In just over a week’s time, UTS will head to Norway for its first event of 2024. The three-day event, held at the Telenor Arena from 9 to 11 February, will be the biggest tennis tournament the nation has seen.
Staring at UTS Oslo will be two Scandinavian superstars, Casper “The Ice Man” Ruud and Holger “The Viking” Rune. Both have played the UTS format several times previously but will be particularly focused on winning this event in front of home fans.
Ahead of UTS Oslo, Christian Ruud, Casper Ruud’s coach and father, has shared about the significance of the tournament for tennis in Norway.
“Norwegian people really feel like it’s interesting to follow some Norwegian stars that are not with skis on their feet” – Christian Ruud
Christian Ruud is a tennis star in his own right, having made it to No 39 in the ATP rankings in his playing days. However, tennis hasn’t always been a common sport in his home country.
“I think it’s going to be the first time Norway will have like superstars or top 10 tennis players competing in an event in Norway,” Ruud explained. “So I’m really curious to see how it’s going to be.
“Tennis is not a big tradition here. We had Sweden with Bjorn Borg, that brought to tennis to Scandinavia in a way, but Norway didn’t follow. We were only big in the winter sports, the cross-country skiing and the alpine skiing, so I think we just didn’t have the tradition and we don’t have a lot of facilities to play in.”
Now, as the coach of a former world No 2 player and three-time Grand Slam finalist, Ruud says that tennis is growing in popularity in Norway.
“Maybe I made the tennis a bit popular in Norway but of course Casper is a lot better than me and he’s brought attention to the tennis in Norway. I think it’s getting more and more popular now every year.
“Norwegian people are very good in sports in general, and we have been dominating winter sports a lot in cross-country [skiing] and alpine [skiing]. I think almost the Norwegian people are a little bit tired of Norway always winning in the cross-country, so I think Casper, Viktor Hovland and some runners are doing really good in the summer sports now.
“I think the Norwegian people really feel like it’s interesting to follow some Norwegian stars that are not with skis on their feet, that are doing other sports. I think it’s so, a lot of good media coverage. And I think these young athletes have gotten a lot of attention the last three or four years.”
UTS format very promising, says Ruud
Ruud also believes that the UTS format will be well-suited for the younger generation in Norway and holds great promise moving forward.
“I really like the system,” Ruud declared. “It’s obviously for the young generation that everything is going quick and you have music, you have everything there to have like a good time. It’s very intense and you are even more nervous because you know how much one point here and there can count. In normal matches you can feel you have a little bit more chances.
“I thought it was really interesting to watch and it’s going to be very interesting to see in the future if this concept is going to stay or even grow and become more popular. Casper played his first event in Frankfurt and I thought it was a really, really good event.”
With Christian Ruud in attendance at UTS Oslo as his son’s coach, the former player believes he can be of value to The Ice Man’s title hopes.
“I will still be kind of calm, but I think I will of course try to push him in the important moments. Maybe with some tactical things I think that I can help him,” said Ruud. “I think it’s also very interesting with the three points you can get to do that at the right moment. It’s also very important.
“I feel like some players always wait to the end but sometimes you can kill the quarter if you use it maybe a little bit earlier and get a bigger lead than to always try to take it at the last moment. I think it’s a fun aspect of the scoring system and I hope I can help him to win matches of course in that format.
“I know Casper quite well since I’ve been with him since he was young. Maybe that’s a little bit advantage for me, you know, father son, been coaching him since he was young. I know maybe the right moments to go for the big points or to go for the extra points.”
Casper Ruud’s first challenge will be to move beyond the tough group that he’s been drawn in at UTS Oslo. The world No 12 will be alongside The Viking in Group A, as well as Alexander “The Bublik Enemy” Bublik and former US Open champion Dominic “Thieminho” Thiem.