Casper Ruud acknowledged that nerves and adrenaline influenced his defeat to Novak Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals.
In his debut at the season-ending championships, Ruud led by a break in the first set but was ultimately defeated 7-6(4), 6-2 as Djokovic improved his winning streak in opening Nitto ATP Finals matches to 13.
“I think it was a very fun and exciting first set. There were some fun rallies and some good rallies. Honestly, I think I have seen Novak play better than he did in the first set and I have also felt better on the court than the first set, but we still managed to produce some good tennis,” Ruud said.
“It’s not always easy, it’s the first match, I’m sure he was a bit nervous, I don’t know, but I was also a bit nervous and it’s the first time for me on this stage.”
In a dramatic first game, which saw Djokovic slip and lose his racquet mid-rally on break point, Ruud broke serve. It was a dream start in his quest for a first win over a Top 10 opponent on hard courts, but the Norwegian was unable to maintain his advantage as Djokovic displayed his familiar relentlessness.
“He’s always there. It’s tough because he reads the game very well and he’s always kind of positioning himself very, very well,” Ruud said. “Even though you feel you have an easy ball and you should put it away, he somehow gets there, both because he’s very quick obviously but also he reads the game well. At some crucial points he usually steps up and that’s why he’s No. 1 in the world and you could see it again today.
“[The second set] I started with two good points then four points that I just threw away a little bit. So he got the break right away and obviously he has the experience and the level to step up when he needs to and the second set was not as exciting as the first.”
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Ruud has won a joint-ATP Tour leading five titles in 2021 and improved his hard-court results exponentially to earn his spot in Turin, where he is the first Norwegian to appear at the Nitto ATP Finals. It is heady stuff for the 22-year-old, who will face either Stefanos Tsitsipas or Andrey Rublev in his next match on Wednesday.
“When you walk on the stage, it does something to you. It’s just the fact that you’re coming [through] a tunnel, you have the fancy lights, you have the music, you feel like everybody is watching you,” Ruud said.
“It can get a bit intimidating in a way… So that’s a normal thing, you get a little bit tight, your arm can feel heavy, all these things that the nerves do to your body.”
Ruud added: “It shows that it means something for you and it gets the adrenaline going. so I think it’s a positive for me even if it’s nicer not to feel nervous.”