Heading into Roland Garros 2022, all talk was about Carlos Alcaraz, the record-breaking teen from Spain.
And rightly so—he had just beaten Djokovic and Nadal back-to-back on clay, winning his fourth title of the year. Nadal-esque parallels were being drawn left, right and center, while the teen was the hot topic of the tennis world.
When the draw was released for Roland Garros on 19 May, all eyes were on the draw’s top half. Djokovic, Nadal and Alcaraz, all drawn in the same half, with a mouth-watering semi-final looming between Alcaraz and the winner of Djokovic vs Nadal. Surely, this was the match that would decide the tournament’s champion.
Yet with ten days play completed at Roland Garros, only one teenager remains alive in the men’s draw.
But it’s not Carlos Alcaraz.
Introducing Holger Rune
That’s right, there’s another teenager having an incredible 2022, and that’s 19-year-old Holger Rune from Denmark.
For many tennis fans, his appearance in the Roland Garros quarter-finals will have been a surprise. After all, this time last year he was ranked 291 in the world, and he hasn’t been beating multi-Grand Slam champions, or getting plastered over magazine covers on a consistent basis this year like Alcaraz.
However, there have been signs that this young Dane has what it takes to compete on the global stage.
Just one month ago, on his 19th birthday, Rune claimed his first title in Munich. He did it in impressive style as well, not dropping a set all tournament—including beating top seed and World No. 3 Alexander Zverev, 6-3, 6-2. His climb up the ranks of men’s tennis has been steady over the last year, entering this year’s French Open at a career high of 40.
It seems Holger Rune was just warming up though.
Carving through the Roland Garros draw
Drawn against 14th seed Denis Shapovalov in the opening round of Roland Garros, it seemed Rune’s debut at the year’s second Grand Slam was going to be brief.
Well, it was… for Shapovalov. Rune dispatched the Canadian in straight sets 6-3, 6-1, 7-6(4), earning his second top ten win and progressing to the second round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
This feat alone would have been worth celebrating for a teenager who only turned professional in 2020. However, Rune was far from done. Opponents in the second and third rounds of Roland Garros were also dispatched in straight sets, before he ran into Stefanos Tsitsipas in the round of 16.
Few gave the Danish teenager a chance against last year’s finalist and World No. 4, but again, he shattered expectations. The Greek was dispatched in three hours, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, setting up an all Scandinavian quarterfinal between Holger Rune and clay court maestro Casper Ruud.
That match plays out this evening, and yet again, not many tennis analysts are giving Rune a chance.
Progressing in Alcaraz’s shadow
Any other year, Rune’s rapid rise through the ranks would have attracted a flurry of media attention.
Articles, interviews, magazine covers—the tennis world would have been scrambling to get a piece of the sport’s next big thing. By and large, that hasn’t happened for Rune, because the world seems to think they’ve already found their star in Alcaraz. Rune is just going about his work quietly, climbing up the rankings and posting results. Already, his performance at Roland Garros has him within touching distance of the Top 20 in the ATP Rankings.
You’d have to think Holger Rune is perfectly happy with Carlos Alcaraz shouldering all of the attention this year.
After all, there’s only one teenager who has a chance of qualifying for the Roland Garros semi-finals tonight.
And it’s not Carlos Alcaraz.
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