Next Gen

Not Clowning Around: Rune Primed For ‘The Big Top’ In Milan

Dane will compete at Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals for second time
November 04, 2022
Holger Rune celebrates defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in May to reach his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros.
AFP/Getty Images
Holger Rune celebrates defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in May to reach his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros. By Andy West

Holger Rune may have had a busy 2022 season developing his game on court, but that hasn’t stopped the Dane from also finding time to work on a slightly different set of skills.

“I can juggle three balls, for sure. With four, it’s rusty, but I’m trying,” Rune, whose coach Lars Christensen used to work as a circus artist, recently told “It’s nice, it’s fun… He (Christensen) showed me [how to do a] handstand, but it takes a lot of work. I can do it against a wall, but it’s very tough to do.”

The 19-year-old Dane believes that Christensen’s background brings a unique perspective to his team as he looks to finish his stellar year in style at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

“He’s told me a little bit [about the circus] and I’ve seen a few videos of it,” said Rune, who has worked with Christensen since childhood. “It’s obviously another kind of thing to tennis, but he’s taught me a few tricks… It’s good, because he has an understanding of all the fitness also, because he did a lot of work to be able to do what he did.

“Obviously, all the things with the balls help. The coordination, and he also has some good drills on the court that maybe other coaches wouldn’t have because he has been in that business. For me, it is nice to have a guy not only with a tennis background, but a different background.”

Whatever Christensen’s methods, they are working. Rune’s impressive year has seen the Dane rack up a 37-24 record on the ATP Tour and lift his first tour-level titles in Munich and Stockholm. In between those triumphs, the 19-year-old surged to his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros, a run that included a fourth-round win against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“I think that [was probably the biggest win] because it was at a Grand Slam in the fourth round,” said Rune of his four-set win against the Greek. “It was probably the biggest win as I really wanted to reach the quarter-finals and it was a huge battle, so I would say [it stands out].”

It didn’t take long for Rune to be reminded of the reality of life on the ATP Tour after his breakthrough run in Paris, however. The 19-year-old endured a difficult stretch on the grass and the North American hard courts, but he rediscovered his form with aplomb during the European indoor season as he reached the final in Sofia before defeating Tsitsipas again to claim the Stockholm crown.

“I think when you are young, you have to learn all the time,” said Rune. “It is not easy to play week after week on the highest level and this is what you need to learn. If you can do that already now then it is amazing, but I am working on it and trying to show more and more consistency.”

Rune is one of a number of #NextGenATP stars who have enjoyed recent success on Tour. As well as the Dane, Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner, Lorenzo Musetti and Brandon Nakashima all lifted at least one tour-level trophy in 2022, and Rune is optimistic that there is plenty more to come from the ATP’s latest batch of young talents.

“I think it is going to be a really exciting time,” he said. “As we know, there are a lot of young guys coming up the rankings. Of course, I think it is exciting because I am young, but I think it is exciting for the Tour that we get some next guys up there. We are just fighting every day, so let’s hope we can get there.”

Rune faced both Alcaraz and Nakashima in the group stage at last year’s Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals and took on Sinner in the semi-finals in Sofia, while he is yet to meet Musetti at Tour level. He is excited at the prospect of ATP Tour fans having the chance to witness rivalries that have existed since juniors.

“I have played Alcaraz tons of times, when we played juniors,” said Rune. “We always have great battles. Then me and Musetti have played two or three times, so I would say those two [stand out].”

<a href=''>Holger Rune</a> & <a href=''>Carlos Alcaraz</a>
Holger Rune & Carlos Alcaraz in 2021 in Milan. Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour.

Home favourite Musetti joins Rune in this year’s Milan lineup for what will be a second consecutive Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals appearance for both. Rune has only positive memories of the 21-and-under season finale from 2021, when he narrowly missed out on a semi-final spot with a 1-2 group-stage record.

“My strongest memory was that it was an unbelievable event and to be able to play that for the first time was crazy,” said the Dane. “I watched it as a kid, so to grow up and be able to play it was really great. I was very privileged to be able to qualify.”

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