PARIS – With all due respect and attention to Carlos Alcaraz, favorite to win the 2022 French Open, there is another announced 19-year-old player still alive in the men’s singles draw, a Dane named HolgerRune.
The similarities largely end there for two players who could very well end up being rivals for the next decade, that is, how long they’ve been rivals already. For now, however, and perhaps just for a few more days, they inhabit separate worlds.
“It’s kind of fun to see these players here that you’ve been playing in junior tournaments for years,” Rune said in an interview on Thursday after a second straight win propelled him to the third round of a Grand Tournament. Slam for the first time. time.
Alcaraz, a No.6-ranked Spaniard, sucked in a lot of the oxygen on the days he played, even though he shares the stage with some really good players named Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Alcaraz’s five-set comeback from match point Wednesday against Albert Ramos Viñolas was the game of the tournament so far.
Rune, ranked No. 40, has floated under the radar. He hasn’t lost a set yet.
Alcaraz plays in the big stadiums and is talked about in the locker rooms.
“The famous Carlos Alcaraz” is how Russian Daniil Medvedev, 2021 US Open champion and second seed, recently described him with a smirk.
Rune has so far played on Court 12, in the low-rent area of Roland Garros, where the backcourt is so tight he tripped over the folded tarp that protects the clay court from the rain as he was chasing a setback on Thursday and badly twisted his ankle. He was only three games away from victory. For a moment he thought that was very bad. He limped to his chair and received medical attention, then came back and shut down Swiss Henri Laaksonen, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.
Alcaraz has dark hair and dark eyes and since last year has seemed to model his look and quietly confident yet humble attitude after the Big Three: Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer. His coach, and the role model for everything he does, is the soft-spoken former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero. Alcaraz’s father described his son as the ultimate workaholic, even when he was a little boy.
Rune, a dirty Nordic blond, plays with a backwards baseball cap. His coach, the little-known Lars Christensen, started instructing him when Rune was 6 years old after he appeared at the local club in Denmark which Christensen managed.
It works, but it hasn’t always been smooth.
“I was lazy as a kid. I mean 12 or 13,” he said on Thursday after pulling out of the doubles tournament to protect his ankle.
Alcaraz hits the ball so hard that even the best players in the world say he can take a set to match his pace. It doesn’t lack touch, but deep down it relies on a testosterone-fueled brand of play.
Rune plays a style filled with finesse. He drifts on the ground and never seems to expend more energy than necessary.
Both he and Alcaraz started playing in Under-12 competitions years ago. They have played 10 times, he thinks. It’s pretty sure that Alcaraz have the advantage, 6-4, over the years. Alcaraz defeated him in straight sets in November at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Italy.
The two hosted release parties at the US Open last year. Alcaraz, then best known to tennis geeks, upset third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in a five-set epic in the third round.
Rune drew Djokovic in the first round.
“My goal is not just to play here. My goal is to win this tournament,” Rune said before this match. He lost the first set, 6-1, but won the second in a tiebreaker before his legs gave out and he lost 12 of the next 15 games.
“I was a bit inexperienced,” he said Thursday. “I didn’t know what it took to play five sets, maybe every game.”
He still doesn’t lack self-esteem. “I believe in my game,” he said, although he has now added a dose of realism. “I believe I can beat anyone, but I also believe I can lose to anyone.”
That’s true, but it’s also worth noting that for years every tennis pundit — Patrick McEnroe, Brad Gilbert and so on — was fairly certain that the days of talk of teenage contenders for majors was over. The game had become too physical, they said. It was the domain of men.
Alcaraz dispelled that idea by winning major tournaments near Miami and Madrid this spring and beating Nadal, Djokovic and Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev along the way.
Rune may not be far behind. A 2019 French Open junior champion, he won his first ATP Tour title in Munich earlier this month, knocking Zverev along the way.
He has won a BMW for the effort, but there is a problem, which reminds him of his youth: he has not yet passed the exam for his driver’s license.
“I didn’t have time,” he said. “When we have free time, we will definitely pass the driver’s license and take the car.”
Alcaraz obtained its license in February.