Tennis Prose



Djokovic Sees Some Of Himself In Rune

By Scoop Malinowski

This may be scary news for the rest of the ATP… Novak Djokovic revealed there is a young ATP player that reminds him of himself.

The 21 time Grand Slam champion Djokovic said this about the 19 year old Holger Rune’s game which he first encountered during practice at the 2017 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters and then again at 2019 World Tour Finals in London, both times as a hitting partner: “Just a very impressive game. Kind of reminds me of myself, solid backhand and very good defense and, you know, 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.”

Djokovic turned pro in 2003, the year Rune was born. Rune turned pro in 2021 and won four ATP Challenger titles that year.

Rune spoke about Facing Djokovic for my book “Facing Novak Djokovic”… He said they also connected to practice via Instagram…

“I wrote to him on Instagram. Whether he was in Monaco or in the area – because I had seen that he had withdrawn from Miami. Then he wrote back: ‘Hello Holger, yes, we can do it.'”

“We hit together before – I was his training partner at the 2019 ATP Finals in London.”

“I’ve had some experience at this level now and I know the difference isn’t that big either. There are some small things, some decisions that you make in different situations, but I think I can at least play with him. I have to move well. He hits the ball so clean. He has such a good meeting point, hardly makes any mistakes. It’s just so cool to train with him. You get a good rhythm.”

“I always feel great emotions when I train with the top 10 because they have so many strengths to draw from and at the same time they are fantastic guys who love tennis like me. I measure my tennis against theirs, I know there is still a lot to improve, but I don’t feel that far from their level. When I was training with Djokovic, I realized that he was not only on the tennis court, but also outside is a very strong person: I have an idea why only few can beat him on tour. He’s the most complete player I’ve ever seen, both mentally and physically. Thanks to his advice, I have written down many things that I need to work on. He showed me what it takes to become number one in the world… It’s not just about passion or good tennis, there is an immense job behind it.”

“I think a lot of people have great tennis to get to the top of the rankings, but to break the number one longevity records of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal, you need a little more. I would like to have a career similar to them, it would be fascinating.”

Question: What is the best advice that you have received from the ‘Big Three?’

Holger Rune: “Djokovic asked me the first time I practiced with him – I think I was fourteen years old and I was a hitting partner for him in Monaco – if I liked the way I played tennis. And I said yes. And he said good, that’s important. At that time I thought it was a little strange but later I have thought about it and it is very important to like your tennis. Not only playing tactically or playing what your coach tells you works best, but also playing your own tennis. The tennis that makes ME happy.”

“Djokovic has told me many good things. It’s funny because it’s always Federer and Nadal that are mentioned as the good guys but in terms of the future generations, I think Djokovic is the most giving. I haven’t heard Federer or Nadal giving too much advice to the young players, maybe they do to the youngsters from their countries. But according to me, Djokovic is the most giving.”

The Paris Rolex Masters final today will be the second ATP meeting between Djokovic and Rune. Djokovic beat Rune at 2021 US Open first round 61 67 62 61 in a thrilling, sensational Arthur Ashe Stadium night match.

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