Bunkered down in the depths of a long and bitter winter, a dedicated but steadily growing bunch of Norwegians is finding welcome reprieve celebrating a countryman’s feats on the opposite side of the globe.
Tuning into the Australian Open has not always been high on the list, given the season, the time zone and long-standing dearth of compatriots competing to fuel the interest from afar.
That is all changing thanks to 22-year-old Casper Ruud, who became only the second Norwegian to reach the fourth round at a major after his father Christian 24 years prior.
“He was happy. He's my main coach, so it's also an achievement for him. Now he has done it himself and as a coach, so I think he's happy that I've been able to not beat his record yet, but at least do the same as he did,” Ruud told ausopen.com.
“That was kind of the last inch he had on me when it comes to Norwegian records in tennis. I've kind of beaten him on everything else – the ranking and last year when I got my first title.
“He lost the finals a couple times, so now he was happy, and I'm not going to say we joked about it, but he kind of liked having that last inch on me and now he can't anymore, so it's a good feeling, obviously.”
Those ranking and title benchmarks came in one fell swoop last February when he surpassed his father’s previous best of world No.39 with a maiden tour trophy at the Argentina Open on clay.
At the 2020 Italian Open, Ruud again went one better than Dad managed at a Masters 1000 event as he reached the semifinals, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
A career-best ranking of No.25 soon followed and despite three forays to the third round at a major, his second-week breakthrough came on Saturday in Melbourne via a 6-1 5-7 6-4 6-4 triumph over Moldovan Radu Albot.
“I remember the first time I made the third round was back in 2019, and I played (Roger) Federer,” Ruud said.
“That's a tough third-round opponent, the greatest of them all. So then you kind of think more about just experience being in the third round than maybe thinking about actually winning the match.”
Fourth time round was an entirely different prospect, this time against an opponent he was expected to hold the edge over.
His reward is a showdown with the in-form seventh seed Andrey Rublev, a player he has lost both previous encounters to.
After Goran Ivanisevic brought his father’s run to an end in a heartbreaking five-setter in the round of 16 in 1997, there were hopes Ruud Jr could go one better.
“I know that he was up 40-love on Goran's serve at 3-all in the fifth to make quarters,” Ruud said.
“So it's one of his best results, but toughest losses of his career he's told me.
“But I hope that won't be the case for me on Monday. I'll have a very tough opponent.
“[Rublev has] been one of the best players on tour the last seven, eight months or nine months, so I'm up for a big test on Monday.”
Temperatures may have not yet nudged zero degrees Celsius back home, and with longer, warmer days still some months away, Ruud stands to provide further cause for celebration.
“Hopefully it can bring some light back to Norway, because I know it's very dark and cold back there now,” he said. “The sun goes up at 9[am] and goes down at 3[pm], so it's only like six hours of daylight, which I'm happy to be away from, but I also look forward to coming home.
“Hopefully there will be some kids that can get inspired by the results and pick up a racquet or continue working hard.
“Hopefully they see that it's possible for a Norwegian to do well.”