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Miami debutant Rune back on track and on collision course with Alcaraz

After a tough – and emotional – loss to Stan Wawrinka at Indian Wells, 19-year-old Holger Rune is back on track in Miami and angling for a shot at Carlos Alcaraz.

Holger Rune, Miami 2023 Holger Rune, Miami 2023 | © Tennis Photo Network for Tennis Majors

He had arrived in Miami in a nervous state after his edgy third-round loss to Stan Wawrinka in the third round at Indian Wells last week. It wasn’t just the loss but the lack of sharpness and intensity against Wawrinka, and the frustration that boiled over afterwards.

But Holger Rune, sailing into the sweet 16 without dropping a set on Florida’s sky-blue courts, is slowly getting his bearings again.

Case in point: the 6-4, 6-2 victory over 31st-seeded Argentinian Diego Schwartzman in the third round this Sunday.

Rune, ranked 8th, will be in for a bigger challenge on Tuesday when he faces American Taylor Fritz for the first time. Based on the Dane’s form in Miami, it could be a thrilling battle.

After dismissing Hungarian Marton Fucsovics (6-3, 7-5), the 19-year-old is showing the form experienced in Montpellier and Acapulco this season, when he reached the semi-finals, his best results on the ATP Tour in 2023. Once again he makes it through his first two rounds without dropping a set.

Against Schwartzman, Rune was able to handle the passionate partisanship of the Latino community of Miami, which backed the former world No 8 fervently on Butch-Buchholz court.

Aggression the key to unlocking victory for Rune

Rune didn’t blink and was quick to apply a very aggressive game plan, aiming to shorten the exchanges and make forays to the net as soon as possible. If his goal was to make Schwartzman, who was a winner against China’s Wu Yibing (7-6 [1], 6-1) in the second round, it was a successfully implemented plan. Schwartzman may be playing better of late, but he is still mired in a season-long slump. He has won only three matches in 2023, against ight defeats, including six in the first round.

Boosted by an early break, Rune was able to rely on an incisive first ball to take control of the run of play – and the scoreboard – even if he lost his serve at the start of the second set, for the first and only time thus far this week. With four out of four converted break points, the Danish teen experienced the forward momentum he will need in the second week, especially if he earns another match with world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.

The pair are slated to meet in the last eight, with Alcaraz drawing American Tommy Paul in the round of 16.

They have met twice in official ATP matches, with Alcaraz prevailing at the Next Gen ATP Finals in 2021, while Rune won (via retirement, leading 6-3, 6-6) at the Paris Masters last year.

The are no doubt aware of the danger that each represents, and certainly Rune will hunger for another chance to introduce himself to the tennis-watching public as the other wildly talented teenager in the top 10.

Everybody knows Carlitos, the world youngest world No 1 in ATP history. While Rune lacks the signature victories that the Spaniard possesses, he does not lack the hunger. As far as talent goes, we’d like to have another opportunity to size them up alongside one another.

Perhaps we will, in short order.

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