Teen debutant Rune shocks Tsitsipas

 - Alex Sharp

The 2019 boys’ champion toppled last year's finalist to earn a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final

Holger Rune, Roland Garros 2022, fourth round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Holger Rune’s remarkable Roland-Garros debut went into dreamland as the teenage prodigy dismissed world No.4 Stefanos Tsitsipas in front of a captivated Court Philippe-Chatrier crowd.

The 19-year-old became the first Danish man in history to reach the quarter-finals in Paris with an absorbing 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 triumph to book a meeting with No.8 seed Casper Ruud.

Rune joins Carlos Alcaraz in the last eight, serving up the first Grand Slam quarter-final with two male teenagers since 1994 at Roland-Garros.

Story of the match

Forward thinking from the very beginning, the fourth seed secured 3-1 on the scoreboard off the back of booming forehands and graceful single-handed backhands.

However, Rune, who also trains at the Mouratoglou Academy, was also unleashing off both wings. Tsitsipas lost the ball in the sun for a smash and momentarily lost his range, whereas a heavy Rune inside-in forehand helped restore parity.

The Dane, a 2019 junior champion on these grounds, struck a forehand approach straight at the world No.4, hitting Tsitsipas who was trying to turn away. Rune was apologetic, but certainly wasn’t in the next point, rifling a backhand passing shot cross-court.

The pressure was slowly but surely rising for the Greek, despite a smash hitting the advertising backboards, Rune was constructing points beautifully like a seasoned pro, not a teenage debutant.

A majestic cushioned forehand half volley from Tsitsipas signalled a return to peak form at 5-5, but Rune was ready to pounce for the break. A disguised backhand drop shot and scorching forehand pass on the run was greeted with rapturous applause.

With the break the 19-year-old grasped his chance, another social media gold drop shot chalked up set points. A riveting rally ensued - Rune’s remarkable retrieval skills, Tsitsipas with a nonchalant flick from a seemingly impossible position, the teenager rocketing a forehand winner to steal the lead.

In the third game of set two Tsitsipas was in real trouble at 0-40. But five rapid points in a row and the 2021 finalist found his spark.

The 23-year-old kept the Next Gen prodigy at bay and struck for an essential break at 5-3, Tsitsipas locked into ‘no miss mode,’ Rune’s striking was slightly too ambitious and they levelled up.

In set three the pendulum swung again at 3-2, Tsitsipas down 0-40 again, but this time he couldn’t escape. The teenager maintained his advantage, drawing almighty applause by claiming a 19-shot rally at 5-3 to crack the Tsitsipas resistance and edge a set away.

The statement ‘victory belongs to the most tenacious’ is stencilled onto the inside of the stands on Court Philippe-Chatrier and Rune personified that phrase.

The former junior world No.1 then cantered 5-2 up in the fourth set before some understandable nerves saw nine successive points head Tsitsipas’ way.

Serving out at the second attempt at 5-4, Rune sparked a final forehand winner, curtailing a three-hour exhibition of why this Dane is destined for the very top.

Key stats

There were hot shots galore with Rune firing 54 winners (38 unforced errors) against 41 winners from the racquet of the No.4 seed.

The versatility of the Danish youngster was emphasised by dinking in 32 drop shots and catapulting 20 passing shots past the reach of Tsitsipas.

The last Danish man to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final was Jan Leschly at the 1967 US Championships. Could Rune match his compatriot, who made the semi-finals in New York?

Holger Rune, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Messieurs, 1/8 de FinalePhilippe Montigny / FFT

What the winner said

“I have an unbelievable feeling right now, I was so nervous at the end,” admitted Rune, who lifted his maiden ATP title in Munich at the start of the month.

“I knew if I went away from my tactics against a great player like Tsitsipas, I was definitely going to lose. So, I told myself to keep in it, play my plan in the tough moments and it worked out. That gave me such a confident boost.

“The crowd was amazing for me. I’m so happy, I’m so grateful to play on this court.”

Mixing up the feel and power, Rune gave us an insight into his tactics.

“I tried to play as aggressive as possible, because when Stefanos gets the shorter balls he makes it really tough. So I had to take time away from him. It’s fun to play the drop shot and it worked out pretty well.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas Roland-Garros 2022 huitiemes©Philippe Montigny / FFT