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Mouratoglou On What Was Burning Inside Rune

  • Posted: Dec 22, 2022

Mouratoglou On What Was Burning Inside Rune

Mouratoglou recalls the first time he watched the Danish star

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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ATP Challenger Tour: Five Moments To Remember From 2022

  • Posted: Dec 22, 2022

ATP Challenger Tour: Five Moments To Remember From 2022

Shang became the youngest Chinese champion in Challenger Tour history

The ATP Challenger Tour held no shortage of historic moments this season. From crowning champions who went on to showcase their talent at the season’s most prestigious events, to Argentina’s record-setting 23 titles, or Li Tu’s emotional victory in Seoul.

As the 2023 season approaches, reviews five memorable moments from the ATP Challenger Tour this year.

ATP Tour and Challenger Tour Champions
Six players, including Borna Coric and Holger Rune, claimed titles on the Challenger Tour and at a Tour-level tournament.

Coric, who won the Parma Challenger in June, upset three Top-10 players en route to winning the title in Cincinnati to become the first player since 1993 to win a Challenger and an ATP Masters 1000 title in the same season. And then it was the Danish teen’s turn in Bercy.

Rune, 19, claimed the Sanremo Challenger in April before rising to three Tour-level titles, including the ATP Masters 1000 event in Paris.

Four other men were also crowned champions at both levels: Yoshihito Nishioka, Marc-Andrea Huesler, Francisco Cerundolo, and Lorenzo Musetti.

<a href=''>Lorenzo Musetti</a> is crowned champion at the 2022 Forli-6 Challenger.
Lorenzo Musetti is crowned champion at the 2022 Forli-6 Challenger. Credit: Riccardo Lolli

Argentina’s Record-Setting 23 Titles
Heading into this season, the previous record for most Challengers by a single country in a season, 20, had been reached four times (France in 2005, Argentina in 2007, 2016, 2021). After tying the record for a third time in 2021, Argentine players set their sights on attempting to stand alone at the top of the Challenger Tour record books. After breaking the record in late October, Argentine players added two more trophies and finished with 23 Challenger titles in 2022.

Pedro Cachin, 27, held a season-leading four Challenger titles (tied w/ Jack Draper) and was the only Argentine who captured more than two titles this season. Cachin, World No. 57, won titles in Madrid, Prague, Todi, and Santo Domingo.

“Most Challenger titles in a year is incredible.” Cachin said. “It’s amazing to have such an opportunity for all the players to be a part of something special like that. It is not easy for our players to travel the world, going very far from home, but to have this achievement makes it all worth it.

<a href=''>Pedro Cachin</a> in action Sunday in the Santo Domingo Challenger final.
Pedro Cachin in action at the Santo Domingo Challenger final. Credit: David A. Martinez

“Especially for the younger guys, to see that Argentina has the ability and potential to win many titles. Hopefully this will increase the enthusiasm of players from Argentina to play this great sport. For us, it is a privilege to be a part of this great moment. The guys have worked hard and their talent is now showing.”

Li Tu Dedicates Challenger Title To His Late Mother
The Australian’s journey to the ATP Challenger Tour has been a unique trek. In 2014, Tu was finding success at the junior level, but the-then 18-year-old decided to put his racquets away to pursue a college degree and a coaching business, resulting in a six-year hiatus from professional tennis.

If it wasn’t for Tu’s close friend having a heart-to-heart conversation with him two years ago, he may have never returned to professional tennis and enjoyed the success he’s found this year.

After suffering the loss of his mother in September, Tu travelled to South Korea the day after her funeral. Little did he know what the Korean Challenger swing had in store for him.

<a href=''>Li Tu</a> is crowned champion at the 2022 Seoul Challenger.
Li Tu wins the 2022 Seoul Challenger. Credit: Do Won Kim

At the Seoul Challenger, which was Tu’s seventh Challenger appearance, the 26-year-old advanced through qualifying en route to his maiden title. Tu dedicated the victory to his mother, who would’ve celebrated her birthday the day after his title.

Shang Juncheng Rescues Ballkid
The Chinese teen and American Stefan Dostanic were locked in a three-set battle in scorching temperatures in the American state of Kentucky when Shang noticed a ballkid, Atharva Dang, in distress.

After asking Atharva if he was okay, Shang exclaimed, “He’s going to faint!” Immediately, Shang set his racquet down and assisted the overheated boy, lifting him into his arms and rushing him behind the umpire’s chair and out of the direct sunlight. After setting him down in the shade, Shang gave a bottle of water to Atharva and placed an ice-pack behind his head.

