Here is another fictional-style analysis by Coach Evan Gaudreu. He reasons why Casper Ruud might win the US Open.
Why Casper Ruud might win the US Open 2022
The temperature was rising on the court as Christian Ruud was putting down an Evian bottle a foot away from the right side of the hash mark in the middle of the court.
“Normal” people never felt what it was like to get cooked on the court.
It was rough.
Like a flower wilting and drying up.
“At points in the match, we need to work off this spot here,” Christian said and pointed to the water bottle.
Casper stood at the opposite baseline bouncing the ball.
“Move him around the baseline,” Christian said to the “hitter.”
For the next five minutes, Casper scampered around the baseline, targeting the water bottle from different locations using different ball flights.
“A few more,” Christian said.
After a few more minutes, they took a break.
“Be careful of Carlos’s hammer. I saw him putting more time into controlling the point from the Ad side middle. You can see it from his matches.”
Casper nodded as he took a sip of water mixed with electrolytes.
“You’re not going to be able to target his forehand straight away as we did with Khachanov.…but you might have to…that’s up to you.”
Back on the court
They walked back onto the court, and Casper worked on slicing backhands to two locations in the Ad corner, one just past the service line skidding diagonally across the doubles ally and the second at the intersection of the baseline and the sideline.
“Mixing the patterns in the Ad corner and using the middle of the court will be key,” Christian said, “But it all starts with how you use the service box to manipulate his hands with your first ball.”
Recently Casper had been working on the idea of using specific targets in the service box and corresponding them with his first shot. In the past, he had been simply thinking, “Ok. Hit the wide serve and target the open court.” He realized now that there was much more to the concept than everyone had been taught for the last twenty years. When you worked on specific target areas, it was much easier to control your locations. More importantly, the emotions and anxiety disappeared, and he could stay focused on his game plan.
“The tricky part will be when to mix it up.”
After they took another break, Casper worked on returns. He worked on three locations on the Deuce side. Two locations were in the center of the court, each on the opposite side of the middle of the court. The other location targeted the Deuce side triangle by pulling the return off the sideline.
On the Ad side, he worked on getting the return to the backhand corner, specifically the sideline.
“How do you feel, son?”
“I feel good,” Casper said and smiled. “I feel ready.”
Carlos is going to have a hell of a time, he thought.
They grabbed their gear and started to walk off the court. They stopped to sign autographs.
A few minutes later, he was getting a massage.
Halfway through, Christian walked into the room and put his hand on Casper’s back as he lay face down on the table.
“How do you feel?”
“Ok…My right thigh’s a little tight.”
The masseuse alternated between digging her fingers into his hamstring and moving her thumbs up and down.
“I noticed you weren’t moving as well to your backhand.”
“The right leg’s tired, but I will be fine. Det blir som det er.”
The Masseuse switched to the other leg.
When she finished, Christian gave her a tip and said thank you.
After she left the room, Christian smiled.
“How do you feel?” he asked again.
“The legs are good.”
“Good. You can’t trust anyone.”
They planned their exchange before the massage. Players and teams were “spying” on each other. Especially the Spanish players.
“You think she’ll tell Carlos’s team.”
“Who knows? But you have to assume. Ingenting er hellig.”
A student of the game
Rumors were going through the locker rooms that some top coaches were paying people to cheer on certain types of errors, especially double faults.
And especially at big points.
Father and son met up with their family for dinner.
Afterward, Christian and Casper watched some of the Alcaraz/Tiafoe match.
“Watch Tiafoe and pay attention to his baseline points. Don’t focus on the unreturnable serves or aces.”
Casper watched the match for a few games.
“He’s playing a form of “threes.”
“Yes. He’s getting better…Smarter from how he was playing this spring. He’s not just playing Serve plus one tennis like the other Americans. He’s thinking. He’s using more space on the court.”
Christian had noticed during some of the practice sessions over the Summer that Tiafoe was using three locations and manipulating the progression of shots. At the Open, it was starting to show during the matches.
“That’s why you’re working in ‘fours’ and doubles. It’s easy for good players to read ‘threes.’ ‘Fours’ add one more dimension.
Doubles and Fours
For the last half of the year, Casper and his team worked on two concepts. Doubles and Fours.
Doubles were mixing two three-ball combos during the same point.
Casper struggled with the training at first.
They kept it simple and hit two balls to the Deuce side and one to the Ad, Adding a fourth shot to the deep center of the court; they called a recycle and repeated a similar pattern to the other side, also with a recycle shot. The recycle shot was a way for the mind to “reset” the next sequence of shots.
These types of points were sprinkled throughout the match.
Sometimes as a change-up. Most of the time as a diversion to hide the simple combos.
What helped this spring and summer was being able to work on these during tournament matches.
They had been studying Novak for some time and were amazed how he used main draw matches as conceptual “practice.”
Fours were something new.
Fours required you to manipulate patterns in segments of four.
Novak the GOAT
After watching Novak’s matches, they realized his “drop” locations were more precise than the other players. When they looked more into his matches, they discovered he had to be cutting the baseline into four segments. Once they understood that, training in fours was so much easier. A player could use two specific boxes that were close together. Two that were separated by an “empty” box and two on the opposite sides of the court.
Their training of fours was still in its infancy. It was taking a lot longer than they thought. During this time, they realized Novak was the GOAT.
They heard a crunching noise from behind the curtain.
Then maniacal laughter.
They looked over.
“Time and Space,” a man said. “Time and Space.”
Out popped crazy Terry Silver from Cobra Kai. He walked across the room, holding a bowl of popcorn.
He put the bowl down on the table, and shadow swung a forehand while he grunted, “Eyetz.”
Then he made a chopping swing.
Christian and Casper sat frozen.
“You have to mix up your over spin…with your underspin.”
Terry made “Eyetz” and “Swoosh” noises for the next ten seconds and stopped abruptly.
He stared intently at the computer.
“That’s why I watch tennis matches,” he said and pointed at the screen. “Boobs, my friend…Boobs.” He touched Casper’s back, wiping his popcorn hands. “These cameramen are great. Real pros…Artists.”
Terry grabbed his popcorn bowl and started singing the song “Psycho chicken” by the band the Fools. It was a spoof song ripped off from the band Talking Heads.
He opened the door and walked out into the hallway, never to be seen again.
Time and Space
“What was he talking about?”
“Time and Space…For instance, take a look at Novak. Why do you think his serve average is at 115mph? We know he can get much higher.”
“He gets better location.”
“Ya, but the ball also doesn’t come back as fast on the return, which gives him time to set up his baseline patterns, which is the main goal.”
He took a sip of water.
“A lot of the guys are so focused on speed and power,” he added. “Power is good. Variasjon er livets krydder.”
They spent the next thirty minutes going over a game plan for Sunday’s final.
Christian wanted to talk about what they wanted to do after the Open final to ease the tension but thought better of it. He realized the thought would pop up in Casper’s head during the match. A lesson he learned the hard way after the Roland Garros match with Rafa.
He thought about going to Sweden. Hiking in Ornskoldsvik and playing golf at the Veckefjardens Golf Club owned by Peter Forsberg.
They will vacation as US Open champions.