Rune ready to roar as major success beckons

After a scorching run on clay, the Dane has sounded a reminder of his lofty goal in Paris

Holger Rune, Rome, quarter-finals©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

Not content merely laying bare an unbridled mission to scale the heights of men’s tennis, Holger Rune is doubling down on his timeline for major glory.

It might sound wildly ambitious given the men occupying the top three are Grand Slam champions and the other two above him have at least reached a major final.

The Dane, though, only cares for running his own race and his record against the top five is indication enough of the speed at which he is closing the gap.

During his run to the Australian Open fourth round in January, the then 19-year-old sounded his intention to claim a major trophy this year.

After defeating Novak Djokovic in the Rome quarter-finals last week, he reiterated his lofty goal for 2023.

“I want to win a Grand Slam this year,” Rune said. “That's what I've said in the past and I stick to that.

“Obviously I hope it can be achieved at (Roland-Garros). If not, I hope to make it in the other two Grand Slams. First we start with one, then we see.”

A runner-up showing in Monte Carlo to open Rune's clay-court season preceded a successful Munich title defence, in which he saved four championship finals to deny Botic van de Zandschulp.  

Holger Rune, Rome, quarter-finals©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

A first triumph in five attempts against fellow Scandinavian Casper Ruud in the Rome semi-finals went some way to avenging his defeat to the Norwegian in his maiden major quarter-final in Paris last year.

While unable to post a second victory in under a month against Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final in the Eternal City, Rune was stoic in defeat and quick to praise his opponent.

“I have to look at it's been a good clay season so far for me,” he said.  “I made three finals out of four tournaments. In that way I can't complain.

“As many of you guys know me now, I'm a very eager person to win titles. I've been close, too. Hopefully I will learn from it.

“But yeah, I mean, Paris is the main goal of the clay season. I think I had the matches that I needed to be as well prepared as possible. Now it is the last small things I want to do better the next time I stay in these big matches.”

Despite his lone victory over Carlos Alcaraz coming via retirement while leading a set en route to his maiden Masters 1000 trophy in Paris last November, Rune owns clay-court wins over Medvedev, Djokovic and Ruud this season and Stefanos Tsitsipas at Roland-Garros in 2022.

He is one of only three active players – alongside Nick Kyrgios (2-1) and Jiri Vesely (2-0) – to have beaten Djokovic twice and also hold a positive head-to-head against the Serbian.

“He kind of reminds me a little bit (of me), the way he plays,” Djokovic said. “Really fit physically, great defence, but also great counter-puncher. He can hurt you from both forehand and backhand side.

“Really solid serve, aggressive returns. Just all-around player on all surfaces. Particularly on clay, I think he finds himself really comfortable playing. He played finals of Monaco, was really close to win the title there.”

Following his three-set defeat to the world No.6 in the quarter-finals on a soggy day in Rome, Djokovic was pressed on what advice he would impart on his young challenger in his pursuit of that major breakthrough.

“I'm going to ask him tips,” he joked. “He beat me twice we played against each other, so I have no tips for him. So far he's doing very well.”