Ruud Eager To Put Tennis On Map In Norway
Norwegian junior scores his first Top 100 win
While most of the world’s best juniors are competing this week in the US Open junior championships, 17 year old Casper Ruud of Norway is busy racking up wins at the $50,000 ATP Challenger Tour in Seville, Spain.
Competing in his first Challenger, Ruud came through qualifying and is now in the quarter-finals. On Wednesday, he scored his biggest win to date over No. 5 seed Andrej Martin of Slovakia, 6-3, 6-3.
Ruud, who won four matches in four days this week, joins Canadian phenom Denis Shapovalov as the only 17-year-olds to reach an ATP Challenger Tour quarter-final in 2016. The Norwegian has seen his position in the Emirates ATP Rankings skyrocket this year, from outside the Top 1000 to a projected career-high inside the Top 400 with his run in Seville.
“This is a really good tournament. I didn’t know what to expect because it was my first Challenger, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” said Ruud. “There have been people coming out to support us and watch the matches, so it’s been really nice. It’s been a great experience to play some Challengers instead of Futures.”
Ruud has primarily focused on pro events this year. Competing exclusively at the Futures level until his run in Seville, he’s won two singles titles this year and finished runner-up at three other events.
It’s been a natural progression for the rising Norwegian, who started the year ranked No. 1 in the ITF Junior Rankings. He decided to forgo the US Open junior events and instead continue to focus on moving up the Emirates ATP Rankings.
“I wanted to try and win a Grand Slam for the year, but didn’t play too well at Roland Garros or Wimbledon. It was a little bit far to travel for one tournament at the US Open and I’m also heading to China in the fall,” said Ruud. “I wanted to focus more on the men’s circuit, so it made sense to train in Spain and then come here to get some good matches and good experience.”
His training base in Spain is especially fitting because Rafael Nadal is the player that Ruud looks up to most.
“He’s my big idol ever since I was a little kid. He’s very intense and has an extreme style of play,” said Ruud. “I always try to look at good players like Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic, players who bring the game to another level. The level of tennis at the Top 10 is pretty unbelievable at the moment, so I’m trying to learn from that.”
At just 17, Ruud is already the top-ranked player in his country. Although Norway isn’t known as a tennis hotbed, his father, Christian, reached the Top 40 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in 1995. Casper is hopeful that he can reach the same heights as his dad and make tennis a prime sport in his country.
“Tennis isn’t that big in Norway, but I hope that it’ll blow up a little bit more there if I do well,” he said. “There are some enthusiastic fans there and they like to follow me around and send me messages, which are nice to receive. Hopefully I can try to do the same as my dad and make tennis a little more popular in Norway.”