Toshiba Rising Star: Holger Rune

  • Matt Trollope

An incredible work ethic, a thirst for competition and a love for the game have defined Holger Rune’s impressive progression in the game.

Among the world’s top juniors in 2019, the 18-year-old has since risen to just outside the top 100, earning direct entry into a major tournament for the first time in his career at AO 2022.

X-factor

In one blog entry as part of a regular series he writes for the International Tennis Federation, Rune explained: “Feeling strong is important to me mentally, and while I know I can play good tennis, being physically strong makes me more relaxed during matches.”

His commitment to fitness and training is obvious, if you follow the young Dane on social media; Rune frequently shares content from his on-court training and gym sessions.

It’s all done with an eye towards flourishing in competition, and he got his reward when he was thrust into perhaps the most intense competitive environment of all – a prime-time night match, at the world’s biggest tennis stadium in New York, against world No.1 Novak Djokovic, in the opening round of the 2021 US Open.

Instead of being intimidated by the occasion, Rune thrived, captivating a crowd of almost 20,000 people – who chanted his name – as he took a set off the legendary Serb.

He ultimately faded to a four-set defeat as cramps took hold, but Djokovic had taken note, remarking: “I'm sure we're going to see a lot of him in the future.”

Notable stat

Rune competed tirelessly in 2021, playing 99 singles matches across all tournament levels – 102, if you count his three matches at the Next Gen ATP Finals, which do not carry rankings points – for a win-loss record of 72-27.

On court

That record earned him a winning percentage of 73 per cent, which, according to another blog post, fell slightly short of his target of 80 per cent. 

Yet it was still an extremely impressive season for Rune, who began 2021 ranked 473rd and ended it at No.103.

This significant improvement was made possible by four ATP Challenger titles, as well as runs to the quarterfinals of ATP tour-level events in Santiago and Metz. At those ATP events, he notched top-30 wins over Benoit Paire (Santiago) and Lorenzo Sonego (Metz).

Holger Rune's huge forehand proved a weapon in 2021, including on the ATP Tour, where he gained valuable experience in qualifying for five tournaments and reaching quarterfinals in Santiago and Metz. (Getty Images)

He also came through the qualifying rounds to reach the main draw at five tour-level events, including the US Open.

It is a notably quick transition to the pro tour for a player who, just two seasons earlier, was winning the boys’ singles title at Roland Garros and rising to the world No.1 junior ranking later in 2019.

Off court

Rune, also known by his full name of Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune, discovered the game because his older sister played it.

He trains between Denmark and the Mouratoglou Academy in the south of France.

In the process of moving into his own place in 2021, Rune discovered a stash of racquets in the basement of his old house, which along with old Nike outfits, he donated to tennis clubs in Africa. 

He posted on his Instagram account footage of children at a tennis club in Benin enjoying the new arrivals. 

Instagram is the only social media platform Rune inhabits; as well as documenting his tennis journey for fans, he revealed he uses it to contact other players to organise practices or seek advice.

He said…

Although tennis is a somewhat niche sport in his native Denmark, Rune benefitted from having former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki as an example to look up to, plus another elite youngster in Clara Tauson – who won the AO junior title the same year he won at Roland Garros – emerging alongside him.

“Tennis is getting bigger and bigger in Denmark, which is good, I think, more focus on it. Hopefully we can also have some tournaments there one day,” he said.  

“I’m just glad we’re doing well.”