• Tom Grant

Just how good is Casper Ruud?

On Wednesday at the French Open, as most of the tennis world watched Kei Nishikori winning yet another five-setter & Alexander Zverev battle past a Russian qualifier, 15th seed Casper Ruud was sailing into the third round, quietly tucked away on court seven.

Now, not to ever question the scheduling decisions made by the Roland Garros execs - the Carla Suarez Navarro playing time of particular confoundment - but you have to wonder why Ruud hadn't made the cut for one of the show courts.

Because the 22-year-old Norwegian has been one of the shining stars of men's tennis in 2021.

Since the start of the European clay season, Ruud has won 17 times on the surface, the same amount as Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas and one ahead of his tennis idol, the great Rafael Nadal.

This 17-4 record has seen him win a second ATP tour title and reach three clay-court semi-finals, two of which were ATP 1000 Masters events in Madrid and Munich.

This kind of form is why many people had Ruud as a dark horse at the second Grand Slam of the year.

But who is Casper Ruud?

The man from Oslo hails from tennis stock, with father (and now coach) Christian, a former player who reached No. 39 in the world.

Ruud Jnr picked up a racket at age four at the Snarøya Tennisclub in Oslo and would rise to become the Junior World No. 1. He turned professional in 2016.

But it has been the last 18 months that he has really started mixing it with the big boys of the men's tour.

In January 2020, he broke into the Top 50 and by September of the same year had already cracked the top 25.

Sandwiched in between that was his maiden career title, a clay-court event in Buenos Aires.

After the win against Portugals Pedro Sousa in the final, Ruud said of the clay surface, 'I want to develop my hard-court game also & I think it is going in the right way, but clay is the more natural surface for me.'

He followed that triumph with a final at the 2020 Chile Open and a semi-final appearance at the 2020 Italian Open.

Ruud has recently trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, a place he credits with improving his game. He said, 'It is a perfect fit for a tennis player. Look at Rafa, he is one of the greatest of all time & that is where he is from. He has done all of his life and training from Mallorca, and that is an indication of how good a place it is.'

Whatever the reason for the youngster's rapid rise through the rankings, his place in the third round at Roland Garros for the third successive year is further indication that Ruud is a force to be reckoned with on the red ash.

And with victories over the likes of Matteo Berrettini, Diego Schwartzman and Tsitsipas already secured on his favourite surface, he already has the pedigree to beat the top players.

Ruud will be out on court 14 (those damn execs again!) tomorrow morning against another promising youngster in Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. With Dominic Thiem's shock exit, Ruud now has a real chance to take some momentum into the latter stage of this Grand Slam.

And if he does, it will become increasingly difficult for those pesky bigwigs who decide the schedule to ignore Ruud from the main courts.