In September, Holger Rune, ranked sixth in the world, faced a player ranked over 100 places lower than him. This was his seventh consecutive loss, after reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and defending his title in Munich earlier in the year. He also reached the finals of two Masters 1000 tournaments in Monte Carlo and Rome.
After Thiago Monteiro’s victory in the third set of the Davis Cup match with a score of 6-2, Rune, considered one of the most promising players in men’s tennis alongside Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, appeared exhausted both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, he went on to lose three out of his next four matches, resulting in a disappointing performance over the late summer season: 11 matches played, with 10 losses.
Despite the slight improvement at the Swiss Open where he secured consecutive victories for the first time since SW19, there were still concerns as Rune headed into the Paris Masters, the tour’s highly regarded tournament before the ATP Finals. However, his exceptional performance at the event, where he fought valiantly in a close quarter-final loss to eventual champion Novak Djokovic, proved to be a pivotal moment for the 20-year-old. His impressive showing in a thrilling rematch of last year’s final was a standout moment at Paris-Bercy.
Boris Becker, a six-time grand slam winner and former BBC Wimbledon commentator, has joined Rune’s team as his new coach. After serving eight months in a UK prison for bankruptcy fraud, Becker is excited to make a comeback. With both Becker and Rune known for their strong and unpredictable personalities, their partnership on the court is sure to be a dynamic and entertaining one.
Rune was uncertain about hiring a new coach. Patrick Mouratoglou, who had enthusiastically cheered from the sidelines at the Paris Masters last year, left the Rune team following the player’s disappointing first-round exit at the US Open. There were rumors of “ego clashes” between Mouratoglou and Lars Christensen, Rune’s longstanding mentor, according to Rune’s mother Aneke.
Mouratoglou, known for his bold and outspoken personality, has come back to show his support for his former colleague, Simona Halep. Halep is currently facing allegations of doping, which Mouratoglou has taken responsibility for. Rune’s mother had initially favored the quieter but well-respected Christensen, who has been a part of their team for 14 years and has no history of controversy.
Christensen has been dedicating several weeks to helping Rune recover from a recurring and agonizing bulging disc problem that could not be resolved with numerous doses of Ibuprofen and adjustments to his serving technique. In addition to the team’s disputes, this ongoing injury appeared to be the cause of Rune’s disastrous performance. (Some fans, perhaps unjustly, attributed his struggles to his growing romance with a stunning model girlfriend.)
In sports, it’s common for players to experience periods of low performance. Prior to his successful breakthrough last year, Rune endured a streak of seven losses. He was only able to break this streak by playing against a less enthusiastic Benoît Paire. This year, he has only managed to win once during his disappointing run, against Félix Auger-Aliassime who was also struggling at the time but has since improved.
Last week, the most uplifting element, possibly even more than the victories and agility, was Rune’s revived determination: the frequent joyful motion of the racket and determined expression after executing impressive backhand shots down the line or cleverly closing the net with back-behind volleys; the artistic flair that followers are aware the young player possesses, but has been absent in recent times.
A new appearance was adopted as a result of a decision made by Becker to reduce distractions. Rune’s signature backwards cap and chains were no longer a part of his attire as he stepped onto the court in an all-black outfit resembling Johnny Cash’s iconic style, complete with sneakers. (However, the cap has since made a comeback.) Djokovic, who had a successful partnership with Becker from 2013 to 2016, mentioned seeing his former coach playing chess with his new student, a tactic introduced during their own partnership to improve concentration and mental sharpness.
The German is pleased to be back on tour, telling Eurosport he was “proud” to have been asked, and that he relates to Rune’s “commitment and temperament on the court”. Becker, of course, has known the pressures of stardom at an early age; he remains the youngest male winner of Wimbledon aged 17.
Rune has expressed his appreciation for Becker, whom he initially encountered as a talented junior, for aiding him in overcoming a downward spiral. He credits Becker for making various adjustments to his game. “I have managed to bounce back from a low point, where I was consistently losing in the first round, to being able to play at my best level in a crucial match against Novak,” he stated.
Rune, along with his fitness instructor Lapo Becherini, will join forces to get ready for the ATP Finals in Turin, starting on Sunday. After earning the final qualifying spot, Rune will make his first appearance at the event, having been a standby player in the previous year. While winning the title may be a bit ambitious at this stage of his comeback, Rune is optimistic about finishing the season strong.
One issue to note is that Becker is not allowed to travel to the UK due to his conviction for fraud. This raises uncertainty about whether he will be able to attend Wimbledon, but overall the atmosphere is positive. The sport’s up-and-coming star has returned, as long as he is permitted to wear his cap.