Coach Evan likes to dabble in fictional pieces and here is one about what might be going on in Casper Ruud’s hotel room.
In Casper Ruud’s hotel room
Christian Ruud sat at the table and opened the MacBook Air while Casper lay on the floor, getting his thighs massaged. He clicked on the ESPN icon and searched through ESPN+, looking for the Khachanov vs Carreno Busta match.
“We probably don’t need to focus on the Kyrgios match,” Casper said, not expecting an answer.
Nick played Nick’s tennis. That wasn’t going to help plan for the upcoming match.
“Can you see the screen?” Christian asked.
Christian made notes while the first game played out.
“Do you see the patterns Busta uses in the first game?”
Casper was referring to the area in the middle of the Deuce side of the court.
“Ya,” he said and took a sip of water. “What else?”
“He’s also keeping the ball in the Ad corner.”
Casper rolled his eyes.
Christian clicked the pause button and put up his hands, palms facing up.
“He’s targeting the backhand.”
“Good. Let’s see how long this lasts and what Karen does to adjust.”
Not your typical Karen
Casper turned over, and the masseuse started digging into the hamstrings.
“How can he use such a small grip? His hands are huge.”
“That’s why he struggles with switching from forehand to backhand when you mess with time and space,” Christian said. “Remember the Brooksby match in the spring? I’ve never seen Karen so frustrated.”
Christian clicked the play button.
He made more notes during the next game.
He started mumbling to himself.
“What are you saying?”
“Busta uses three patterns in the first two games…I feel like that’s a bad choice. Like showing all your cards.”
“In a five-set match,” Casper added.
“Ya. Two out of three. I get it. But why tip your hand so early?”
Christain put up his hands to answer his own question.
“Karen’s serving buckets.”
“That’s nice to have.”
How many C’s does this story have?
Casper finished his massage, stood up, and wiggled his legs. He grabbed a water bottle and sat next to his father.
They watched the match for a few minutes, fast-forwarding through the downtime.
At 4-2, 0-15 on Khachanov’s serve, Busta hit a backhand deep to the Ad corner. Khachanov returned it crosscourt, and Busta ripped a backhand down the line, missing it wide.
“Why? Why go for that, that early in the game? Why not hit Box 2?”
“He’s trying to establish aggression and dictating when he gets up a point.”
“Ya, but why not wait until you’re up two points?”
“Who’s to say?” his father said. “That’s not my cup of tea.”
“Who says that anymore?” Casper asked.
“Not my cup of tea.”
“Old people like me.”
“You probably got that from Christopher.”
Casper was referring to one of Christian’s old friends. Christopher had spent his life working the 9-5 life, becoming a “hollow” shell of a human.
“Imagine,” Christian said. “That you grew up from money, and that was a priority in your household, and you chased it all your life not realizing no one cares about the stuff you acquired except yourself.”
“And became rigid.”
“Why do you still hang out with Christopher?”
“To show you what not to be. Miserable.”
Both took a sip of water.
“Why is Busta switching his patterns?”
“It’s personal. Off-the-court behavior is creeping onto the court. I don’t know him well enough, but I would say he grew up in an emotional house…probably has sisters. They might have rubbed off on him.”
They both laughed.
Casper has two sisters too.
“You’re lucky you were in the middle. You might have been too soft,” Christian said and nudged Casper with his elbow.
Casper pointed to the screen.
Christian reached with his right hand, slid his finger on the keyboard, and clicked play, exposing his ribs.
Casper poked him below the armpit.
“Hey…What are you doing?”
“It’s ok for you,” Casper joked, “But not for me.”
Casper moved his seat slightly back, out of the reach of his father. As the match played on the screen, Casper thought about growing up in his household. Someone was always playing tricks on someone. You would get it if you didn’t keep your mental guard up.
Casper smiled at the memory of his sister jumping in the air. She had come home late one night, and Casper hid by the bush as she walked up the driveway.
“What are you doing?” he yelled quickly.
She jumped and screamed.
He yelled, “It’s me…your brother.”
He had felt bad afterward, but the memory was worth its weight in gold.
“Pay attention, Casper…Do you see? Karen is moving forward to mix it up. He’s losing the baseline battle.”
The score in the match was 4-3 in the first set.
“God, look at Karen camping on the forehand return. Be careful with that. Establish the body serves and get Karen stuck at the corner of the Deuce side. Don’t let him move to his forehand and smash the return. Use the wide serve as a diversion.”
“And don’t start the game with it. Unless you want to grind your service games.”
“We could use some flighted combos.”
“Ya…but it depends on how the match is going.”
“I could pound the center and go flighted to the Ad corner.”
“Maybe. Let’s watch some more. And see what changes in the second set.”
The first game of the second set finished.
“Busta’s playing defensive on the return, and Khachanov is kicking out, running around backhands, and cranking his forehand.”
“Right. Who else plays defensive on the second serve returns?” Christian said and stared at his son.
“I know. I know. I have to mix up my second serve return location.”
This was something that they had been working on for months. It was getting better in practice, but in matches, Casper was still learning when to make the right decision and when to move forward and back.
AI made it harder to hide what you were doing. At least when you were playing the top players.
Don’t let Karen hit five forehands in a row
“Look at that. Look at that. Don’t let Karen hit five forehands in a row.”
At 15-all in Busta’s first service game in the second set, Busta played “cross courts” into the deuce side, and Khachanov dictated with every shot.
Christian turned quickly, and Casper flinched. Sometimes movements like that were the only way to let the idea “sink” in.
To alert the brain.
Christian called it “searing” in reference to cattle searing.
“See what Busta does on the Deuce side while serving? After the cracker on the first point, he serves to the backhand. Karen knows this and is expecting it. That’s why you must establish the body and the T patterns.”
“I get it.”
“Ya. Ya… We’ll see.”
They watched for a few minutes.
“Busta’s cracking,” Christian said and immediately thought about the Australian Open match a few years earlier when Busta lost it against Nishikori.
“He’s relapsing. That’s why staying under control and keeping the anger away is important. Because it will always be there.”
Casper heard this a thousand times.
“Busta’s a good player. It’s his mind and his triggers that get in the way.”
Everything comes back to the beginning
Casper took a sip of water.
“This is stuff from childhood, you see. People don’t get it. We carry our mental demons with us until we conquer them. Most people never do.”
Casper patted his dad on the back.
“I get it, Dad. I’m listening.”
It used to bother him when he was a kid that his dad would “preach” too much. As he got older, he understood.
Would he do the same when he had kids?
“Look, Look. Karen has moved back a few more feet behind the baseline during the rallies.’
“Which is why I need to pull angles.”
“On game points, if you had a choice.”
“In a perfect world.”
“Perfection is an illusion,” Christian said and drank water. “We cannot direct the wind, but we can direct the sails.”
“What? Who said that?”
A half hour went by.
“Man, it took Busta so long to settle his mind. I’ll fast forward to the fifth set and see what happens. You need to eat.”
After they watched the break of serve in the fifth set, Christian closed the Mac.
“Never any change in ball flight… that’s what makes Djokovic, Djokovic.”
They both stood up.
“Let’s go eat.”