What does it take to reach the very top of your game? If you ask Casper Ruud, the highest-ranked Norwegian tennis player ever, it is all about a combination of determination and physical fitness as well as the confidence to pursue your dream even in a country where tennis stars are a rarity and winter sports an obsession.

Travelling from one exotic destination to the next, accompanied by his beautiful girlfriend, psychologist Maria Galligani, and admired by fans from near and afar – at just 25, Casper Ruud is living the dream of many. But when we ask the handsome Norwegian about the greatest thing about his life, it’s not the fame or glory – it’s competing. “We are all real characters, all players, and we love competing,” he says of himself and his fellow top players. “That’s why most of us have made it this far. We don’t like losing. The feeling of being in battle – it’s just thrilling, it gives you a lot of adrenalin and nerves, a feeling of being invigorated, and that’s what I love about tennis.”

So far Ruud’s love of competing has resulted in a career-high singles ranking of world No. 2 (achieved on 12 September 2022), three Grand Slam finalist finishes and eleven ATP Tour singles titles. And it just keeps getting better – in April this year, he secured the biggest title of his career when he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas to win the Barcelona Open. Impressive for anyone, even more for someone who grew up in a nation where tennis was far from an obvious choice for a young boy dreaming of reaching the top.

Casper Ruud – on reaching the top of his game

Ruud’s achievements include three Grand Slam finalist finishes and eleven ATP Tour singles titles. Photo: ©Alexander Scheuber/@alexanderscheuber

Starting with baby steps, literally

While great leaps have defined the last years of Ruud’s career, it all started with baby steps, literally. Asked what his earliest memory involving tennis is, Ruud answers: “I started playing even before having memories – my dad used to take me to a mini court in our backyard, so I don’t remember the first time stepping onto a tennis court. But my earliest significant memory was probably when I watched Rafael Nadal win his first Grand Slam on TV, he became my biggest idol, the one I looked up to.”

Though just five or six years old at the time, Ruud also describes the experience as the moment when he was first inspired to make tennis his livelihood. “Even though I didn’t know what it meant, it planted the seed in my mind to seek a professional career,” he says.

As the son of professional tennis player Christian Ruud, the young talent had more than one source of inspiration for his pursuits. However, he does not remember his father, who achieved a career-high singles ranking of world No. 39 in October 1995 and retired in 2001, playing as a professional player, but as a great source of support.

Casper Ruud – on reaching the top of his game

Ruud lists finding “the one”, his girlfriend Maria Galligani, as one of his greatest achievements. Photo: ©Alexander Scheuber/@alexanderscheuber

A tennis star from the cold north

Today, Ruud’s father is also his coach and it was on his father’s advice that he decided to give up on other sports when he decided to go for a professional tennis career. “My father was always very encouraging and helpful in mentoring and coaching me. We worked hard during the weekends and would practise four hours every Saturday and Sunday to get in some extra hours while others would be out doing other things,” says Ruud and continues: “He pushed me, but in the right way – I enjoyed it and respected him as coach and father, for how he always wanted the best for me.”

His father’s support was significant in an environment where tennis was far from perceived as the most obvious road to success. Indeed, Ruud, who started playing at a local club while also pursuing other sports, like football, often had doubts about his chances of success. “Several times during my childhood, I remember finding it difficult to believe that a guy from Norway could reach the top of the rankings and play the big tournaments,” he admits. “It wasn’t always easy to go to bed and believe I’m going to make it, but then you get some results, and you get more, and along the way, you start believing in yourself. It’s the beauty of sport – how important it is with confidence and self-belief.”

Casper Ruud – on reaching the top of his game

With a career-high singles ranking of world No. 2, Casper Ruud is the highest-ranked Norwegian tennis player ever. Photo: ATP TOUR

Known as a fair and polite player

With an extensive list of impressive achievements behind him, it’s no wonder that Ruud’s confidence is currently peaking, and he is seen playing at the very top of his game. Specifically, two achievements have been significant to the young Norwegian. “The first one was when I broke the ‘golden barrier’ to be ranked inside the Top 1000 and could start playing professionally,” says Ruud adding: “Obviously, when I broke into the top ten for the first time was also epic because it was something that I had looked up to and envisioned.”

It is, however, not just his professional achievements that give Ruud the confidence and stability to excel on court. Privately too, he feels he has already secured a significant victory. “I live together with my girlfriend Maria, and I feel like I found the one, I think that’s a great achievement. We’re not married and don’t have kids yet, but I envision, we might have in the future,” he says.

Casper Ruud – on reaching the top of his game

On top of being a striking talent on the tennis court, Ruud is an avid and skilled golf player. Photo: ©Alexander Scheuber/@alexanderscheuber

Professionally too, Ruud has plenty of ambitions for his future. Firstly, of course, he dreams of winning a Grand Slam. “Ultimately, that’s what I always dreamed of, my highest and biggest goal,” he says, but adds: “But what I would like to be remembered for by fans and other players is that I was a fair player, someone who was well-mannered and didn’t provoke the other players.”

Casper Ruud – on reaching the top of his game

25-year-old Ruud is in peak physical form. Photo: ©Hamburg European Open/Alexander Scheuber

Having already achieved more than any Norwegian tennis player before him and behaving impeccably, forthcoming and friendly, during our talk – despite being in the midst of a demanding tournament – Ruud looks well on his way to achieving his goals.

Casper Ruud – on reaching the top of his game




• Casper Ruud is the highest-ranked Norwegian tennis player ever.
• He currently has a singles ranking of world No. 7.
• Ruud was born in Oslo, December 22, 1998.
• Casper Ruud has two younger sisters, Caroline (health and fitness coach) and Charlotte (college tennis player at University of South Florida).
• Casper Ruud lives together with his girlfriend, Maria Galligani, who holds a master’s degree in psychology.
• Ruud has won eleven ATP Tour singles titles and finished runner-up at three Grand Slams and at the 2022 ATP Finals.
• Like his father, Ruud is also an avid and talented golf player and even has a separate Instagram account for his golf adventures.

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