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Brain Game: Here's How Holger Rune Stunned Djokovic In Paris Final

  • Posted: Nov 06, 2022

Brain Game: Here’s How Holger Rune Stunned Djokovic In Paris Final

A fearless Serve + 1 forehand approach underpinned the Dane’s success

Novak Djokovic won five more points in the match. Holger Rune ran a specific serve strategy that won the point 16 of 18 times. There’s your upset in a nutshell.

Rune defeated Djokovic 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the Rolex Paris Masters final on Sunday on the back of dominating his service games with a Serve + 1 forehand approach. It was almost unstoppable. Rune won 89% (16/18) of points when he started with a serve and a forehand approach. In comparison, he came to the net only eight times behind a Serve +1 backhand approach, winning just three (38%).

Hit a serve. Hit a forehand approach. Collect the most impressive silverware of your emerging career.

Rune’s winning strategy was to take time away from Djokovic and take control of the point as quickly as possible. Rune served and volleyed eight times, winning five. He made contact with the ball 38 per cent of the time inside the baseline, compared to Djokovic’s 33 per cent. Rune took advantage of every opportunity to lean on the ball and make Djokovic defend. Rune hunted more forehands (165-147), repeatedly putting himself in an offensive situation in the point.
Fortune favours a north-south strategy.

Rune was also the more opportunistic player on the court. He only saw three break points in the match, and converted every one. In stark contrast, Djokovic amassed 12 break points in the two hour and 33 minute encounter, but only managed to convert two of them. It must have felt like sand slipping through his fingers.

Rune’s forehand was the difference maker in short rallies with his Serve +1 strategy. Once the point flowed into longer exchanges, it was his backhand that stole the show. Overall, Rune crushed 17 backhand winners to Djokovic’s six. It was a well-oiled, two-pronged attack that has catapulted Rune into the Top 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

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Rune’s court position provided another leverage point that helped him pull off an unlikely victory. He hit 37 per cent of his backhands inside the baseline trying to extract as many errors from Djokovic as possible. By comparison, the Serb only made contact with 26 percent of his backhands inside the baseline. The Dane stepped into the ball. The Serb too often let it passively come to him.

Rune was on a mission to move forward as often as possible to secure victory. Another data point that supports Rune’s superiority in the rally was his court movement. Rune ran 2739 metres for the match, while Djokovic was significantly higher at 2981 metres. Too much running for the former world No. 1.

Rune’s offense was simply spectacular, but so was his defense. If he wasn’t swarming the net, he was scampering side-to-side at the back of the court slicing forehands and backhands on the dead run to stay alive in the point. Djokovic hit 90 per cent topspin in the match, while Rune was only at 78 per cent. That’s a strong defensive stat for the 19-year-old. Rune played 58 per cent of his shots cross court, while Djokovic was lower at 54 per cent.

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Rune Rules In Paris! Dane Stuns Djokovic

Defense goes cross court.

Rune’s stunning victory serves as a playbook for the younger generation to upset the established stars. Attack the net at will. Stay in the point with “squash-like” slice.

Run like the wind and admire your newly acquired personal-best ranking.

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Koolhof Rises To Individual Doubles World No. 1

  • Posted: Nov 06, 2022

Koolhof Rises To Individual Doubles World No. 1

Dutchman reaches milestone after winning Paris title with Skupski

At the start of the Rolex Paris Masters, Wesley Koolhof knew a semi-final run would be enough to earn him a debut atop the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings. But the 33-year-old didn’t stop there, finishing the week with his seventh title of the 2022 season, all won alongside Neal Skupski.

“It means everything, obviously. I think the first goal you have when you start playing tennis is you want to become World No. 1,” Koolhof said after clinching the milestone achievement on Saturday. “I didn’t know until I opened the [Pepperstone ATP] Live Rankings on Monday, because I saw the Nitto ATP Finals points drop off for Ram and Salisbury. [I] needed to make the semi-finals here [Paris] to be No. 1. It feels great to reach the goal.”

