Holger Rune exclusive: “I’m an ambitious guy, my goal is to reach the top 25 next year”

Holger Rune won 371 places in the ATP rankings by 2021. During a training session at the Mouratoglou Academy, the Dane spoke to Tennis Majors about his progress and his goals for 2022.

Holger Rune, US Open 2021 Holger Rune, US Open 2021 – © Shutterstock/SIPA

You are almost inside the top 100, which is a huge achievement. Can you tell us your assessment of your 2021 season?

First of all, it’s been an amazing season. When I started the season, I was 471 in the world (Note: Rune was actually ranked 474 in the first week of January) and I played a lot of ITF Futures in the beginning. I really played a lot of matches, fighting my way through a lot and I came up (the rankings). I did it by myself. I got the match wins that I needed and now I’m here very close to the top 100 and hopefully in the main draw for Australia. So I’m very proud of this season.

What was the goal at the beginning of the season?

The goal at the beginning of the season was to be top 100. It’s a little tough with the frozen ranking, otherwise I would be 60th in the world. But being close to 100 and being 18 years old is a great achievement. Next year, it’s going to be a lot easier, but ranking wise, it’s going to be more up. So I’m very excited about this.

What will be the goal next year?

Next year, my goal is to reach the top 25. 

Holger Rune training at the Mouratoglou Academy, December 2021. © Lijian Zhang / Mouratoglou Academy

That’s a huge step. I feel like you have very high goals in your career.

Yes. I’m an ambitious guy, but if you look at it, going 470 to 103, that’s a lot more places than say going from 103 to 25. I have beaten the guys out there and played close with guys like (Pablo) Carreño Busta and Novak (Djokovic). I believe I have the game and I just need consistency in every match.

I have the game to play at this level

Holger Rune

What are the areas in which you need to progress to reach the top 25?

I think it’s a lot about consistency. Like every point. Even though you’re down, and even though it’s 40-0 to the opponent, just making him play, make him tired and make him look at you and “Ok, he’s tough” and that’s one it’s the most important things.

Going back to the US Open (where he lost to Novak Djokovic in four sets), that's where basically most of the people discovered you. You have spoken a lot about this match, but it's three months behind us now. When you think about the match, what do you keep from it?

Definitely, I would like to keep the crowd from it. It was an amazing support. I have never seen anything like that. And going toe-to-toe with the best player in the world was also something (good) because this gives me the belief that I have the game to play at this level. And to play such a great player such as Novak was a huge experience. I think I really took my chances. Just the one thing that I wanted to be better at was my physical conditioning.

You didn't seem that impressed (with the level of Djokovic). How did you do that?

Well, I’m very confident in myself. Obviously, I was impressed because he’s such a great player, but also he’s a human who makes mistakes. But he’s not a God. But it was a great sense of play.

Holger Rune and Novak Djokovic at 2021 US Open – © Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports / REUTERS / PANORAMIC

Besides your match with Novak Djokovic at the US Open, what were the key moments last year? What were some of the big matches that you won?

One match especially that I had this year which was really a breakthrough was the second round in a Challenger in Italy (against Caruso) when I was down 6-2,4-1 and I ended up winning 7-6, 6-2 and I ended up winning the tournament. It just gave me a lot of belief, like never give up, keep fighting for every point because it’s not over until it’s over.

Can you just describe to us what your inner feeling was at that moment, how you built it and what did it change concretely for the rest of the season?

I was so pumped at the moment and after I left the tournament because I was like, “Oh, I really can beat the best”, and it just gives me more motivation after that.

You played 105 matches in 2021. That’s incredible. How did you do that?

Honestly, I won a lot of matches and played a lot, and I felt like I needed to because of the ranking system. Also, I think it’s very good to play matches, and getting to practice things in matches because you only practice a lot but it’s a different feeling when you play matches.

I take matches as practice sometimes

Holger Rune

When you play so many matches and travel so much, how do you find the time for proper training and your own progression?

It is difficult, I agree. But I think it’s good as we are working things in matches. I take it as practice sometimes. And, we always took a few weeks off, like two weeks to practice. And now, I have had a good pre-season to build up.

Do you mean that sometimes you play your match with practice patterns, more than tactical patterns to win that match?

I actually did that in the tournament in Bergamo that I won. I really thought about what I wanted to improve and what I wanted to use in the NextGen Finals and to really try to work on those things, and it was  working very well.

Do you have examples of what you could work on by playing competition?

Yes. What I was working on was to always step in and return, and come forward to the net. Even though I was playing guys who probably were good at the passing shot, I was still doing it. I thought that this is what I want (to develop) to be better. And I got better and better and won the tournament, so it was good.

You had some tough losses against Casper Ruud last year. Ruud is one of the top players in the world who qualified for the ATP Finals. Did those matches help you understand the distance between your actual level and the level you want to reach?

For me, Casper Ruud is a very tough opponent to play and he plays a game style that I have to work on. I have worked on it now, so I’m getting better at it. In both matches, I was very tight, thinking about too much winning or losing. Obviously he’s a great player. But even at that moment, there wasn’t that big of a difference. It showed in the results. It was all close games, and I’m sure if we played now. It would be a lot closer.

I just love my life on the road

Holger Rune

Do you know if you will play the main draw at the Australian Open?

I think so because the cut-off is 104 and I am currently ranked 103.

In terms of scheduling for the next season, you will be able to enter the Grand Slams directly. It would be a completely different season for you. What’s your plan for the next season?

The idea is pretty simple; to start in Australia and do as good as possible. I have had a good few months to build up and do everything I can to be ready for the Australian Open. And after that, the season goes on and on. After Australia, there is South America on clay. I’m just really excited about next year.

Holger Rune during the interview at the Mouratoglou Academy, December 2021. © Lijian Zhang / Mouratoglou Academy

Did you take some holidays?

I did take a holiday last week. One week

Was that enough?

Yes, it was enough.

You don’t like holidays that much?

I like holidays. I’m sort of the lazy guy sometimes. But I like to get back to work as soon as possible. 

What do you do when you don't play tennis?

I watch tennis. And there’s a lot of things with my family; doing normal stuff, going to the movies, playing some board games, and it was a good time.

Last question, do you feel homesick at times, being on tour in South America, in Italy, in the USA, in Australia pretty soon?

I feel even better when I’m away. I just love my life on the road. It just feels very good in the body and in the mind.

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