Rising Danish tennis star Holger Rune knocks out world number 15 at French Open

Denis Shapovalov had no answers, but maybe he should have consulted tennis legend Frederik Løchte Nielsen before the match. He’s been a fan of the young Dane for almost a decade

Holger Rune

Holger Rune has just beaten Denis Shapovalov, the world number 15, in straight sets at the French Open 6-3, 6-1, 7-6. A pulsating start saw the youngster break his Canadian opponent at ease in the opening two sets.

Only in the third set did he encounter much resistance, but when three break points came up in game nine at 4-4, he didn’t need a second invitation to move 5-4 ahead on serve.

However, opportunities were missed and Shapovalov broke back and then had points to take the set at 6-5. But Rune held strong and then raced into a 5-2 lead in the tiebreak before sealing it 7-4.

Breakthrough moment
This is the first time in his career that he has knocked out a top seed at a grand slam: the benchmark that all rising stars in tennis are measured against.

And it has come at the age of just 19, matching the exploits of Clara Tauson, four and a bit months his senior, who knocked out world number six Anett Kontaveit at the Australian Open in January.

However, there are many in Danish tennis circles who have been confident that this day would come for a great many years. Since he was 11, in fact.

Voice of confidence from champion
Frederik Løchte Nielsen, the recently retired 2012 Wimbledon men’s doubles champion, has never had any doubt that Rune “can go all the way”. 

“When one is as good as he is and has such great prospects, it would be unambitious not to aim for grand slam titles,” he told DR ahead of the clash with Shapovalov.

“He is already playing against the best, so once he gets even better, I think he has every chance of winning several grand slam triumphs.”

Obvious he could excel since he was 11
Nielsen first encountered Rune in 2014 when the pair were featured together on the cover of a Danish tennis training manual. 

“I had no idea who he was. Or how good he was. But shortly after, some of the Davis Cup players who shared a club with him began to tell me how insanely good he was in relation to his age,” he said

“His game was already of a high class. In fact, he did not play junior tennis. I remember the way he would adjust small things from one day to the next, like he was several years in advance of his development.”

Smart player but is he strong enough 
Today Nielsen rates Rune as a highly intelligent player who never looks over-awed by the occasion or opponent: “He really looks like he belongs, it is his natural habitat.”

However, he is not so sure Rune could win a grand slam at the age of 19, as fitness will be a problem in matches that go the distance.

“The physical part is perhaps the biggest factor. It is a prerequisite that he can stand up in a fifth and decisive set. After all, his playing style is physically demanding,” he said.

“Nevertheless, he has extreme belief in himself. He denies any kind of mediocrity, and if he does something that he himself is not happy with, he only returns stronger. He is also extremely ball-safe and can play at the highest pace. The better the opponent is, the better he plays himself.”

12th in the betting to triumph as Roland Garros 
Rune went on to become the youngest ever Dane to play in the Davis Cup, which he accomplished with a singles win against Egypt in 2018 aged just 14. 

Just weeks ago, he won his first ATP title: the BMW Open in Munich, which he won on May 1 – significantly on clay, the same surface as the French Open.

Currently the world number 40, he is 12th in the betting on most bookmaker lists to win the title.

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