Rune 'living the dream' on own Parisian path

The main draw debutant dismissed 2021 finalist Tsitsipas for a quarter-final ticket

Holger Rune, Roland Garros 2022, fourth round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

A 19-year-old tearing up the draw sounds pretty familiar.

No, not Carlos Alcaraz, not Leylah Fernandez. Add fellow youngster Coco Gauff into the quarter-final mix and there are strong teenage kicks at Roland-Garros 2021.

Step up Holger Rune.

The Dane is another teenage sensation in the spotlight in Paris. The world No.40 grew up alongside Alcaraz, but it’s tunnel vision for this fellow 19-year-old.

“I think he deserves all the attention that he's getting. He's been doing some incredible things, beating Novak (Djokovic), Rafa (Nadal), all these guys,” said Rune of fellow quarter-finalist Alcaraz.

“About me, I'm going at my own pace, my own way. It's great. Everybody has their own journey, and this is mine.”

That journey has taken some pretty sharp steps up the tennis pyramid in recent seasons. This time last summer the 2019 Roland-Garros boys’ champion was ranked No.313 and competing in an ATP Challenger final in Portugal.

Fast-forward to his Roland-Garros main draw debut and Rune has sent No.14 seed Denis Shapovalov and the home flair from Hugo Gaston packing in straight sets.

However, the 19-year-old truly announced himself to a global audience on Monday on Court Philippe-Chatrier. 

Rune became the first Danish man to book a quarter-final in Roland-Garros tournament history with a highly-impressive 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 scoreline against No.4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

It was a head-turning performance; Novak Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic certainly took notice.

“It was kind of a surprise for me because I tipped Tsitsipas to go to the final from that part of the draw but all credit to Rune,” said former Wimbledon champion Ivanisevic on Monday.

“He's playing very well this year, brave young kid. He's going to be in the future one of the best tennis players, it's great for tennis.”

The standout stats of 32 drop shots, 54 winners and 20 passing shots give an indication of Rune’s rapid progression, a player who is inspired by Roger Federer to transition up the court whenever possible.

The world No.40 has dropped several clues on the road to Roland-Garros that he’s been more than prepared to reach a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final. The 19-year-old lifted a Challenger title in Sanremo, Italy, before qualifying for the Monte Carlo Masters.

Over to Munich and Rune outclassed world No.3 Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-2 en route to his first ATP silverware at the start of May. Add to that a semi-final in Lyon.

“It's of course helping winning matches. It gives you more confidence. Especially beating these kind of players is great,” said Rune. 

“The match in Munich against Zverev really helped me a lot to believe in myself even more today because I knew I beat a player in this kind of ranking and this level so it makes me feel better today. The confidence keeps growing all the time.”

The belief is palpable; however, the Next Gen star is adamant he’s only concentrating on the next step.

“My main focus from the beginning was just to focus each match at a time, each set at a time, because if you drop your level you can lose to everybody,” explained the former junior world No.1.

“I have strong belief in myself that if I really focus and play my tennis, I can beat almost everybody.”

It’s a Scandinavian derby in the last eight as Norway’s Ruud will join him on court and Rune is far from intimidated by going into uncharted territory.

“I know Casper very well, and he's been doing mainly all his best showings in Masters 1000 and the 250s, which he's won a lot of,” continued the Dane.

“Of course, more experienced than me but not a lot more experienced in a Slam, it’s both our first quarter-final. We both will feel the nerves. It's going to be a long match no matter if I close it in three or in four or in five. Just gotta take every point at a time.”

World No.8 Ruud edged past the rising teenager in Monte-Carlo last month 7-6(5), 7-5 having now claimed all three of their previous bouts.

“It’s going to be a great battle, in the rankings he's the favourite, but it's a new match. It's a new environment, a new court, new everything. Let's see what happens.”

Like his current crop of peers shooting for the top, Rune doesn’t shy away from his ambitions.

“My ultimate goal is to be No.1 in the world. I'm not going to hide it, because it always has been. I know there is a long way, but now I'm getting closer and closer,” declared the 19-year-old. “This really is living the dream.”

Casper Ruud, Roland Garros 2022, fourth round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT