PARIS — With all due respect and a focus to Carlos Alcaraz, a favourite to win the 2022 French Open, there’s one other heralded 19-year-old nonetheless alive within the males’s singles draw, a man from Denmark named Holger Rune.
The similarities largely finish there for 2 gamers who could very nicely find yourself being rivals for the subsequent decade, which is about how lengthy they’ve been rivals already. For the second, although, and perhaps only for one other few days, they inhabit separate worlds.
“It’s fairly enjoyable whenever you see these gamers right here that you’ve been enjoying at junior tournaments for years,” Rune stated in an interview Thursday after a second consecutive straight-set win launched him into the third spherical of a Grand Slam event for the primary time.
Alcaraz, a Spaniard ranked No. 6, has sucked up a lot of the oxygen on the times he has performed, though he shares the stage with some fairly good gamers named Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Alcaraz’s five-set comeback from match level down on Wednesday in opposition to Albert Ramos Viñolas was the match of the event to date.
Rune, ranked No. 40, has floated underneath the radar. He has but to drop a set.
Alcaraz performs within the massive stadiums and is the speak of the locker room.
“The well-known Carlos Alcaraz,” is how the Russian Daniil Medvedev, the 2021 U.S. Open champion who’s seeded second, lately described him with a smirk.
Rune has to date performed on Court docket 12, inside Roland Garros’ low-rent district, the place the backcourt is so tight he tripped over the folded tarp that protects the clay from the rain whereas chasing a backhand Thursday and badly twisted an ankle. He was simply three video games from successful. For a second, he thought this was very dangerous. He limped to his chair and acquired medical consideration, then got here again and closed out Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland, 6-2,6-3, 6-3.
Alcaraz has darkish hair and darkish eyes and for the final yr has appeared to mannequin his look and his quietly assured however humble demeanor after the Large Three: Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer. His coach, and the mannequin for all he does, is the soft-spoken former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero. Alcaraz’s father has described his son as the last word workhorse, even when he was a small boy.
Rune, a Nordic soiled blond, performs in a backward baseball cap. His coach, the little-known Lars Christensen, started instructing him when Rune was 6 years outdated after he appeared on the native membership in Denmark that Christensen ran.
It really works, however it has not all the time been easy.
“I used to be lazy after I was a child. I imply like 12 or 13,” he stated Thursday after he withdrew from the doubles event to guard his ankle.
Alcaraz hits the ball so laborious even the world’s finest gamers say it could take a set to regulate to his tempo. He doesn’t lack for contact, however at his core he leans on a testosterone-fueled model of the sport.
Rune performs a method crammed with finesse. He drifts throughout the courtroom and by no means appears to expend extra power than what’s obligatory.
He and Alcaraz started enjoying every years in the past within the under-12 competitions. They’ve performed 10 instances, he thinks. He’s fairly certain Alcaraz has the sting, 6-4, through the years. Alcaraz beat him in straight units in November on the Subsequent Gen ATP Finals in Italy.
Each had coming-out events of kinds on the U.S. Open final yr. Alcaraz, then identified largely to tennis geeks, upset the third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in a five-set epic within the third spherical.
Rune drew Djokovic within the first spherical.
“My purpose isn’t just to play right here. My purpose is to win this event,” Rune declared earlier than that match. He misplaced the primary set, 6-1, however gained the second in a tiebreaker earlier than his legs gave out and he misplaced 12 of the subsequent 15 video games.
“I used to be a little bit inexperienced,” he stated Thursday. “Didn’t know what it takes to play 5 units, presumably in each match.”
He nonetheless doesn’t lack in self-regard. “I consider in my sport,” he stated, although he has now added a dose of realism. “I consider I can beat anyone, however I additionally consider I can lose to anyone.”
True sufficient, however it’s additionally value noting that for years each tennis pundit — Patrick McEnroe, Brad Gilbert and on and on — was pretty sure that the times of discussing teenage contenders at main tournaments had handed. The sport had turn out to be too bodily, they stated. It was the area of males.
Alcaraz has dispelled that notion, successful massive tournaments close to Miami and in Madrid this spring and beating Nadal, Djokovic and the Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev alongside the way in which.
Rune might not be far behind. A French Open junior champion in 2019, he gained his first ATP Tour title in Munich earlier this month, knocking off Zverev alongside the way in which.
He gained a BMW for the trouble, however there’s one downside, which serves as a reminder of his youth: He has but to take the take a look at for his driver’s license.
“Didn’t have the time,” he stated. “When now we have a while off, we’re positively going to do the driving force’s license and take the automobile.”
Alcaraz obtained his license in February.