Koolhof is the fourth Dutchman to rank No. 1 individually in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings, since 1976. He joins Tom Okker (1979), Paul Haarhuis (1994) and Jacco Eltingh (1995) in claiming the honour.

Set to be the top seeds at the Nitto ATP Finals, which begins 13 November, Koolhof and Skupski lead all doubles teams on the ATP Tour this season in wins (54), finals (10) and titles (seven). 

“It’s been great,” Koolhof said of the first-year partnership. “We first started playing together in Australia. We actually had a talk here in Bercy last year. I approached Neal [to ask] if he was available to play with next year. I think we just combined well from the first practice on. We’ve done very good, won a lot of matches, a lot of titles. I think it’s very special to share this with Neal.”

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Koolhof/Skupski Claim Year-End No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Doubles Team Ranking

The new World No. 1 also paid tribute to other important figures in his tennis career, including coaches, former partner Matwe Middelkoop and girlfriend Julia Goerges, a former WTA star.

“[I’d like to thank] everyone who has been involved in my career. I had so many coaches with the Dutch federation. Switched from singles to doubles in 2016. Then I started with Matwe Middelkoop, so it’s also special to be able to beat him [in the Paris semi-finals] to become No. 1.

“Also Marco Kroes, who has been my coach for the past six or seven years. December of last year I switched to a different team, Rob Morgan, Mariusz Fyrstenberg. I think they’ve done an amazing job together. I’ve improved a lot.

“I’m grateful for everyone — my mom, my girlfriend Julia Goerges. She helped me a lot the past two-and-a-half years. I got all the good things from her career.”

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By winning the Paris title — their third ATP Masters 1000 crown of the year (Madrid, Montreal) — Koolhof and Skupski clinched year-end No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Teams Rankings. The pair can now turn its attention to the Nitto ATP Finals, which Koolhof won in 2020 alongside Nikola Mektic.

“We still have Turin,” Koolhof said. “I managed to win that one two years ago. For Neal, it will be his first one. There’s still a lot to play for.”

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Rune Reflects On 'Dream Come True' In Paris

  • Posted: Nov 06, 2022

Rune Reflects On ‘Dream Come True’ In Paris

19-year-old Dane defeated Djokovic for first ATP Masters 1000 title

Holger Rune’s 2022 Rolex Paris Masters campaign could so easily have been an unremarkable first-round exit. Instead it became a career-altering run that featured five consecutive Top 10 wins and a first ATP Masters 1000 title, earning him a place as first alternate at the Nitto ATP Finals.

The 19-year-old Dane saved three match points in a first-round thriller against Stan Wawrinka, his lone opponent not inside the Top 10. But after dropping the opening set against the Swiss, he did not lose another until Sunday’s final, a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 win against Novak Djokovic.

“It’s quite incredible,” Rune said of his dream week. “To stay here with the trophy, it’s an amazing feeling. Something that was tough to expect, starting the week off having three match points down. Then now to be able to be here with this beautiful trophy is an absolutely amazing feeling.”

Rune said the gravity of his accomplishment did not sink in immediately after the final, as he was focused on staying in the moment during the match. But he allowed himself to take a step back soon after.

“It was very emotional after the match. It’s probably the best feeling of my life, of my whole career,” he said. “It’s kind of a small dream come true, even though I have bigger dreams. It’s a really good step on the way to be able to play these kind of matches against one of the greatest players like Novak. To be able to win that last game was the biggest relief of my life. My stress level was very high, so I’m super happy to come through.”

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Rune Rules In Paris! Dane Stuns Djokovic

Rune saved six break points in a marathon final game as he served out his victory and avoided a decisive tie-break. After sealing the win on his second match point, he celebrated with his team in the stands, sharing a long embrace with his mother.

“She’s so important,” he said. “Without her I would obviously not be here today. She’s been supporting me since I was a little kid, and she’s still here. It’s amazing to have her by my side. Also my whole family — my dad was here today and my sister back home. It’s amazing to have my family supporting me so well. So I appreciate that.”

