Earning the biggest win of his career on Wednesday, dismantling Olympic champion Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-2 wasn’t enough. Dropping just two games against Emil Ruusuvuori on his 19th birthday, then recovering from a 4-1 first set deficit to overwhelm last year’s breakout man in home favourite Oscar Otte, Holger Rune can become the third-youngest champion in the Open Era if he beats Botic van de Zandschulp tomorrow. Inspired by a certain someone?
Rune races into world’s top 50 after memorable week
12:30pm BST: Munich Open Final – Botic van de Zandschulp (#31) vs. Holger Rune (#50)
- If he wins here, Rune (19 years, four days old) will be the third-youngest ATP champion in the Open Era after Argentina’s Guillermo Perez-Roldan did the same in 1987
- After beating Casper Ruud and Serbia’s rising star Miomir Kecmanovic, van de Zandschulp can cap a big twelve months – back before US Open success as qualifier
Any sporting enthusiasts who keep tabs with the world’s most promising youngsters in the tennis sphere won’t be entirely surprised by Holger Rune’s excellent week thus far.
But time flies and while there’s plenty to cover in the sporting world, Carlos Alcaraz’s dizzying rise has reached levels meaning his agemates have almost been unintentionally cast aside.
With the exception of Australian Open quarter-finalist Jannik Sinner, whose progression I’ve gladly covered on this site for years now, Rune is the only other teenager in the world’s top 100.
You can see the drop-off in ranking for yourself and naturally, there are reasons for that. Players progress at different paces, some have recently turned pro while others already find themselves more seasoned to rack up points at different tournaments on a week-to-week basis.
U21 players in world’s top 200
Alcaraz (#9), Sinner (#12), Rune (#50), Lorenzo Musetti (#63), Brandon Nakashima (#74), Jiri Lehecka (#88), Chun hsin Tseng (#118), Jack Draper (#121), Juan Manuel Cerundolo (#127), Flavio Cobolli (#150), Dominic Stricker (#177), Luca Nardi (#198) and Dalibor Svrcina (#199).
Having been granted wildcard entry to the Madrid Masters, he plays Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego (11.30am BST) in R1 today after enjoying a quietly impressive start to 2022 – four Challenger titles, all on indoor hard courts in Italy (3) and most recently France earlier this month.
Following that same momentum-building theme, Rune has experienced some mixed success so far this year, suffering some character-building defeats in the first two months before making Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini work for a three-set victory at Indian Wells last month.
Then he retired injured in Miami qualification on Mar. 21, before winning an Italian challenger earlier this month and utilising that form into Monte Carlo – beating 2021 Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev before a narrow loss to Miami runner-up Ruud less than 24 hours later.
He lost to Andy Murray’s Melbourne conqueror Taro Daniel in Belgrade on Apr. 21, a banana skin opponent whose play often belies his #110 ranking. But this week? His displays have been a marvel to behold, starting with a 7-6, 6-3 comeback win over the aforementioned Lehecka.
Zverev, as good as Rune already is, would’ve been heavily favoured to come through – perhaps in three sets given how inconsistent the German’s performances have been himself so far this year.
But while highlights can never accurately tell the full story of a match, Zverev’s power hitting was eventually outgunned by a savvy youngster who showcased great shot variance and exposed one of the Olympic champion‘s clearest weaknesses: a struggle to assert himself at the net:
Those devillish drop shots and ability to last in lung-busting rallies were key, both there as well as against Otte – who acquitted himself well but paid the price for failing to finish set one strongest, dropping his serve in successive games which allowed the Dane’s confident to soar.
Although he would’ve had less recovery time between semi-final and Sunday’s finale, can that youthful exuberance help him now produce a similar showing against van de Zandschulp, who had to face adversity himself before toppling an in-form Miomir Kecmanovic in three sets?