It was 1992, the shorts were shorter, the rackets were heavier, and Stefan Edberg is serving to win his sixth, and final, Grand Slam title. Defeating Pete Sampras at Flushing Meadows was already a great achievement in the game, but coming through three consecutive five-set matches before doing so, against Richard Kraijcek, Ivan Lendl, and Michael Chang, was something special indeed.
The Swedish Golden Era
The Swedish public already rated Edberg as one of their greatest players. He was the latest in the production line that was built by the original Swedish icon, Björn Borg. When Borg dominated the sport in the 1970s it really motivated the Swedes to pick up their tennis racquets. The Swedish government invested in the game and the children were inspired by Borg to play. It certainly helped Mats Wilander, and then later, Edberg, to get into the sport and then be successful in continuing the Swedish success.
Between 1974 and 1992 there were only two years that didn’t see a Swedish name on a Grand Slam trophy, 1986 (when there were only three Grand Slams played) and 1989. Swedes won all of the Grand Slam Men’s Singles Trophies in 1988 as well but there has only been sporadic and moderate success since then with Thomas Johansson winning the 2002 Australian Open, Jonas Bjorkman winning doubles titles, and Robin Soderling reaching the top 4 and two French Open finals.
Sweden was the shining light for European tennis for many years. The other Scandinavian countries have little to no historical success in the game. Dane Caroline Wozniacki became the first Scandinavian world #1 since Edberg in 2010 and Denmark’s first singles Grand Slam champion in 2018. However, back in that 1992 US Open draw was a familiar-sounding Norwegian entrant, Mr. C. Ruud.
It Would Be Ruud Not To
Of course, by this stage, it is well-known that Casper Ruud, current ATP Top Ten player and real challenger for this year’s French Open is the son of Christian Ruud, he of the 1992 US Open draw. Already though, Casper, at the age of 23, has eclipsed almost all of his father’s achievements. He became Norway’s first ATP title winner and the first Norwegian to crack the top 30 in singles rankings. Ruud is now an eight-time ATP title winner and Top 10 ranked player who has played an ATP Tour Finals.
Ruud had the unwanted task of taking on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the opening round at Roland-Garros. The Norwegian was professional in his work, taking out the veteran Frenchman in four sets. He was also professional and sporting in his comments after the game which, in the end, led nicely into the post-match party for Tsonga’s retirement.
Ruud actually takes on another Scandinavian next in Emil Ruusuvouri from Finland. It won’t be an easy task as Ruusuvuori is climbing the rankings himself and sits just outside the top 50. If Ruud really is to bring Scandinavian tennis back to the very top though then these are the types of matches that he needs to learn to win, and not only that, win by conserving energy too.
The Return of Vitus
Denmark have their own new star to cheer on in the mens singles as well. Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune is still only a teenager at 19, but when there is another 19-year-old in the form of Carlos Alcaraz storming the game, Rune’s rise has perhaps gone a little bit unnoticed. A clay court specialist at the moment, Rune will undoubtedly follow Ruud’s path of development and become a challenger on every surface over time.
Rune’s breakthrough title came in Munich this year. This run was punctuated by a debut Top 10 win as he smashed Alexander Zverev in the third round. In the end, Rune didn’t even have to win the title the hard way as his prospective final opponent Botic van der Zandschulp withdrew before the match took place.
The top 25 and, probably, top 10, awaits for Rune who is a big character as well as a talented tennis player. Henri Laaksonen, a player of Finnish birth, but Swiss nationality, is Rune’s next hurdle in the French Open draw. A first deep run in a Grand Slam looks a real possibility for the teenager and it will cement his position as a feature of the future.
The future of Scandinavian Tennis
Scandinavian tennis could be heading for a decade of interest at the very top of the men’s singles once more. The Swedish Ymer brothers have shown flashes of capability to challenge, Emil Ruusuvouri will win more ATP titles for Finland, but it is the pair of Casper Ruud and Holger Rune that look to be likely to win Grand Slam titles.
Who knows? Perhaps success for Ruud and Rune could come in the next two weeks. Perhaps their success could lead to a new era for Danish and Norwegian tennis in the same way that Borg inspired a generation in Sweden. The 1992 US Open was the last men’s singles Grand Slam draw that carried a Scandinavian success, will the 2022 French Open be the next?