Golf, shooting, the Weeknd: Casper Ruud triumphs after unusual prep


There is the traditional way of preparing for Wimbledon, and there is the Casper Ruud approach. One involves living the life, the other living the dream. And while the Norwegian’s contemporaries have been working hard to adapt to grass’s more frenetic rhythms, the world No 4 has spent more time on Instagram.

But it turns out that three weeks of clay pigeon shooting, golfing, sunbathing on the back of a boat, and attending two concerts by The Weeknd – in Oslo and Stockholm – is not necessarily a barrier to success at tennis’s biggest tournament.

Speaking after beating the world No 199, Laurent Lokoli, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, in a first-round minor thriller, Ruud denied suggestions that his recent playboy lifestyle might ruin his Wimbledon chances.

“People can have any opinion they want,” he said. “But it’s a long year, and at some point during the summer, at least to me, there has to be some kind of break for the players.

“To me, the natural and the obvious choice is to skip a couple of grass-court events because I play every single tournament on clay. It’s an easy choice.

“It doesn’t mean that I take Wimbledon not serious enough. I really like to perform well here. But it’s just a matter of physically being ready, and being ready for the second part of the season.”

The Norwegian, who has reached the final of three of the past five grand slam tournaments, also insisted he was determined to make a run at Wimbledon. “Stepping into this place, I always get motivated to try to do well, and it’s always a special feeling,” he said.

However, Ruud had to dig deeper than expected to beat Lokoli, a flamboyant French qualifier who has never won a match on the ATP Tour. Indeed, during the second and third sets the 28-year-old Lokoli was buccaneering and brilliant. There were multiple winners, intricate drop shots and delicate lobs – along with plenty of smiles. At times it was as if the ghost of Henri Leconte had descended on to No 1 Court. But in the end, Ruud had too much class.

Next up he will face the British player Liam Broady. However it is a lingering question how far Ruud can go here given his atrocious record on grass.

Victory here means he has won four of his nine career matches on the surface, and he has never got past the second round at SW19. It does not help that Ruud is allergic to grass because of a pollen allergy – however he concedes that his movement is also a factor.

“I’m a little more tentative and careful out in the corners, which I think makes a bit of a difference in my game and in my confidence. But today I think I was able to play quite well and move well and play good on the defence. So I’m happy.”

Initially Ruud faced little challenge. He broke immediately and, having saved three break points to go 3-0 up, raced into a 5-0 lead. When Lokoli got on the board at 5-1, he held his racket up in joy and relief. But it proved temporary. Ruud soon clinched the first set 6-1 in 28 minutes.

Yet from then on Lokoli was transformed, and as winner after winner began powering off his racket, his cries of “Allez” grew louder. Suddenly at 6-5 in the second set Lokoli hit a massive forehand down the line to have two break points. He duly converted to make it one set all.

The high quality continued in the third as the players exchanged winners and breaks of serve before Ruud broke again to take the set. A solitary break in the fourth proved decisive. What does Ruud think of the task against Broady, the world No 147? “It’s going to be fun, but it’s going to be a challenge for sure,” he said. “It’s no secret that my record is not great here at Wimbledon, but I’m going to try and change that this year.”

Perhaps there is an added incentive for the 24-year-old to hang around. If Ruud makes the weekend, he can see The Weeknd, who is playing at the London Stadium on Friday.