March 31, 2023

By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday, November 6, 2022

On the most special day of his young career, one that saw him capture his maiden Masters 1000 title and cap a run that saw him defeat five top-10 players in succession in Paris, Holger Rune demonstrated what makes him more than just a ridiculously talented teenager in one sentence.

Tennis Express

“It’s kind of a small dream come true, even though I have bigger dreams.”

Sure he was elated – overjoyed, in fact. But even in the throes of his realized dream, his impending top-10 debut and the media adoration that comes with such an incredible triumph in at a marquee event like the Paris Masters, Rune wouldn’t let slip his bigger goals from the back of his mind.

This is just a step, after all, in the direction of where this extremely driven teenager wants to take his career. Why treat it like he has just won a Grand Slam?

Nevertheless, the media can go crazy hyping Rune now, and it’s about time. Playing in the shadow of Carlos Alcaraz in 2022, may have allowed the Dane to stay comfortably under the radar for the last ten months, but those days are over.

If we focused too much of our spotlight on the wrecking ball Spaniard, the one who won five titles including two Masters 1000s and a Grand Slam, and became the youngest No.1 in ATP history, now is the time to turn our cameras to the blossoming Dane – and deservedly so.

When it comes to the future of men’s tennis, there is Alcaraz, and he is undoubtedly on top at the moment, but there is also Rune, and the Dane made that glaringly obvious this week in Paris with one of the most remarkable title runs in Masters 1000 history.

It had never been done – defeating five top-10 players in a single title run – in Masters history, and for a teenager to do it, after saving three match points in his first match (against a three-time major champion, who just happened to call him a baby after the match), is even more remarkable.

To cap it off with a win against Novak Djokovic, the player who has owned the Centre Court at Bercy like no other?

Even better.

“It means everything for me,” Rune said on court after his triumph. “It’s a perfect way to finish this tournament and I’m super proud of myself… To be able to share the court with Novak, who has always been so nice to me and is an incredible player, incredible fighter, incredible person, is a privilege to me, so I can’t thank him enough for the fight and I wish him all the best.”

Rune had to show his steel in the important moments to get it done. He saved six break points in a marathon game before finally converting his second championship point. It was not the hardest game of his life…

“It was the most stressful game of my life and my heart was almost in my brain,” Rune recalled. “It was crazy. I don’t know how I came through. I was already thinking about a tiebreak because he started off so cold, just making me play every point.

“I really had to win it and I’m super proud that I could finish it at 7-5.”

Even as he has his sights set on bigger dreams, don’t get the idea that the Dane isn’t celebrating his achievement. He can hardly believe it. After winning 19 of his last 21 matches, he’s a top-10 player and he’ll head to the ATP Finals as the No.1 alternate.

“If you told me this four weeks ago that I would be top-10 in and be No.1 alternate for the ATP Finals I would be like ‘What? Sorry?’ “Now I’m here so I’m super proud and I just can’t wait for some rest now, but hopefully I’ll get to play.”

Rune, who is the first Danish man to ever crack the top-10 and the youngest Paris Masters champion since Boris Becker in 1986, deserves to be emotional. And relieved. And… hungry for more.

“It was very emotional after the match,” he said. “It’s probably the best feeling of my life, of my whole career. It’s a really good step on the way to be able to play these kinds of matches against one of the greatest players like Novak. You know, to be able to win that last game was the biggest relief of my life. “My stress level was very high, so, you know, super happy to come through.”

He should be proud. To come through a final of that importance, against a champion of Djokovic’s magnitude, from down a set and under pressure throughout, says so much about the potential he has at the top of the sport.

You have to be courageous to win big titles, and Rune most certainly was on Sunday, as he delivered 42 winners and kept Djokovic on his back foot with daring drop shots and a jaw-dropping, money-in-the-bank backhand. Some players get handed wins in big matches (for a variety of reasons, it happens – injuries, bad form, etc…), but not Rune. He attacked the match and earned the win.

What was the key ingredient to Sunday’s victory?

“I think to be brave,” Rune assessed. “Honestly because especially in these kinds of circumstances when you play in a final, for me the biggest final that I’ve ever played in my life, it’s really about trying to be brave and be solid at the same time.

“Obviously I was very nervous before, but playing Novak on this occasion is a bit stressful. So I had to tell myself to calm down, but still, you know, believe in my serve and go for my shots. I’m not going to beat him just by pushing the ball back.

“I really had to do something, be creative, and I was doing that. I made a few dropshots here and there, tried to change the rhythm. You know, it didn’t always work, but a few times it did. It worked enough today, so I’m happy.”

Happy, tired, and hungry for more. The spotlight will follow Holger Rune more closely now that he’s broken out in such a big way. It’ll likely be a challenge he is more than equipped to handle…

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