Holger Rune had just broken into the Top 150 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings before his first meeting with Novak Djokovic at the 2021 US Open. Now, the 19-year-old Dane has a chance to make his Top 10 debut with a win against the Serbian in Sunday’s Rolex Paris Masters final (3pm CET/9am ET).
The #NextGenATP star has shown that the future is now by reaching four straight finals during the indoor season, and he rides an 18-2 record during that stretch into his clash with Djokovic. After snapping Felix Auger-Aliassime’s 16-match win streak in the semis, the Stockholm champion will seek his fifth Top 10 win in as many days in his first ATP Masters 1000 final. He will need to end Djokovic’s twin 13-match winning runs to earn it, with the Serbian streaking both in Paris — where he won the title in both 2019 and 2021 — and overall.
With wins against Hubert Hurkacz, Andrey Rublev, Carlos Alcaraz and Auger-Aliassime on the week, Rune has soared six spots to No. 12 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. Victory against Djokovic would also move him into 10th place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, which would make him the fist alternate at the Nitto ATP Finals.
Defending Paris champ Djokovic, who dropped a set to Rune in their US Open first-round meeting, has seen the Dane’s rise first-hand.
“I know him quite well because we have trained on different surfaces,” said the six-time Bercy titlist. “I really like him. Very nice guy, great family, great team of people around him. Fantastic work ethic that he has, and he deserves his success. I followed him the last three, four years, his uprising through the Challenger level and then getting now to Top 15 in the world.
“No doubt that he’s the future of the sport, along with Alcaraz and some other guys. Hopefully I can [delay] his first title [at a] Masters 1000 event,” Djokovic added with a smile.
While the pair are good friends, the Serbian is prepared for a battle in the final against one of the in-form players on the ATP Tour.
“We get along really well. Good friends off the court. Of course on the court, [we are] competitors,” he said. “I played him only once last US Open, a good battle, four sets. He has improved a lot, no doubt. He physically is a very fit guy. He’s young, so not much to lose. Just swinging through the ball.
“I expect that also tomorrow. I saw him play today. Yesterday, it was just a very impressive game. Kind of reminds me of myself, solid backhand and very good defence and just competitive, every point leaving his heart and his legs out there on the court. It’s nice to see that. I think he’s very good for our sport in general.”
INSIGHTS data shows how closely the finalists stack up in terms of Shot Quality — measured on a 10-point scale — with Rune holding an edge on serve but Djokovic scoring higher on return, forehand and backhand this week. Rune has also played more points In Attack in reaching the final, while Djokovic has recorded a stronger Conversion rate from offensive positions and and a better Steal rate from defence.
Rune has not dropped a set in Paris since he lost the opener against Stan Wawrinka in the first round, rising to new heights in a 6-4, 6-2 win against Auger-Aliassime on Saturday. Following his semi-final victory, which he called “an unbelievable match from my side”, Rune singled out his backhand as a key part of his attacking game plan.
“I saw some statistic that [my] backhand is going well in this tournament,” he said. “So I tried to use that a little bit, especially against Felix who has such a great forehand and serve.
“It’s good to play the game more on that side, and that was what I tried to do. To put pressure there, move him around, and it worked really well. I really feel the groundstrokes, the returns were much better than I did the last time I played.”
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Djokovic faced a much tougher test in his semi-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas, winning the final four points of the match to clinch a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(4) victory.
The Serbian is seeking his seventh Paris title and his 56th at the Masters 1000 level, both of which would extend his own records. He has claimed titles in each of his past four ATP Tour tournaments dating back to Wimbledon, winning 21 of his past 22 matches — a Laver Cup defeat to Auger-Aliassime his lone defeat.
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