championship match.
With the victory in Geneva, Ruud is set for a return to the Top 20 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. He also guarantees himself a major boon heading into Paris in two weeks: a Top 16 seeding at Roland Garros, his highest Grand Slam seeding yet.
“I feel great that I’ve been playing well lately. In the past few tournaments I’ve been reaching the later stages,” Ruud said. “It’s a good confidence-booster for Roland Garros, but it’s a new tournament and new conditions and best-of-five sets.
“I hope I can do well, and hopefully the form I’ve been showing recently can affect the other players and they will think that it will be a tough challenge if they play me. That’s also the goal. The way when people play Rafa [Nadal] on clay, they will already think before the match that it will be very tough. I’m very far from this level, but at least maybe some players can think a little bit like this.”
Ruud will hope to keep sending a message with his clay-court prowess as he heads to Roland Garros. The Norwegian is already trying to put his result in Geneva out of his mind in an attempt to stay focussed – but will allow himself just one day of rest before getting back to work.
“I think it will be important to keep the intensity and focus up,” he said. “In one way, [I will] try to pretend this never happened, in the sense that you work hard every day in the coming days to Paris, like I would do if I didn’t play here.
“Every match in a Grand Slam is tough so you have to be ready for anyone, but at least the seeding is good for me this year and I hope I can do some damage. I hope I can be in the second week of Roland Garros. That’s my goal.”