In his first junior tournament, Holger Rune reached the final. He had the same tennis clothes as Rafael Nadal, who was world number 2 at that time, and of whom he had a poster in his room. The Dane lost that final and once home he took off that poster and replaced it with one of Roger Federer, the ATP number 1. He also started dressing with polo shirts, just like Federer, and using his type of racket.
“I never want to be number 2, it’s the worst thing,” he said since he was a child, as his Mother Aneke recalls.
Today Rune defeated the number 1 in the world, Novak Djokovic, who by chance is also set to lose his place on top of the rankings after the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. For the Dane, it is the second time in three matches that he has beaten the Serb. Only two other active players have achieved more than two successes on Nole and have a positive head to head: Nick Kyrgios (2-1) and Jiri Vesely (2-0).
The other three players with a positive record against Djokovic only met him once, coming out as winners: Carlos Alcaraz, Daniel Evans and Taro Daniel.
“My goal is to become the number 1 in the world and win the Slam tournaments,” he told the ATP at the beginning of the season.
He has been showing his competitive spirit since he was a child. He wanted to overcome his four-year older sister Alma, who also played tennis. It meant so much for him that, he eventually admitted, he cheated on the important points of those matches with Alma. That’s when parents started stepping in as referees.
The desire to win, the need to compete and to come out on top have taken on different forms over time. But that youngster who gained the semi-finals in Rome, is, at the end of the day, that same boy who tore apart the poster of Rafa because he did not want to be number 2.
Sure, the risk of being called cocky is close when you say you want to beat Nadal’s record of Roland Garros titles, but sky is the limit and Rune is not afraid of aiming high: “I’m just going to say first I have to start with one. I want to win a Grand Slam this year. That’s what I’ve said in the past, and I stick to that. Obviously, I hope it can be achieved at the French Open. If not, I hope to make it in the other two Grand Slams. First we start with one, then we will see”.