rising star from the North, Holger Rune rushes in quarters

In the shadow of Carlos Alcaraz, attraction of the season and of Roland-Garros, hatches another crack of the 2003 generation, a Nordic version and a blonde powder puff. Same cute sin for the drop shots as the Spaniard, whom he has already faced ten times in the juniors, same parasailing: 475e worldwide at the start of 2021, the Dane Holger Rune is now at 40e rank, after fourteen months on the main circuit.

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When the Murcian (6e world) came close to a premature exit on the Parisian crushed brick, saving a match point in the second round, unrolling his tennis with an almost insolent ease. Monday, May 30, in the round of 16, he certainly dropped his first set of the fortnight against Stefanos Tsitsipas (7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4), but was more serene than the Greek, outgoing finalist.

In the previous rounds, Rune had sharply eliminated the Canadian Denis Shapovalov, seeded number 14, then Henri Laaksonen: the only small scare against the Swiss: the Scandinavian tripped over the tarpaulin at the baseline and, to spare his ankle, deemed it wiser to withdraw from the double.

Same fate suffered by the last survivor of the French clan, Hugo Gaston, on May 28 (6-3, 6-3, 6-3), despite the support of 15,000 spectators on a central court swept by gusts. “Rune hits very hard, he is very solid from the baseline and makes few mistakes. I would have liked to put more pressure on him,” had regretted the Toulouse left-hander, reduced to doing the windshield wiper. Round face and cap upside down, his opponent never seemed timorous for his baptism on the huge Philippe-Chatrier court. Neither the least in the world upset by an audience which reconnects this year with its sound and chauvinistic naturalness, after two editions jostled by the Covid-19 pandemic, between closed doors and restrictive gauges.

Monday, facing Stefanos Tsitsipas, propelled from the big favorite draw from a lower part of the table where neither Djokovic, nor Nadal, nor Alcaraz appeared, his arm barely trembled. “He is young, he plays with a lot of emotions, however, noted the world number 4, 23 years old. It feels like there’s always something bothering him, I’ve rarely faced someone like that. » Before renting “His solid and very precise long-line backhand. When I started making mistakes or playing short, he was able to take advantage of it, find the right rhythm, he read my game very well”.

“I almost feel at home”

More patient, more realistic, more aggressive too, the right-hander played his game, strengthened by the confidence garnered in recent months. “I have confidence in my game, he said, while being lucid. I believe I can beat anyone, but also lose to anyone. »

Three weeks before his debut in the big picture Porte d’Auteuil, he lifted his first trophy on the main circuit – a first for a Dane since Kenneth Carlsen in 2005. In Munich, where he celebrated his 19th birthday, he did not has not conceded a set in five games played, with a victory in passing against the German Alexander Zverev (world number 3).

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The young man was offered a luxury car in Bavaria, a traditional gift given to the winner. The only problem: he couldn’t leave with it. “I don’t have a driver’s license. As soon as I have time in front of me, I will pass it and I will recover [la voiture] », he said smiling after his victory in the first round in Paris, Tuesday, May 24.

The tall blond (1.88 m), born in Gentofte, in the east of the island of Seeland, is a fan of clay. In 2019, he became the first representative of his country to win the Parisian Grand Slam among juniors. “I like the conditions, I almost feel at home playing here,” said this week, Rune, welcomed at his 13th birthday in the academy of Patrick Mouratoglou – coach of the American Serena Williams and now of the Romanian Simona Halep.

“He wanted to be like Rafa”

The Dane has had the same coach by his side since he was 6 and a half years old. “For a week, he was Rafa, with the headband and all the equipment. He wanted to be like him. The following week, he became Federer and devoted himself entirely to it. He loved the game told Lars Christensen at the ATP in December 2021. He was technically better than most players. But he wasn’t moving well enough, so I decided to focus on his physique and mobility.” describing a kid at the time ” lazy ” in these registers.

All of this is ancient history. At the beginning of spring, his foal made an impression by achieving a small feat: winning two matches on the same day… in two different countries. On April 10 in the early afternoon, Rune won a Challenger tournament (the second division of the circuit) in San Remo (Italy), before continuing, a few hours later, with the qualifications of Monte-Carlo .

A journey of one hour and ten minutes by car, to the French town of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, about 200 meters from the Monegasque border. With a bit of luck, next time he will be able to take the wheel himself.

This article was updated on Monday, May 30 after Holger Rune beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Round of 16 at Roland-Garros


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