ATP WTA LIVE | Follow the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin In Real Time

Set to become the first Danish player to reach the Top 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Ruud has surpassed even his own expectations by booking his ticket to Turin as first alternate.

“Of course I’m going to go to Turin,” he said. “I’m one out. I wish [for] all the players that I’m not going to play, because I wish them to be healthy, but at the same time it would be awesome if I got to play.

“I didn’t expect that at all four or five weeks ago but now I’m here. I’m super happy how I officially ended my season, and if there possibly is more matches, I’m just super excited for it. Right now I just can’t wait to get some sleep, get some food, just relax totally.”

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Koolhof/Skupski Claim Year-End No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Doubles Team Ranking

  • Posted: Nov 06, 2022

Koolhof/Skupski Claim Year-End No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Doubles Team Ranking

Dutch-British duo earn achievement in first year together

Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski clinched year-end No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Team Rankings on Sunday when they lifted the Rolex Paris Masters trophy. It is first time either player has been part of the year-end No. 1 duo.

The Dutchman and Briton made a quick start to their partnership at the beginning of the season and have not looked back. The pair has won seven titles this year, including triumphs at three ATP Masters 1000 events.

“[It means] a lot, obviously. It was one of the goals we set for this year. I think we’ve reached all the goals we set in January, so it means the world to us,” Koolhof said. “I think we’ve been playing great tennis from the start in Australia and managed to keep it going until here. We have one more week to go, so let’s continue this run in Turin.”

Koolhof and Skupski began 2022 by lifting trophies at ATP 250 events in Melbourne and Adelaide. That set the tone for the year, in which they have tallied a 54-17 record.

Their biggest victories of the season came at the ATP Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid, Montreal and Paris. They have also triumphed in Doha and ’s-Hertogenbosch.

Other notable results include runs to the championship match in Miami, Barcelona and at the US Open.

“It’s been great with Wes from day one really in Australia. We just keep growing. We have a few setbacks here and there, but we bounce straight back,” Skupski said. “We both work hard. We get along very well off the court. I think that’s one of the keys to gel on the court. We keep putting the work in, things seem to be paying off. Hopefully we can keep going in Turin.”

Individually, Koolhof will also become No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings for the first time on Monday.

The year-end No. 1 duo will try to punctuate its standout season on a high as at the Nitto ATP Finals. Koolhof will appear at the season finale for the second time and Skupski will make his debut. Koolhof lifted the trophy at the year-end championships in 2020 with Nikola Mektic.

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Djokovic Undeterred: 'I Like My Chances' In Turin

  • Posted: Nov 06, 2022

Djokovic Undeterred: ‘I Like My Chances’ In Turin

Serbian beaten by Rune in Paris final

Novak Djokovic saw his twin 13-match win streaks snapped by Holger Rune in Sunday’s Rolex Paris Masters final, but leaves the ATP Masters 1000 event full of confidence ahead of the Nitto ATP Finals. The Serbian had recorded 13 straight victories both overall and in Bercy, where he won the 2019 and 2021 titles.

Djokovic gave Rune full credit for the upset victory, providing a glowing assessment of both the Dane’s level and his own.

“Of course I’m disappointed with the loss today, but I was very close. It was just very few points that decided a winner,” he reflected. “But the level of tennis that I’m playing is high, and I like my chances [in Turin]. Of course, every match is like a final there. There are no easy matches.”

While the Serbian rued his missed chances in the final, where he was seeking a record-extending seventh Paris title, he spent more time discussing the excellence of his 19-year-old opponent.

“He stayed composed also mentally all the way to the last shot,” Djokovic said of Rune. “For somebody who is so young to show this composure and maturity in the big match like this is very impressive. He’s had a week of his life, I mean, winning against five Top 10 players, it’s quite impressive.”

