Age: 19 – October 26th 2000
Height: 1.85m/6ft 1 inches
Current Ranking: 165 (career high 146 on the 29/07/2019)
Junior Career High Ranking: 10
Professional titles: 1 Challenger
Titles in 2019: 0
To have reached 145 in the world at the age of 18 (at the time) whilst simultaneously only ever having won one title is not something you see too often. But in a lot of ways that defines the somewhat strange nature of Rudolf’s career up until now in which he’s become the very definition of inconsistent.
As a result I find Rudolf is simultaneously the most intriguing player but also the most difficult for me to discuss and accurately dissect.
As a junior Rudolf reached number 10 in the world and won a few Grade 1 events in Germany. Whilst reaching a ranking of no. 10 would hardly be considered a failure, the R16 at the Australian Open in Jan 2018 would be as far as he’d go in the Junior Majors as he focused more on the pro tour.
Throughout his junior career he was regularly playing Futures events and a few days shy of his 16th birthday in October 2016 he’d reach his first semi-final. He would continue to play Futures with very limited success before being given a wild card into the qualifying draw of the ATP 500 at Hamburg in July of 2017.
Quite astonishingly at this event he proceeded to beat first Casper Ruud and then Leo Mayer in three set matches in order to qualify, before losing 3&4 to Khachanov. There was no real sign that was coming, indeed in his 10 previous Futures events that year he was yet to get past the QF.
I highlight that because it’s symptomatic of Rudolf’s patchy form. It’s even more apparent when you fast forward to the Heilbronn Challenger in 2018, when Rudolf as a 17 year old kid takes down the tournament, winning all his matches from the round of 16 onwards in 3 sets and of those 4 matches he was a set down 3 times. It was a brilliant achievement and yet came from someone who went into that tournament at 0-2 at that level.
At the start of 2019 he lost his first match in a Challenger, before qualifying for his first Major at the AO, losing to Schwartmann in 4 sets. He then lost his next 7 in a row. By now I’m hoping you’re seeing the patchy form too! He had a surprisingly consistent clay season that was topped off by qualifying at Roland Garros and then losing to Tommy Robredo in the final of the Poznan Challenger.
Inexplicably he and his team somehow managed to forget to sign in for Wimbledon qualifying and that was almost a sign of what was to come. Despite having reunited with his coach at Hamburg, where he again beat the then defending champion Leo Mayer, his season tailed off badly. Indeed after that Poznan final he wouldn’t win two consecutive matches in 12 events and he finished the season at 165.
I went into depth on Rudolf’s career thus far because it matches his playing style brilliantly in my opinion. You have no idea what you’ll be getting, but when his game is working it’s an absolute joy to watch.
Yesterday I described Ruusuvuori as an aggressive baseliner, well Rudolf is a step up from that. He has lovely power on both wings that allow him to hit numerous winners (I particularly like his forehand down the line) and he’s not afraid to try and come forward to finish the rallies at the net. This game style is backed up by a lovely first serve. In truth he has all the tools you would want to see from someone at 19.
However there’s a big but. It’s clear when you watch Rudolf that he’s incredibly quick to get down on himself. This manifests itself with stupid unforced errors as he looks to bash his way out of trouble. There’s a level of maturity required on the court that he hasn’t yet reached in my opinion and until he does he’ll continue to experience long periods where he’s not winning consistently.
Compare him to someone like Jannik Sinner who has a really aggressive game but has a maturity way beyond his years. You don’t see Sinner getting down on himself and I think that’s a vital quality when you’re someone who is aggressive and will have periods where you’re making errors in matches.
I would add that whilst Rudolf’s best results have come on clay I see him as someone who will have a really good game for all the different surfaces, if he puts it together.
Showing consistency and emotional maturity will be the key. If he does I really think he’ll be close to the top 100.