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HomeSportTennis's Enigmatic Talent: Holger Rune's Struggles and Triumphs

Tennis’s Enigmatic Talent: Holger Rune’s Struggles and Triumphs

A former French Open junior champion, Tennis player Holger Rune is touted as a future Grand Slam winner, but controversy has often stalked the 20-year-old Dane on his rise towards the top.

In the quarter-finals for a second time at Roland Garros, Rune will face Norway’s Casper Ruud in a repeat of last year’s ill-tempered clash after which the then-teenager was told to “grow up” by his opponent.

Rune’s rollercoaster last-16 win Monday over Francisco Cerundolo was marked by a double-bounce incident that went his way, far from the first flashpoint in his young, flourishing career.

He captured his first Masters title in Paris last November, beating five top-10 players in a run which culminated with a win over Novak Djokovic in the final.

But even that triumph began with Rune being chided by Stan Wawrinka for “acting like a baby” after he saved match points in the opening round against the Swiss.

Rune has for the most part let his racquet do the talking since, backing up a strong finish to 2022 by reaching the finals of both the Monte Carlo Masters and Italian Open this spring. 

He arrived at the French Open at a career high of sixth in the world, and is in rare company as one of just three active players to beat Djokovic multiple times and own a winning record against him.

But his most recent victory over the Serb — a three-set win in Rome last month — was marred by spats with the chair umpire, prompting Rune to call Mohamed Lahyani “an absolute joke” following a botched line call.

That came after Rune reignited the Wawrinka feud at Indian Wells in March when he asked the three-time Grand Slam champion if he had anything to say after winning their third-round clash.

Irritating

While Rune received support from volatile Australian Nick Kyrgios, US tennis great John McEnroe — once dubbed “SuperBrat” for his temper meltdowns and expletive-laden insults — suggested the Dane tone down the antics for the sake of his career.

“I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again, it’s hard to be a total asshole and be on the tennis tour, okay? It’s possible to do it but you end up living a very lonely existence,” McEnroe said recently on his brother’s podcast Holding Court with Patrick McEnroe.

“He likes to ham it up, he likes to engage the crowd, but he does it in a way that kind of irritates his opponents at times. Certainly irritates the crowd. So what’s happening is, he’s developing a reputation.”

Rune’s theatrical behavior is not uncommon for a player his age — he was born six days before Carlos Alcaraz — but he hopes his quarter-final with Ruud will be remembered for the right reasons this time. 

“Obviously there was drama last year and I hope we can make less drama this year,” said Rune, who at one point even appeared to order his own mother to leave the stadium.

Rune accused Ruud of taunting him in the locker room after their 2022 tussle, but struck a more conciliatory note this week when asked about his upcoming opponent who he beat in Rome two weeks ago.

“He’s a good player. I respect him. There’s no problem. We’re good. Should be a match without problems, hopefully,” said Rune.

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