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Now set to break into the Top 10 himself, Rune will join fellow 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, the World No. 1, in that elite group. Djokovic, who has faced both players this season, shared his view on their games.

“They are similar in terms of physicality,” he said. “I think they are both really fit. They train very hard. They are very dedicated guys. They defend, both of them, extremely well. Rune has a better backhand. Alcaraz has a better forehand. But they are both improving on those shots that maybe are not as good as maybe other shots.

“When I say ‘not as good’, meaning it’s not huge difference,” he clarified, noting both men are still strong on their weaker wing. “They have great shots, great forehand from Rune or great backhand from Alcaraz.

“They are very complete players for 19-year-olds. It’s quite impressive. Also their energy on the court, just wanting, motivating themselves and wanting to do well and staying mentally present, it’s impressive.”

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While Alcaraz will miss the Nitto ATP Finals with an oblique injury, Rune’s Paris run earned him a place as the first alternate in Turin. Djokovic will be seeking his sixth title at the season finale, but his first since 2015.

“Every tournament is important at this stage of my career. Anywhere I play, I try to win. That’s not a secret,” he said when asked about his hunger to return to the winners’ circle. “That’s kind of my mentality and approach coming into [Turin]. I feel very good on the court. I think I’m playing very, very good tennis.”

He will now have one week to prepare for his second appearance at the Pala Alpitour.

“You’ve got to be fit, fresh,” Djokovic continued. “Good thing is that you have a day between every match in the group stage, so you have time to recover between each match, which is good.

“Let’s see. I played there last year, played really good tennis. Played semis, tight match against Zverev, who was the eventual champion. So I know that the conditions are different. The ball is flying more because it’s altitude. It’s quite fast. You’ve got to serve well. I’ll be there some days before to train, and hopefully be at my best.”

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Italian Arnaldi Replaces Rune In Milan Field

  • Posted: Nov 06, 2022

Italian Arnaldi Replaces Rune In Milan Field

Italian set to make debut

Holger Rune has withdrawn from the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. The Dane will be replaced by Italian Matteo Arnaldi.

The 19-year-old Rune, who competed in Milan last year, surged to his first ATP Masters 1000 title on Sunday at the Rolex Paris Masters. The teen will be the first alternate at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.

Arnaldi will join the Green Group at the 21-and-under season finale, which will also feature Brandon Nakashima, Jiri Lehecka and Francesco Passaro. The Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals begins on Tuesday at the Allianz Cloud.

The 21-year-old Arnaldi has soared up the Pepperstone ATP Rankings the past two seasons, climbing nearly 900 places. The Italian won his first ATP Challenger Tour title this season in Italy and also reached Challenger finals in San Marino and France. 

Arnaldi is one of three Italians in the field with fellow home favourites Lorenzo Musetti and Passaro also competing. The trio will try to join Jannik Sinner as Italian Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champions.

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Koolhof/Skupski Triumph In Paris, Clinch Year-End No. 1

  • Posted: Nov 06, 2022

Koolhof/Skupski Triumph In Paris, Clinch Year-End No. 1

Dutch-British pairing lifts seventh tour-level title of the season in France

Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski completed an ATP Masters 1000 hat-trick for 2022 on Sunday with victory at the Rolex Paris Masters, where the Dutch-British pairing held off the in-form Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek in the championship match.

Dodig and Krajicek were playing in their fourth ATP Tour final in as many weeks in France, but second seeds Koolhof and Skupski were clinical in securing a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory. It was a third Masters 1000 crown for the team following its triumphs in Madrid and Montreal, and it has now won seven tour-level titles since coming together at the start of the 2022 season. Sunday’s win also confirmed Koolhof and Skupski as the year-end No. 1 team in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings.

“[It means] a lot, obviously,” said Koolhof after he and Skupski confirmed their status as year-end No. 1. “It was one of the goals we set for this year. I think we reached all the goals we set in January, so it means the world to us. I think we’ve been playing great tennis from the start in Australia and managed to keep it going until here. We have one more week to go, so let’s continue this run in Turin.”


