19-year-old Holger Rune is hungry to rise. A torrid 2022 season showcased he can compete with the best of the ATP, and he’s now got his eyes on an even better 2023.
BNPParibasopen.com spoke with the soft-spoken Dane after his second-round victory over Mackenzie McDonald to get his views on his recent rise, his goals for the future and why he loves playing at Indian Wells.
Last time you visited the BNP Paribas Open you were world No. 86 and fresh off your first win here. A lot has changed in the last year. How much different do you feel, compared to last year?
Confidence-wise, for sure better, and also level-wise. Last year I improved a lot from the year before, and the same this year. It’s a normal process that I’m going through, improving every year.
For sure it’s been going quickly. Now it’s No.8 in the world – it’s great, but obviously I’m not satisfied yet. I want to do more, but it’s step by step and I feel like I’m playing better every day, trying to search for that extra percentage to improve. I think that’s very important because I’m only 19, and I have to look at the big picture.
It’s not easy for most players to improve so fast, and so regularly. What’s the secret to the work you are doing and why do you think it pays off so well?
I’m working extremely hard, but also I think it’s very important to be excited to improve, to see that it’s going to pay off and also have the good experience by doing the hard work and kind of seeing it pay off.
I am so much in love with tennis that I want to be perfect, but in the other way I know I can’t be perfect, but that’s also what’s exciting – that you can also be better. There are no limits, which I find very exciting.
— ROLEX PARIS MASTERS (@RolexPMasters) November 6, 2022
How often would you say that you put yourself through pain and suffering, training where you are absolutely fatigued and worn out? Is that a daily occurrence for you?
Some days are worse than others. Some days I push extremely hard but I feel good, and then there are the days where you don’t feel good and you have to do the same. There are only a few champions, and the champions do that. So it’s not how you feel, you have to be disciplined and give 100 percent no matter how you feel.
Of course you have to take care of the body, but I feel like consistency is a big rule and a big part of tennis.
This passion that you have – it strikes me that you are one of the hungriest players on tour – has this always been a part of who you are?
I think so. I think tennis is exciting and I show it a lot. Even a match like today [win over Mackenzie McDonald], it’s my first match and just the second round, there’s not much on the line but still I have the hunger to win.
I think it’s very natural. I step out there and it’s like a war. You want to do everything you can to break the opponent down by playing the right way, and that’s what I did pretty good today, and in general.
Holger, do you take lessons from the losses, are they valuable to you as well?
For sure, I think those are maybe the ones you learn the most from. Dealing with how you should approach things. When you lose a match you think a lot because you are interested in: What did I do good and what did I not do good and what do I need to do better, to be able to win the match? At this level it is very small things but very important things. It’s things that are maybe not that hard to do, but hard mentally because you have to keep doing them. It’s an effort, but at the end of the day when you do them and they pay off, it’s a good feeling.
Do you mind if I ask you about a few losses and what you learned from each?
Let’s start with Acapulco last month? A crazy match against Alex De Minaur, the body failed (cramps) – is there a lesson there?
I don’t think it’s just the body that failed in that match. I think I didn’t play the right tactics. We put up the right plan and I did not stick to it. I used too much energy to play, because he obviously makes a lot of balls, and runs a lot. I was a bit stressed. Today was, I wouldn’t say the same, but also against a player who runs really well and plays pretty flat like De Minaur (Mackenzie McDonald) and already there I learned something, to play the right way against these kinds of players, it’s just mental.
How about the Australian Open loss against Rublev earlier this year – a heartbreaker there…
It feels different to lose that kind of match, obviously, because it’s such a big occasion and a close match, on a big stage. But at the end of the day it’s the same reason why I lost the match. You don’t want to do these kinds of mistakes too many times. You better learn from them quick.
Of course Rublev is a phenomenal player, so credit to him as well, but I had my chances and I think it was obvious to see what I could have done differently.
How about your first US Open match against Novak Djokovic at the US Open?
For sure there were a lot of things. Both in terms of confidence, which actually raised inside myself during that match, and also after, because at that time I had no idea that I could compete at that level, with Novak. I could only do it for one set, but just that I could was very impressive for myself.
And then there were so many small tennis things that I got inspired by him. How close he put it to the line. How precise he is. How high his first-serve percentage is, so there were so many things to learn from him in that match.
I heard you say in an interview that you believe you are going to win a Grand Slam, that you want to win a Grand Slam, that’s your goal this year. What makes you believe that and what has to happen for you this year for it to come true, this dream of yours?
To be very consistent and disciplined, because I don’t think winning a Grand Slam is about the tennis, to be honest. I think it’s more about how you do physically and mentally, and how you handle all the things. Because if you go all the way it’s very long, it’s two long weeks. Luckily you have matches every second day which helps a little bit, but again, it’s exhausting.
I went to the quarterfinal [at Roland Garros] and that just felt very long. So you have to be in your own bubble, and when you have the time take it easy, because it is very exhausting.
I just feel like I need to keep improving my fitness and do what I do, because I feel like I’m improving and it’s a process.
Last question, about playing at Indian Wells. Every player has a different take on playing in these conditions. Slower courts, dry desert air… does it suit you here? Are you a guy that doesn’t care too much about the surface, you just work with what is given to you?
I always tell myself in my mind that it shouldn’t affect me, because my dream is to be the best tennis player in the world and if you see the recent and current best player in the world, Novak Djokovic, he has won this tournament, he has won Miami, he has won Monte-Carlo, he has won Madrid – he has won every tournament, so, if you have to think like ‘Oh I don’t like it here, or I don’t like the conditions there and there,’ you start a thinking process which is not needed if you want to win the tournament.
I don’t even think about that. It’s just normal, you have to adapt every week.
I played Mexico last week, it was way different. Did I like it? Yes, I liked it. Do I like it here? Yes, I also like it. It’s way different, the air is much drier here, but you just have to adapt quickly and when you play good tennis you normally like it.
— Holger Rune (@holgerrune2003) March 12, 2023
Do you get a chance to enjoy the beauty here and the laid back California atmosphere?
It’s a different feeling to be here. More calm and chill, which is very nice because there are a lot of activities. It’s nice. I have a day off tomorrow and I can take it easy, and I’m back at it tomorrow.