WELLINGTON - New world No. 2 Casper Ruud announced on Tuesday he will start his 2023 season at the Auckland Classic when the ATP Tour event returns in January after a two-season hiatus because of Covid-19.
The 23-year-old Norwegian rose to a career-high second in the world despite losing Sunday's US Open final to Spain's Carlos Alcaraz.
It was Ruud's second Grand Slam final defeat of 2022 after falling to Rafael Nadal at the French Open in June.
Ruud, a winner at ATP tournaments in Gstaad, Geneva and Buenos Aires this year, will headline the Auckland men's tournament beginning Jan 9 as he warms up for the first Grand Slam of the year at the Australian Open in Melbourne starting a week later.
"New Zealand is a very beautiful country. The conditions are very similar to Melbourne, so it is a nice tournament to play," he said.
"I am a big fan of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings movies, I know the nature and scenery are incredible so it'll be nice to explore," he added.
Ruud went out in the round of 32 when the Auckland Classic was last played in 2020, but has since become the first Norwegian to break into the top 10 and would have become world No. 1 had he beaten Alcaraz in Sunday's US Open final.
Tournament director Nicolas Lamperin said it was a "coup" to sign up Ruud, who is "one of the most improved players on the circuit over the last 18 months".
American world No. 8 Coco Gauff announced in August that she will feature in the women's Auckland Classic when the WTA Tour event begins on Jan 2. AFP