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Despite letting slip a 4-1 lead early in France, Koolhof and Skupski held firm to take the opening set in a tie-break. A break in the third game of the second was enough for the second seeds to seal the title as they wrapped a clinical 93-minute victory in which they converted two of three break point opportunities.

“It’s been great with Wes from day one, really, in Australia,” said Skupski. “We just keep growing, we had a few setbacks here and there, but we bounced straight back. We both work hard and we get along very well off the court. I think that’s one of the keys to gel on the court. If we keep putting the work in, things seem to be paying off, and hopefully we can keep going in Turin.”

ATP WTA LIVE | Follow the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin In Real Time

The title in Paris gives Koolhof a second reason to celebrate this weekend. His and Skupski’s semi-final win against Rohan Bopanna and Matwe Middelkoop confirmed that the Dutchman will rise to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings for the first time on Monday. His partner Skupski is set to rise to a career-high No. 2.

Koolhof and Skupski will next head to Turin as they seek to end their stellar year on a high at the Nitto ATP Finals, where they will compete as the top seeds. Dodig and Krajicek’s exploits over the past month, during which they reached the final in Florence before winning titles in Naples and Basel, has also earned the Croatian-American duo a spot at the prestigious season finale.

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How Baseball & Shohei Ohtani have Helped Tseng Surge

  • Posted: Nov 06, 2022

How Baseball & Shohei Ohtani have Helped Tseng Surge

The 21-year-old is making his Milan debut

When Chun-Hsin Tseng was growing up, he enjoyed all sports. Baseball, one of the most popular sports in his home country of Chinese Taipei, was not at the top of his list.

“In school we did not [have] original baseball, but you hit the ball and the rules are similar like [in] baseball,” Tseng recalled. “I really like the feeling when you hit the ball so far and you run the bases, so that’s why I started [it] when I was very young.”

Tseng never fully immersed himself in the sport, though. It took until the Covid-19 pandemic for him to begin watching more baseball videos on the Internet. Once he did, it became a major part of his life. Playing professional tennis is Tseng’s career, vut baseball has become part of what helps fuel the 21-year-old’s success.

Some players warm up for practice by riding a bike in the gym or kicking around a football. Tseng throws a baseball like a pitcher.

“Now I’m following the [baseball] highlights every day. I really like to watch baseball and also I like to throw,” said Tseng, who travels with a baseball glove. “I always do it before my practice. It’s good to warm up my shoulder. The motion is similar like my serve, so it also helped me to serve better.”

Baseball is more to Tseng than just a physical warmup, though. The Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals competitor has become a big fan of one of the sport’s biggest stars, Shohei Ohtani of Japan.

“For me it is incredible [to follow him]. I really admire him and I was reading [a] book [about him] and trying to learn from him to see where I can improve and be like him,” Tseng said. “I think he worked very hard, that’s the first point for sure. He had big goals when he was young and he’s good at planning.

“He has a lot of good plans in his mind and he stays with it, and I think that’s why he can be at the top.”

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One of Tseng’s biggest goals this year was to qualify for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. Mission accomplished.

“I think it’s good to bring all the best young players together and compete,” Tseng said. “[We] play only four games, five sets. It’s going to be quick so you have to get used to it and into the match very quickly to be in a good position.”

The 21-year-old, currently No. 90 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, aims to next year crack the Top 50. But for now, he is appreciating all he has accomplished thus far. Last December, Tseng broke into the Top 200 for the first time, and now he is competing in Milan.

“For me it was an incredible journey because when I was around 280 or 300, I was stuck there for two or three years. For me it was tough,” Tseng said. “But suddenly from last year November until now, I became Top 100. I was very surprised because at that moment I didn’t really expect that I would go that fast. From then until now, I couldn’t believe it.

“There was a time I was always confused on court and made some wrong decisions and things just didn’t go well. But I just keep trying to work hard every day and try to improve myself because I believe that will bring me to the top level.”

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