Former top-40 player Christian Ruud retired in 2001 and Norway had failed to earn the position on the men's tennis map 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 to catch the eyes of the tennis world.
In February 2017, Ruud reached 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 despite coming close a few times. The young Norwegian who works at Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca had a breakthrough season, winning 23 ATP matches in 2019 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 on his beloved clay. Returning to his favorite surface after Wimbledon, Ruud suffered early losses in Bastad and Hamburg before reaching the semi-final in Kitzbuhel, switching his focus to hard courts where he scored only six wins by the end of the season.
Despite that, the Norwegian had the opportunity to compete at the Next Gen Finals, finishing the season inside the top-55 for the first time and getting a chance 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 courts and taking care of hosting 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 will take place in November next year. On Saturday, Casper and his father Christian traveled to Bergen to promote the event, meet sponsors, held 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 Challenger 90 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.
"Having a Challenger is incredibly enjoyable for both myself and the Norwegian tennis," Ruud said. "It is an excellent initiative from the Paradise Tennis Club and it is also important to have such events outside the capital of Oslo.
Most of the biggest tournaments we have here in the country take place in Oslo so it's fun for this one to be in Bergen. I'm ready for the tournament next year, it is still almost a year away but I have already planned my schedule, it is something I'm looking forward and I can't wait to play in Bergen, it will be my first international tournament at home in a few years now.
Many good players will compete in Bergen next November and I would love to see as many spectators as possible during that week."