After looking at the draw for the star-studded Paris Masters, not many would have fancied Holger Rune’s chance to win the whole thing. It was a road full of bumps, starting with his Round of 64 clashes against the former grand slam champion Stanislas Wawrinka, and five more matches against opponents ranked inside the top ten. It looked improbable. But step by step, Rune overcame every challenge thrown his way to reach the final, and then outsmarted his idol Novak Djokovic to win his first ATP Masters 1000 title.
Even though Djokovic won five more points than him, he lost the game 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in three sets. Rune managed to achieve the most improbable victory of his career by clinging on serve plus forehand approach, which gave him an overwhelming number of winners.
“I’m not happy that you beat me, but on the other hand I’m happy for you because I like your personality, you’re a very dedicated guy who loves tennis,” Djokovic said at the trophy presentation.
With the kind of opponents, he had beaten on his way to his first Paris Masters title, Rune is naturally seen as the next big thing in tennis. Let’s get to know his journey in the tennis world so far.
Holger Rune is a Danish tennis sensation who turned professional in 2020. He started playing tennis at the age of six, and trained in Denmark in his formative years before shifting his base to Mouratoglou Academy in France. Ranked number one in junior tennis, Rune announced his arrival with an impressive French Open title in 2019. “It’s funny, I still look back at it and think it’s an unbelievable moment now for my career, even though it’s juniors,” said Rune about his French Open triumph, adding that it gave him the confidence to succeed at a pro level.
At the beginning of 2021, Rune was positioned 473 in ATP rankings. Throughout the year, he was a constant presence in most of the tournaments, playing a record 99 singles match, and winning 74% of them. He also earned entry to the US Open, where he was able to knock off a set against Djokovic but lost the match. A year later, he stunned Stefanos Tsitsipas at Roland Garros but missed out on the semi-finals spot after losing to eighth seed Casper Ruud in a quarter-final.
After winning the Masters 1000 in Paris, Rune has ascended to No. 10 in ATP rankings, the highest-ever position achieved by anyone from Denmark in the men’s circuit. Even though tennis isn’t a popular sport in his nation, Rune had someone like former women’s number one Caroline Wozniacki to emulate.
The masters 1000 title in Paris is easily the biggest achievement for Rune so far. The expectations have increased, and just like Carlos Alcaraz, Rune represents the upcoming generation of players who are set to rule the tennis world for the years to come. While his victory in Paris was nothing short of extraordinary, he still needs to prove himself in the grand slams, where his best return is reaching the fourth round in French Open earlier this year.
Patrick Mouratoglou, the former coach of Serena Williams and who runs the academy where Rune trains, was not satisfied with his effort in Paris. While he lauded the effort, he felt there’s still a scope for improvement.
“I don’t know if we have seen actually his top tennis,” the coach asserted. “It’s higher than before, but we have to upgrade his average tennis play and make sure that his normal average play is as excellent as we have seen so far.”
Rune, however, wants to keep things simple. “To do 1% better every day, that’s really what I’m trying to do,” he said after beating Felix Auger-Aliasimme. “To improve every small thing, to try to get things better, no matter if it’s a warmup, a little better every day because it’s the small things that make the big difference.”
Rune’s next destination is Turin, where he is named as the first alternate for the Nitto ATP final.
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