By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- As the most accomplished tennis player from Norway, world No. 2 Casper Ruud is a proud representative of his country, both on and off the court. It's a role the 23-year-old doesn't take lightly.
"I'm sort of an ambassador for Norway, because when I'm traveling around and people see a tennis player from Norway, they will try to see what kind of people are from Norway," Ruud said Wednesday at a press conference before his first match at the ATP Eugene Korea Open in Seoul. He is the top seed at the only ATP stop in South Korea this year.
"So I'm always going to try to do my best when it comes to behavior on and off the court," he added. "But in my professional tennis world, I would like to just try to do my best like I'm doing every week."
By reaching his career high No. 2 in the world rankings and making two Grand Slam finals this year, first at the French Open and then the U.S. Open, Ruud has already gone where no other Norwegian tennis player has gone.
Incidentally, Ruud has broken many national records once held by his father, Christian.
The senior Ruud had once been the highest-ranked Norwegian male player at No. 39, before his son surpassed him in February 2020 following his maiden win in Buenos Aires, climbing from 45th to 34th.
"When I grew up, that was always the number I was asked to beat. To become better than 39 was always a big goal for me," Casper said. "Obviously, I was also dreaming for better rankings and bigger goals than this but I remember when I broke the record in Buenos Aires, I didn't need to be asked anymore about when I was going to beat my father. So that was nice."
Christian remains Casper's main coach, and the son said the two have "a very good relationship."
"He's also very proud of this year, how it's been going. He's my main coach and it's also an achievement for him that I'm doing well," the younger Ruud said. "I'm also sure that he was happy to see the record be broken and to keep it the record in the family. He's a big part of my success so far."
The Korea Open is Ruud's first tournament since climbing to No. 2, following his runner-up finish at the U.S. Open two weeks ago. He said he has put himself in "a very good position" that will allow him to experiment with a few things in his game for the rest of the year, without risking his season going sideways.
"I feel that I have done very well during the year so if it doesn't go extremely well the rest of the year, it's not going to matter too much because I had a great start of the year," he said. "I'm going to try to explore maybe some new things and see how it goes and try to develop myself as a player. And of course, there's always things you can improve in practice, but when you play a match, it's very normal to go back to what you feel comfortable with. So I'm going to try to use this week to try to improve certain things that I want to improve and see if my game can develop and try to do it in the match."
Ruud said he has been watching Grand Slam finals on television since he was six years old, and to play in two of them himself was a surreal experience this year. He will look to build on that confidence-boosting experience.
"When I reached my first one in Roland Garros, I made myself realize that it can be done and I'm able to do it," he said. "Of course, the goal is to try to win, but I think (reaching) two Grand Slam finals in a year is a great step for me in my career and my self-belief that I can belong in this level and play more finals in my career."
In addition to picking up titles, Ruud said one other major goal is to bring an ATP tournament to his native country.
"It's not something I can make it happen but, with the player in the good ranking (position) in the world, it can maybe be easier to make it happen," he said. "It's very difficult at the moment but I think if I'm able to play an ATP tournament in Norway one time in my career, I will be very happy."