WELLINGTON: New world number two Casper Ruud announced Tuesday he will start his 2023 season at the Auckland Classic when the ATP Tour event returns in January after a three-year hiatus because of Covid. 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 January 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.