Shang Juncheng reunites with ballkid Atharva Dang.
Shang Juncheng and ballkid Atharva Dang at the Lexington Challenger. Credit: Rena Behr

The day after that moment of sportsmanship, Shang and the ballkid reunited for a picture. While Dang competed in a local tournament that weekend, the Beijing native was crowned champion at the Lexington Challenger. Shang became the youngest player to win a Challenger title since Carlos Alcaraz at Alicante in 2020 and the youngest Chinese champion in Challenger Tour history.

Shelbayh Secures History
At the Rafa Nadal Open by Sotheby’s, 18-year-old Abdullah Shelbayh became the first player from Jordan to win a match in ATP Challenger Tour history.

“It’s surreal,” Shelbayh said following his victory over top-seeded Dominic Stricker. “To do something for your country is a big achievement. I come from a small country where tennis is not a big sport and to do that, it means a lot to me to be in the history of my country. I actually never thought about that entering the match, but it feels amazing. I hope many players from Jordan show their talent in the near future and I can inspire them as much as possible.”

Abdullah Shelbayh celebrates a historic win at the Mallorca Challenger.
Abdullah Shelbayh celebrates his first Challenger Tour win. Credit: Alvaro Diaz/Rafa Nadal Academy

Although his first Challenger win came far from his Jordan home, it was only fitting it came at the Rafa Nadal Academy, where Shelbayh has trained since he was 14-years-old.

The Academy graduate was a semi-finalist at the Mallorca Challenger, where he lost to Zizou Bergs.

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Coaches' Corner: Swinnen Says Stricker Should Take 'One Step At A Time'

  • Posted: Dec 22, 2022

Coaches’ Corner: Swinnen Says Stricker Should Take ‘One Step At A Time’

Federer contemporary reflects on his player’s rise

Sven Swinnen still remembers the first time he watched Dominic Stricker play. The lefty, who was 14 at the time, visited the Swiss Tennis Academy in Biel, Switzerland. Not to put any pressure on the juniors training there with big dreams, the facility is located on Roger-Federer-Allee.

“He was hitting the ball already pretty clean. He had the ball nicely on his racquet already at a young age,” Swinnen told “Obviously maybe his footwork wasn’t the best yet. He still can improve on that today. But slowly it’s getting better and better.”

Stricker was just visiting for a couple days of practice at the country’s national training centre. Six years later he is 20 years old, and Swinnen is his full-time coach. The lefty is on the rise.

Stricker finished his 2022 season playing some of the best tennis of his career, winning a main-draw match at the ATP 250 in Antwerp and another at the ATP 500 in Basel, his home event. Then he shone at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, defeating Jack Draper, Lorenzo Musetti and Chun-Hsin Tseng in round-robin play before falling in the semi-finals.

“We try to take one step at a time. Now obviously he’s close to the Top 100, so the next goal if you talk rankings-wise will be to get a spot in the Top 100 and try to keep it for some time,” Swinnen said of his charge, who is No. 118 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. “Don’t get too caught up in trying to get points or think too much about points, try to keep working on the things you have to improve on court and then all the stuff will come automatically.”

<a href=''>Dominic Stricker</a>
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Swinnen is plenty familiar with young Swiss players with big prospects. The former University of Oregon student-athlete grew up with Roger Federer.

“We’ll always say a little bit the same to the young kids,” Swinnen said. “Everybody goes his own path, focus on that, focus on improving and it’s just great to have somebody like Roger that we have in Switzerland. That will also motivate them maybe to play.

“They get to know him, also. Dominic played a couple of times with him, so that was also good.”

In 2021, Stricker relayed to the media a story about how during their training together, Federer discussed the importance of the serve with his younger countryman. That shot has become one of Stricker’s biggest weapons.

According to Swinnen, it has been important to continue developing that strength.

“Sometimes you want to keep trying to improve the weaknesses, but I also like to put focus on his strengths. Keep improving his serve,” Swinnen said. “He’s serving already pretty good, that’s a big weapon of his, his serve, for his height. Keep improving on those and then there are plenty of things he can improve on.”

Judging by the end of 2022, fans will increasingly become familiar with that shot, too. In Milan, Stricker showed no fear of a big stage at the Allianz Cloud. Swinner added that opportunities like that will only help his player grow.

“Everybody’s dreaming about those stages, those big tournaments. That’s why you practise. That’s what all the young kids dream about, to play those big events,” Swinnen said. “Suddenly if you get closer, you really want to try to get there. I hope he keeps his focus, keeps practising hard and hopefully he can play more and more of those events.”

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