Holger Rune’s breakout 2022 season hit new highs on Tuesday at Roland Garros.
The #NextGenATP Dane upset 14th seed Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-1, 7-6(4) for his maiden Grand Slam win in the first round in Paris. The 19-year-old believes his constant desire to raise his level, even after positive results, has been a key driver of his strong form this year.
“Obviously it’s always progress,” said Rune in his post-match press conference. “Even last year I was in the same progress. I’m trying to improve one per cent every day, to always to do things a little better than the day before. I think this has really helped me a lot.”
Rune arrived in Paris ranked No. 40 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, a career high, having claimed his maiden ATP Tour title in Munich at the beginning of May. It is a far cry from where he was a year ago, when he reached the final of an ATP Challenger Tour event in Lisbon as a player ranked outside the Top 300.
“I was obviously far away from playing tournaments [like Roland Garros] but always I had to believe in myself,” said Rune. “I was still young last year, so it was great for me to play these kinds of tournaments at that time.”
Rune’s progression since that week in Portugal was on full display on Tuesday against Shapovalov, a player who defeated Rafael Nadal on the clay in Rome just under two weeks ago. While aware he was facing an established Top 20 opponent, Rune was determined to only concentrate on what he could control in his first tour-level meeting with the Canadian.
“It was definitely a tough match,” said Rune. “Denis can play some unbelievable tennis. For me, it was just trying to focus on what I could do on the court, try to keep holding my serve, try to take every chance I had. I did that pretty good.
“Of course, I maybe could have closed the third set easier than I did. I had a lot of chances, but I’m just happy that I stayed focused and finished the match in three sets.”
Rune had an early taste of the big stage at the US Open last year, when he came through qualifying to take his place in a Grand Slam main draw for the first time. His reward was a first-round meeting with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Arthur Ashe Stadium. For Rune, the four-set loss was a key part of his learning curve, but he has now arrived at a point where he wants to turn his potential into concrete results.
“Obviously [playing Novak] was a huge experience for me, so I wouldn’t have replaced that match for any other at that time,” said Rune. “But it’s nice, you know, not to play the best guys in the first round. I would rather wait a little bit.
“Of course, you can’t say that Denis is an easy draw. He’s such a great player. Especially in the Grand Slams, he shows his best tennis.
“I really just tried, as I said, to focus on each point and to keep focusing on myself and not to do so much else.”
With success comes increased recognition, but Rune feels he is becoming accustomed to playing against the biggest names on Tour. Rather than it causing any extra nerves, he sees it as a reward for the hard graft he puts in on the practice court.
“I think it’s nice,” said the Dane. “This is what you work for every day, to be able to play the biggest tournaments. And to play these kinds of players, like Denis, also is great for me. It’s an amazing level.
“I’m super happy and pleased to be in this position right now. To be able to have chances against these guys. To be able to win my first title in Munich was a huge step forward in my career.
“I’m really positive and working hard every day to get better.”