PARIS — With all due respect and a focus to Carlos Alcaraz, a favourite to win the 2022 French Open, there may be one other heralded 19-year-old still alive in the lads’s singles draw, a man from Denmark named Holger Rune.
The similarities largely end there for 2 players who may thoroughly find yourself being rivals for the following decade, which is about how long they’ve been rivals already. For the moment, though, and possibly just for an additional few days, they inhabit separate worlds.
“It’s pretty fun whenever you see these players here that you may have been playing at junior tournaments for years,” Rune said in an interview Thursday after a second consecutive straight-set win launched him into the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the primary time.
Alcaraz, a Spaniard ranked No. 6, has sucked up much of the oxygen on the times he has played, regardless that he shares the stage with some pretty good players named Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Alcaraz’s five-set comeback from match point down on Wednesday against Albert Ramos Viñolas was the match of the tournament up to now.
Rune, ranked No. 40, has floated under the radar. He has yet to drop a set.
Alcaraz plays in the large stadiums and is the talk of the locker room.
“The famous Carlos Alcaraz,” is how the Russian Daniil Medvedev, the 2021 U.S. Open champion who’s seeded second, recently described him with a smirk.
Rune has up to now played on Court 12, inside Roland Garros’ low-rent district, where the backcourt is so tight he tripped over the folded tarp that protects the clay from the rain while chasing a backhand Thursday and badly twisted an ankle. He was just three games from winning. For a moment, he thought this was very bad. He limped to his chair and received medical attention, then got here back and closed out Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland, 6-2,6-3, 6-3.
Alcaraz has dark hair and dark eyes and for the last 12 months has appeared to model his look and his quietly confident but humble demeanor after the Big Three: Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer. His coach, and the model 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 dirty blond, plays in a backward baseball cap. His coach, the little-known Lars Christensen, began instructing him when Rune was 6 years old after he appeared on the local club in Denmark that Christensen ran.
It really works, however it has not all the time been smooth.
“I used to be lazy once I was a child. I mean like 12 or 13,” he said Thursday after he withdrew from the doubles tournament to guard his ankle.
Alcaraz hits the ball so hard even the world’s best players say it will probably take a set to regulate to his pace. He doesn’t lack for touch, but at his core he leans on a testosterone-fueled brand of the sport.
Rune plays a mode full of finesse. He drifts across the court and never seems to expend more energy than what’s essential.
He and Alcaraz began playing each years ago within the under-12 competitions. They’ve played 10 times, he thinks. He’s pretty sure Alcaraz has the sting, 6-4, through the years. Alcaraz beat him in straight sets in November on the Next Gen ATP Finals in Italy.
Each had coming-out parties of sorts on the U.S. Open last 12 months. Alcaraz, then known mostly to tennis geeks, upset the third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in a five-set epic within the third round.
Rune drew Djokovic in the primary round.
“My goal isn’t simply to play here. My goal is to win this tournament,” Rune declared before that match. He lost the primary set, 6-1, but won the second in a tiebreaker before his legs gave out and he lost 12 of the following 15 games.
“I used to be a bit inexperienced,” he said Thursday. “Didn’t know what it takes to play five sets, possibly in every match.”
He still doesn’t lack in self-regard. “I think in my game,” he said, though he has now added a dose of realism. “I think I can beat anybody, but I also imagine I can lose to anybody.”
True enough, however it’s also value noting that for years every tennis pundit — Patrick McEnroe, Brad Gilbert and on and on — was fairly certain that the times of discussing teenage contenders at major tournaments had passed. The sport had grow to be too physical, they said. It was the domain of men.
Alcaraz has dispelled that notion, winning big tournaments near Miami and in Madrid this spring and beating Nadal, Djokovic and the Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev along the way in which.
Rune is probably not far behind. A French Open junior champion in 2019, he won his first ATP Tour title in Munich earlier this month, knocking off Zverev along the way in which.
He won a BMW for the hassle, but there may be one problem, which serves as a reminder of his youth: He has yet to take the test for his driver’s license.
“Didn’t have the time,” he said. “When we have now some time without work, we’re definitely going to do the driving force’s license and take the automotive.”
Alcaraz got his license in February.