Holger Rune is currently participating in a Challenger event in Pau, France. Should he go on to win the tournament this week, he will become only the third player ever to win five titles before his 19th birthday and the second-youngest since Richard Gasquet in 2003.
Rune was ranked 474 at the start of the year but now finds himself extremely close to cracking the Top 100. He also qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals, where he was eliminated in the group stages after losing two of three matches.
Sportskeeda recently caught up with the World No. 108, who shared insights into his growth on the ATP Tour, advice he had received from the Big 3, as well as his goals for the future. Here are some of the excerpts from the interview:
When you got into the main draw of tournaments regularly, you said it was an "upgrade to business class.” Since then you have faced Novak Djokovic on Arthur Ashe Stadium and played the Next Gen Finals. What would you call this now?
Rune: Is there something called first class? Then this is it. It is an amazing life and I love it. No doubt that it is something very special playing on the big stages. The matches are still a fight but looking back, especially at the US Open, it can still give me goosebumps.
What have you learned from the experiences in the latter half of the season?
Rune: It's so important to be 100% every point not only physically but also mentally. I still have to improve in being 100% on every point because when I do it I am dangerous.
You and Carlos Alcaraz are only one week apart in terms of age. You recently faced each other in the Next Gen Finals. Is this the beginning of a new rivalry?
Rune: A lot of people are talking about the new Federer/Nadal rivalry. Yes, it's possible. We have been competing since we were kids and have always had good matches. He is ahead of me right now with a little more experience on the ATP Tour than me. Next year I will play the ATP Tour regularly and get the same experience. So we will for sure have many more good matches against each other.
It was very inspiring to play the Next Gen Finals. I feel I am disciplined, but I think Carlos is more disciplined right now than me. A little more mature. It was like that in juniors also at some point, he was a little ahead, but then I went in front. I am not so good at being number 2.
How do you review your 2021 season?
Rune: I think I did good. I always set goals for the season, and I work hard to reach these goals. 2021 has been no exception.
What, according to you, is the biggest factor in 2022, considering that you have now had a glimpse of the Slams and the Masters?
Rune: I want to win ATP tournaments. I thing it's realistic to think I'll be able to win ATP 250 tournaments in 2022 and in the second half of the season I should be able to win ATP 500 events also.
If I can perform well in the Masters and Grand Slams that will be good. When the frozen ranking stops in 2022, I will be able to enter ATP 250 events and from there I will work my way up.
What is the biggest challenge that a player at your ranking faces & how do you tackle it?
Rune: Right now the biggest challenge is that the frozen ranking does not make it possible to play and get experience in the ATP tournaments. Around my ranking now (close to 100) we still have to play Challengers. They are good matches, but you need regular experience at the ATP level in order to improve.
Is there any particular shot that you feel you can improve in order to lift your game?
Rune: I have a lot to improve on. I am only 18. I am working every day to improve every shot. I have to use my serve better. I serve too flat and fast because it's fun but it makes more sense serving with more spin. My coach goes crazy when I serve flat so yes I have to use my strokes better than I do now.
What is the best advice that you have received from the Big 3?
Rune: Djokovic asked me the first time I practiced with him (I think I was 14 years old and I was a hitting partner for him in Monaco) if I liked the way I played tennis. And I said yes. And he said good, that’s important.
At that time I thought it was a little strange but later I have thought about it and it is very important to like your tennis. Not only playing tactically or playing what your coach tells you works best, but also playing your own tennis. The tennis that makes ME happy.
Djokovic has told me many good things. It's funny because it's always Federer and Nadal that are mentioned as the good guys but in terms of the future generations, I think Djokovic is the most giving. I haven’t heard Federer or Nadal giving too much advice to the young players, maybe they do to the youngsters from their countries. But according to me, Djokovic is the most giving.
What changes do you expect the Danish Tennis Federation to make in order to boost the sport in the country?
Rune: Honestly I don’t know. Could be great with an ATP tournament in Denmark. The only international tournament held in Denmark that I was able to play was Tennis Europe for Under 12 and 14.
After that there was nothing. Because I was in the top as a junior and Denmark only held grade 4 and 5 tournaments in ITF so I had to go abroad to play. In seniors, we asked for some Futures to be held but they said there was no money for it.
Then this year we asked for a 25k event but instead they held two Futures 15k tournaments. I was playing Challengers at the time. So for both me and Clara (Tauson) we have to go abroad to play. But we are doing very well even though we do not have the possibility to play international tournaments in our home country.
Are we set to see a mixed doubles partnership between you and Clara Tauson in the future?
Rune: That could be fun. You never know. We won gold in the National Championship in mixed doubles when we were around 12.
You got into tennis because of your sister. Do you ever get a sibling pep talk before or after your matches? Does she advice you on your gameplay?
Rune: She is very good at tactics so if my coach is not there, she is the one looking at my opponent's matches. Otherwise, she does not interfere too much, only if I ask for help.
She is also the one that helps me if I am not satisfied with something in my strokes. We go down and she feeds me balls and I can solve the problem without a coach telling me what’s wrong. Sometimes it’s nice just to correct some small details on your own. She is always there when I need her. I have a very good sister.
Also check out: Updated Tennis Schedule 2022
How did Novak Djokovic meet Jelena Ristic? All about the most admired couples in tennis
Poll : Will Holger Rune be ranked inside the top 50 by the end of 2022?