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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Tennis star Ruud really on a roll

Casper Ruud, the 22-year-old Norwegian tennis player from Snarøya just outside Oslo, is having a fabulous year and making a huge impact on his sport at home. Now his father and manager Christian Ruud, a former tennis pro himself, thinks his son will break into the top 10 in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).

Casper Ruud, at a press conference last fall in Oslo. PHOTO: Arctic Securities/NTB

He already made it to the 12th spot after he won his third ATP title in as many weeks at Kitzbühel last weekend. That victory came right after he won ATP tournaments in Gstaad and Båstad in Sweden, along with playing at Wimbledon, in the French Open and the Australian Open.

Ruud dropped the Olympics in Tokyo, noting that he’s stil “quite young” and hopes he can participate at the next summer games in Paris in 2024. This year it was more important for him to play in the ATP tournaments on his favorite gravel courts during the same time, and it was clearly a good choice. He won them all.

“It was amazing,” his father told news bureau NTB after his son beat Pedro Martinez in Kitzbühel. No one has won three ATP title in titles since Andy Murray in 2011.

“He’s had three incredible weeks,” Christian Ruud, who was Norway’s top tennis player, told NTB. “He’s managed to keep up his play from week to week and that’s historic. I can only wonder what he’s made of.”

“There’s hope he can climb into the top 10,” Ruud said. “I think Casper’s play can function on hard courts also.” He’ll find out at the next round of tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati, both at the Masters-level. Only the season’s four Grand Slam tournements have higher status.

He started playing tennis at age four, following in his dad’s footsteps, and at age nine he traveled with his father to see the big tennis stars play, and where his father had, too. “I remember is so well,” Casper Ruud told newspaper Aftenposten in June, just before he played in the French Open, too. “We saw (Rafael) Nadal and (Novak) Djokovic … it was so fun to see the stars live. Already then I had a dream. I’d begun to watch tennis on TV and dreamed of being on TV myself.”

Now he certainly is, after “going all in” at age 12. He said his father “guided me for many years, and got me to understand that every day is important, not least the extra hours I’m willing to put into it. He said it would be wise to avoid all partying. I was 15, an age when most Norwegian teenagers think that’s fun, but I was completely isolated from it. I didn’t need it.” He hastened to add that his father didn’t forbid him from partying, “but he got me to understand that I should avoid it.”

He has no regrets, as he breaks into the world’s elite at a time when several other young Norwegian men are also doing in sports outside Norway’s traditional excellence in skiing and skating. Now Norway has Casper Ruud in tennis, Magnus Carlsen in chess, Erling Braut Haaland and Martin Ødegård in football, Viktor Hovland in golf and a new Olympic gold medalist who shattered world records, Karsten Warholm.

Casper Ruud’s success has also helped propel tennis’ popularity in Norway. Aftenposten reported how membership in the national tennis federation is up 13 percent, with nearly 4,000 new players. “We’ve had explosive growth in membership, extreme,” said Aslak Paulsen, secretary general of Norges Tennisforbund. He and thousands of others sat in front of the TV and watched Norway’s best player move on to the third round of the French Open. He knows what that means for recruitment. The federation currently has around 34,000 members, and they’ll cheering for Ruud. Berglund



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