Now That Rune Has Become A Paris Master At 19, What’s Next?

Holger Rune (photo: Julien Crosnier / FFT)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, November 7, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

What a moment for Holger Rune at the Rolex Paris Masters Sunday afternoon. The 19-year-old from Gentofte, Denmark came of age with his run of five straight Top-10 victories, climaxed by his 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory over six-time Paris champion Novak Djokovic in the title match of the season’s final ATP Masters 1000 event at Accor Arena in the Bercy neighborhood of the City of Lights.

Upon securing championship point on his second try in his Paris main-draw debut, which ended a 15-minute-plus final game that saw Rune save six break points in order to hold serve and avoid a final-set tie-break, the teenager fell backward onto the court, briefly covered his eyes with his hands and began crying. It was quite an emotional, if not predictable, reaction. What was unpredictable was Rune’s road – his remarkable journey – toward winning his first Masters 1000 title – the biggest crown of his young career.

The 18th-ranked Rune’s dream week in Paris began with the Danish rising star saving three match points against Stan Wawrinka. It was the only match he dropped a set in until the final against Djokovic. Then, Rune put together a streak of five consecutive straight-set victories against Top-10 opponents: No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz in the second round, No. 9 Andrey Rublev in the third round, No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals, No. 8 Felix Auger-Aliassime in the semifinals (which ended the Canadian’s 16-match winning streak) and No. 7 Djokovic in the title match.

At 19, Rune became the youngest Rolex Paris Masters champion since Boris Becker, who achieved the feat in 1986 at age 18.

After starting the 2022 season ranked just outside  the world’s Top 100 at No. 103, Rune is now firmly in place inside the Top 10 at the end after reaching four straight finals – at Sofia, Stockholm, Basel and Paris – and winning titles at Stockholm (over World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas) and Paris (over Djokovic). He’s won 19 of his last 21 matches – and improved to 39-24 overall with his latest title triumph. Earlier this season, Rune won his first ATP Tour title at Munich.

Rune joins another teen – World No. 1 and fellow 19-year-old Alcaraz – in the Top 10. The Next Gen of men’s pro tennis has become the Now Gen.

“It’s quite incredible,” Rune expressed in his final post-match press conference. “To stay here with the trophy, it’s an amazing feeling. Something that was tough to expect, starting the week off having three match points down. Then, now, to be able to be here with this beautiful trophy is an absolutely amazing feeling.”

While Rune was very focused and dialed in throughout the two-hour, 32-minute title match, once it was over, he allowed himself to bask in the glory of his accomplishment. He shared a warm embrace with Djokovic at the net and all was good between the two competitors as they walked off the court together.

“It was very emotional after the match. It’s probably the best feeling of my life, of my whole career,” Rune said. “It’s kind of a small dream come true, even though I have bigger dreams. 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. To be able to win that last game was the biggest relief of my life. My stress level was very high, so I’m super happy to come through.”

Djokovic, whose 13-match winning streak was ended Sunday, said in press he was most impressed by Rune’s fighting spirit. “You know, he stayed so composed also mentally all the way to the last shot. For somebody who is so young to show this composure and maturity in the big match like this is very impressive,” he said. “He’s had a week of his life, I mean, winning against four or five Top-10 players, you know. It’s quite impressive. He deserved it.”

The 21-time major titlist Djokovic suggested that Rune has “a lot of elements that remind me of myself when I was his age.

“Just a very competitive spirit, very confident, going for the shots, Backhand, very solid backhand, great backhand. Drop shots, good return, mixing things up, coming to the net.

“So, I mean, he has improved a lot. We played last year in the US Open. Since then, his level is higher. Two, three levels higher, for sure. So, I’m sure that he’s going to keep going. He’s got, you know, big objectives and goals. Understandably so, because he’s really a player that has potential to reach great heights.”

Now that Rune has become the first Danish player to reach the Top 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings – surpassing even his own expectations – he made the decision Sunday after winning the Rolex Paris Masters to pull out of this week’s Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan after being named a first alternate for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin (replacing Taylor Fritz, who was elevated to replace the injured Alcaraz), which begins next Sunday.

“Of course, I’m going to Turin,” Rune said with a smile. “I’m one out. I wish [for] all the players that I’m not going to play, because I wish them to be healthy. But at the same time, it would be awesome if I got to play.

“I didn’t expect that at all four or five weeks ago but now I’m here. I’m super happy how I officially ended my season, and if there possibly is more matches, I’m just super excited for it Right now, I just can’t wait to get some sleep, get some food, just relax totally.”