Coaches Corner

Mouratoglou On What Was Burning Inside Rune

Mouratoglou recalls the first time he watched the Danish star
December 22, 2022
Patrick Mouratoglou congratulates Holger Rune after the Dane won the Rolex Paris Masters.
Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Patrick Mouratoglou congratulates Holger Rune after the Dane won the Rolex Paris Masters. By Andrew Eichenholz

Renowned coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who has worked with stars including Serena Williams and Simona Halep, recalls meeting Holger Rune when the Dane was 13. His first impression of Rune’s game was that he was an all-court player with no strokes that stood out.

“The fact that he was doing so well in terms of results got my interest because there is always a reason for that,” Mouratoglou, who is Rune's coach alongside Lars Christensen, told “I remember seeing him play points with guys and I thought ‘Oh, okay. I get it now.’

That ‘it’ was not related to technique or his strokes at all. It was an intangible.

“Some guys have this competitiveness that is at another level. They are able to play their best when it’s important,” Mouratoglou said. “They’re able to feel the moment when the guy is more stressed on the other side and keep the ball in the court and let the guy make the mistakes. Feel when is the moment to push and accelerate.”

Mouratoglou remembers discussing that with Rune and his team, including Christensen and mother Aneke Rune. His passion stood out.

“I could feel how much it was burning inside, which is quite rare to have. It’s funny because I’m in touch with a lot of young players as you can imagine at my academy and I always ask them about their hobbies,” Mouratoglou said. “A lot of guys say, ‘Oh, I love to do this and that.’ I say, ‘Do you watch some tennis?’ And they say, ‘Oh no, I play tennis all day, I’m not going to watch tennis.’ I always think it’s sad. I don’t judge, but to go to the top of the game, I think you have to be a bit obsessed with what you’re doing, whether you’re a musician, an actor or a tennis player.”

<a href=''>Holger Rune</a> edges <a href=''>Stan Wawrinka</a> in a third-set tie-break to set a second-round showdown with <a href=''>Hubert Hurkacz</a> in Paris.

Rune, the Newcomer of the Year in the 2022 ATP Awards, also has great self-belief. When he walks on court, regardless of who his opponent is, he believes he can win. Mouratoglou said that has been present from the beginning.

“First he had an incredible belief in his ability to reach his dreams, which is not something very common because a lot of players are full of doubt and they don’t dare dreaming really and believing that they can do it. He believed 100 per cent,” Mouratoglou said. “Second, he was all about tennis. He’s coming to the tennis, he’s doing all the things and whenever he has free time he watches tennis. He thinks tennis, he’s really obsessed with the sport and I think that’s what makes the greats great and all the greats we all know, they are the same. They are really, really passionate.”

A prime example of Rune’s self-belief came at the 2021 US Open, where the Dane was making his Grand Slam debut. Novak Djokovic was trying to complete the calendar-year Grand Slam, and Rune was his first opponent.

“My goal is not just to play here,” Rune told ahead of their first-round clash. “My goal is to win this tournament, even many times.”

“First of all if you don’t believe you are going to win, you can play 10 times better than the other guy, you’re not going to win,” Mouratoglou said. “And it’s easy to say, it’s not easy to really do.”

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According to Mouratoglou, it makes him think back to a story about Djokovic he always tells.

“There was a time when there were two guys who were on top of the world, Roger and Rafa. They were winning everything. We all remember this period, everything. All the Top 10s at that time were saying privately, ‘[It is] impossible to win a Grand Slam, we can’t beat those guys. They’re just too good,’” Mouratoglou said. “Novak arrived, he was 19. First time he played Roger in a Grand Slam he was interviewed the day before and he said, ‘I’m going to beat him.’ I remember the press people were tough on him. ‘Oh, who does he think he is?’ This guy, he just believed in himself.

“He didn’t win that match, but he happened to finally win many against them and become No. 1 in the world. So I think this is a really special thing. The immense majority of the players don’t believe and even if they believe at some point, their belief is not very strong. So when they hit the wall one, two, three times, they stop believing.”

Mouratoglou believes that the players who reach the top of the sport have “a really, really strong belief in their ability to beat the best and become the best”. That is why he likes Rune’s mental approach.

“I love this attitude and it’s not disrespect at all because he has the highest respect for those champions,” Mouratoglou said. “But he believes in his abilities and it’s a great thing and he should 100 per cent keep that.”

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