Rune rockets to the top with final instincts

 - Alex Sharp

Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune backed up his Roland-Garros triumph by winning the ITF Junior Finals.

Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune, Harold Mayot and Valentin Royer in Chengdu for the ITF juniors Masters 2019© Zhang Yuncao/ITF

“I had a lot of texts and messages on Instagram saying 'you can be fighting for the trophy and to be junior World No. 1' so I was little stressed," said Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune with a beaming smile.

The 16-year-old was hailed the champion in Chengdu on Sunday night, lifting the ITF Junior Finals trophy aloft to cap a sensational season.

Winning Roland-Garros has helped me so much

Rewind to June and the Dane became a Grand Slam winner at Roland-Garros. The potential was palpable for the teenager and his momentum towards the top gathered apace in China.

Rune believes his title triumph in Paris has provided the perfect platform for dealing with such pressure, managing tight matches and chasing the highest honours.

"I have won a few of finals now; the European Championships at Under-14 level, Roland-Garros and now this," said Rune, the newly crowned junior No.1.

"You need to have something to win those finals as it's not easy, having that mentality is a process. I'm willing to go through that process and go through the pain to get to where I want to be. Winning Roland-Garros has helped me so much."

At the ITF’s juniors season-finale, Rune prevailed through the round robin stages with two victories from three encounters, before sweeping aside the competition with dogged determination.

©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

I was playing one of my good friends Harold“

“Yeah it feels unbelievable. I’ve been fighting all week, I have nothing else to give, but I’m in great shape,” reflected Rune, having posted 7-6(3) 4-6, 6-2 on the scoreboard in a thrilling silverware showdown with Frenchman Harold Mayot.

“It was such a great battle. I’ve had to work really, really hard for this title, so I couldn’t be happier to hold this trophy.”

Mayot arrived in Chengdu off the back of clinching the JA Osaka title and pushed Rune all the way in their group stage clash. The Dane navigated past Mayot in two tie-break sets, adding an intriguing twist to the finale on Sunday.

“I was playing one of my good friends Harold, who has been playing some of the best tennis of his life in this tournament. I’m so happy for him and I’m also so proud to get this title against him.

"I was pretty nervous beforehand. I think our round robin match was a much higher level without too much nerves,” continued the resilient Rune having entertained the local crowd in Chengdu with some scintillating shot-making.

Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune winning Roland-Garros 2019 juniors©Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Astonishing perspective and consideration

“It’s not too good to think too much, this is all about focus and a game plan. It’s a final, of course it’s different, but it had to be treated the same.

“But after I got the break up in the third set, I managed to focus, to stay calm and I managed to execute my game plan. It means everything to me.”

The Dane suffered a nasty fall on Friday after turning his right ankle, but valiantly battled on in defeat to US Open champion Jonas Forejtek.

“After I twisted my ankle I immediately thought ‘I’m not going to be able to play again this week,’ It was one of the hardest moments,” recalled the teenager, hailing his mental fortitude. “But I never gave up. I’m so pleased I managed to play and get the title here.

For a 16-year-old, Rune speaks with astonishing perspective and consideration, which is why he is already prepared to attack the professional circuit in 2020.

“I think I’ve been working really hard on and off the court, on all the details. Hard work pays off and I feel ready,” added Rune, insisting his rocketing rise is credit to a team effort. “My coach, my mental coach, everyone around me, my mum of course who helps me all of the time, I couldn’t do it without any of them. I will give it my all and see what happens.”