Holger Rune: Tennis superstar in the making
By Adam Novysedlak
Holger Vitus Nødskov Rune, which is the full name of the young Danish tennis player, stunned the world in April 2022 winning his first ATP 250 title BMW Open being only 19 years old. The teenager who only got to the tournament thanks to a wild card from the organisers, showed his full potential when he defeated tournament number one and world number three Alexander Zverev. The German who was the biggest favourite for the title in his homeland, had to bow down to Rune after losing in straight sets. In the journey for his maiden ATP title, he then faced Emil Ruusuvuori, Oscar Otte and Botic van de Zandschulp who were all ranked significantly higher than the Danish talent but that didn’t stop him from lifting the trophy.
One month after claiming his first ATP trophy, Rune made his debut in the main draw of the only clay grand slam French Open. His debut game couldn’t have been better as young Dane eliminated 14th seed Denis Shapovalov in three sets. After beating Henri Laaksonen and Hugo Gaston both in straight sets, Holger then faced 4th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the round of 16.
Young teenager confirmed his great form on clay tournaments and claimed his second win against the top 10 player in two months and reached his first career Grand Slam quarterfinal. This win meant he became the first Danish player in Open Era to make it this far at any singles Grand Slam tournament.
His phenomenal run was stopped by Casper Ruud as the battle of two Scandinavians resulted in Norwegian winning in four sets. Ruud on Rune’s performance: “He has improved a lot. I’ve played him four times already in my career. I’m probably the player who has played him most on tour so I know a little bit how he plays but he has become much more dangerous, more unpredictable,” added Norwegian winner. “He plays fearless, plays a lot of big shots and makes a lot of them so he makes it challenging for you and he’s going to be a dangerous player for many years,” Ruud complimented young Dane.
After the game, more than the game people discussed both players’ behaviour as the atmosphere was very heated between the two players. At the post-game press conference Rune described the behaviour of his opponent: “He just went straight up to me and shouted “YEEEESSSS” right up in my face.” “You can cheer on the court all you want and be happy. I do that myself when I win. But that’s such bad style. Have some respect”, he added.
After the accusations made by Rune, Ruud explained the situation from his perspective: "No, what he says is wrong. What he says is really not what happened. We both were in the dressing room after the match, and it's obviously a huge dressing room. There are many players, so we were just in our own part of the room all the time,” said Ruud to Norwegian Eurosport.
"I took an ice bath, ate some pizza and listened to music before we went home. Holger sat in his part of the dressing room. How he creates the story of me shouting 'yes' straight into his face is just a lie. It never happened. It's a big lie. It's disappointing that he creates lies about me,” Ruud described his point of view on Rune’s comments.
After the end of French Open, Rune reflected back on the situation that followed his elimination at the tournament. “I have an extreme passion for this sport, and sometimes I show it too much. But I’m 19, I’m still young, and I work every day to bring out only the positive in my attitude, and that’s a process,” he told Ekstra Bladet.
In the interview for the Danish tabloid newspaper Rune added: “If you saw Roger Federer as a youngster, he was maybe 40 times worse than I was. And he's one of the most beloved tennis players on the tour - so I think I have plenty of time to get an even better image,” Dane surprised the world when he compared his character to the character of a 20-time Grand Slam champion who recently announced his retirement from the professional career.
This wasn’t the first incident on court or at a tournament connected to young Dane’s name. In the beginning of June 2021, former junior world number one won his first ATP Challenger Tour trophy after he defeated Argentinian Marco Trungelliti in Italian Biella. Although, in the semi-finals where he was facing Tomas Martin Etcheverry, Holger Rune was accused of homophobic comments on the address of his Argentinian opponent.
The TV footage from the mentioned semi-finals recorded young talent calling his rival “Bøsserøv” (gay ass) and “Bøsse” (gay). Following the victory, Rune apologised to TV2 Sport for his behaviour: “I didn't want to hurt anyone. I have full respect for homosexuals. I will never say things like that again. I love diversity. I have nothing against gays. Really nothing.”
Rune added: “I'm still young and have to study. I can't allow myself to say ‘crap’ like that. I've been given a lesson and I think it's fair for people to comment on this. That's not okay.” ATP then released the statement in which they confirmed the whole situation will be investigated and no such behaviour will be tolerated. “The ATP is committed to ensuring an inclusive environment for all players, employees and fans and there is absolutely no place for homophobic expressions in tennis,” said the ATP statement.
Another moment of Rune’s immature behaviour came on this year US Open when he got into a fight with the umpire in his game with Cameron Norrie. Dane accused his British opponent of taking too long of breaks between the serves in order to control the game and distress his counterpart. “Are you kidding me?” the 19-year-old shouted to the umpire. “Just before the time runs out, he serves, every time.”
The umpire didn’t seem to have an issue with Brit’s alleged timewasting which Rune didn’t like: “You really think he's not doing it on purpose?” At the post-game conference Norrie got asked about the situation but he remained calm: “No, I was not doing it on purpose. I think it's even better for him. I don't know. I think it can be annoying to return, but wasn't too bad,” added British matchwinner. At the same time, Norrie commented the situation saying it wasn’t a big deal for him: “I think it was just the once. He said something once, and it was no more, so I wasn't too worried. It was a couple times I did it. But, yeah, no biggie.”
Holger Rune reached another final at the Sofia Open at the beginning of October 2022 where he fell to Marc-Andrea Huesler who claimed his maiden ATP Tour trophy. The potential for the Dane is definitely there and if he continues his hard work sky can be the limit. Question remains whether his behaviour will overshadow his performances or whether he can improve his behaviour on court like the tennis legend he indirectly compared himself to.