Former top-40 player Christian Ruud retired in 2001 and Norway had failed to produce notable tennis names in the next 15 years. That all changed with Christian's son Casper who became junior no. 1 and claimed the first Challenger title on debut in Seville in 2016.
In February 2017, Ruud advanced into the semi-final at the ATP 500 event in Rio de Janeiro, making a big push towards the top-100 but failing to crack that group until March this year. The young Norwegian works at Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca and this has been his breakthrough season, winning 23 ATP matches and advancing into the first ATP final in Houston, losing to Cristian Garin after a great battle.
Casper was also the semi-finalist in Sao Paulo, claiming four triumphs overall in Rome and Paris where he lost to Juan Martin del Potro and Roger Federer respectively. Returning to his beloved clay after Wimbledon, Casper suffered early losses in Bastad and Hamburg before reaching the semi-final in Kitzbuhel, switching his focus to hard courts but scoring only six victories by the end of the season.
Despite that, Ruud will finish the season inside the top-55 for the first time, getting the opportunity to lead Norway at the inaugural ATP Cup in January ahead of the Australian Open. Also, the youngster has caused some positive vibes in his country, bringing more kids to tennis and bringing the first Challenger to Norway in 25 years!
Back in July 1995, Lillehammer staged the last event of that category, with Andrew Ilie defeating the home favorite Christian Ruud in the title match. Now, Paradise Tennis Club in Bergen will bring Norway to the tennis map again, announcing an indoor Challenger that should take place in November next year.
This Saturday, Casper and his father Christian will travel to Bergen, meet sponsors, stage a press conference and play an exhibition match. The estimated budget is around $165,000 and the organizers will try to attract more sponsors and produce the best possible event that should bring more youngsters from this region into tennis.
Bergen staged three Challenger tournaments between 1988-90, gathering the players like Petr Korda, Nicklas Kulti, Paul Haarhuis, MaliVai Washington, Mark Woodforde, Eric Jelen, Thomas Enqvist and Richard Krajicek.