Tennis Prose



What is the boldest statement in tennis history?

By Scoop Malinowski

The young Cassius Clay declared to the world that he was going to be the greatest boxer of all time. Clay defeated Sonny Liston to win the world heavyweight title, then changed his name to Muhammad Ali and indeed fulfilled his bold announcement and to this day is universally considered “the Greatest” boxing champion ever.

Tennis is also a one-on-one gladiator sport but different to boxing, as such extraordinary expressions of supreme confidence are very rarely spoken in public to media microphones and TV cameras. Plenty of players have stated that their intent and lifelong quest was to become the world’s no. 1 ranked player. But that’s usually as far as it goes in terms of pro or junior tennis players speaking about their goals and dreams.

Even the greatest of the greats of tennis like Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Novak Djokovic tended to downplay their confidence and self belief and never came close to making any astounding international headlines via a quick quote like Muhammad Ali did.

But there is a young player who recently said an usually bold comment about his professional ambition: “Rafael Nadal is really inspiring and so bold a character. I work every day to be able to be as good as him. I’m not at his level yet. There’s still some way to go, but I believe I can beat his record (of winning 13 French Opens).”

This player is Holger Rune of Denmark, currently ranked no. 70 in the ATP though still technically an ITF junior at age 18. Today, Rune defeated Jiri Lehecka, ranked 88 and age 20, 76 63 in Munich. Rune is rising up the ranks of the ATP at a steady pace.

It’s interesting that Rune is so openly confident about daring to be great. It’s a very courageous decision by Rune because he has to know just expressing that level of confidence is almost a taunt at all the other players. By saying I want to break Nadal’s ultimate 13 record at French Open, it sends a message to every ATP player which essentially says: “I’m better than you, you are just a stepping stone on my journey to greatness.”

So every ATP player knows Rune said this quote and they will be extra inspired to try to put him in his place. Rune surely is aware that speaking the boldest statement in ATP history is going to ruffle feathers and make him a marked man with a big target on his back. Yet he still said it, because he believes it, consequences be damned. Rune doesn’t care about his rivals’ egos or feelings, he’s got serious business to attend to and big goals to chase, so whoever doesn’t like his ambitions, well then bring it on.

Rune’s confidence is one of the most intriguing elements in the ATP today. While Carlos Alcaraz is skyrocketing to the top of the ATP – he’s already ranked 9 in the world at age 18 – he is employing the humble approach as he decimates and destroys most of the ATP players along his rapid rise to the elite pantheon of tennis.

Both methods by Alcaraz and Rune are unique, distinct and equally fascinating to observe.

So far Rune is 5-9 this year in ATP matches and 16-23 overall in his career.

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  • catherine · April 26, 2022 at 4:28 am

    Off topic (but not really, young players on the rise) the Twitterati will be out as Raducanu dumps Beltz after 5 months. It’s probably the right decision – Emma makes her mind up quickly and I couldn’t see any real development in her game. Beltz isn’t that kind of coach. She doesn’t need emotional support. She needs a mind that clicks with hers. Fisette would be ideal for her but of course he’s committed elsewhere.

    I’ll bet now that Torben will go back to Kerber for the umpteeth time and guide her through the last months of her career. He’s a punchbag not a coach. When in 2017 Angie needed a coach to make technical changes Beltz was out the door and Fisette was inking the contract. Coaching carousel keeps spinning….

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 26, 2022 at 7:03 am

    Catherine, an insider told me and from information talk I have heard (and mentally collected) from former WTA coaches over the years, to be a WTA coach means you are a “slave to the player.” The ones we see constantly working with players are okay with that dynamic of being a slave. Raducanu has had disappointing mediocre results so the coach had to take the blame.

  • catherine · April 26, 2022 at 7:48 am

    To some extent that’s true. But I think Emma’s case is unusual in that she won a big tournament with all the attendant pressures, not long after leaving school. So she’s had to learn and practise so many different things at once. I don’t believe Beltz is a good technical coach, his record is patchy. Just hope IMG isn’t involved too much and the right decision is made next time.

    Back in the day – coaches didn’t travel with players much, they couldn’t afford it. The exception rather than the rule.
    BJK used to return to Clyde Walker, her original coach, whenever she needed a ‘tune-up’.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 26, 2022 at 1:01 pm

    Problem may not be the coach, problem may be every other WTA player wants a bite out of Emma, they are all extra inspired to try to beat the US Open champion and gain the self belief that they too can win a US Open title just like Little Miss Britches. Every WTA player has extra incentive to beat Emma and most coaches can’t diffuse that factor.

  • catherine · April 28, 2022 at 7:45 am

    Interesting note from UK Daily Mail re Raducanu:

    ”The norms of tennis thinking around coaching have long since needed to be suspended around Raducanu, who from a young age has always been happy to glean information from numerous sources.

    During her formative years father Ian was known to talk of certain coaches being the right fit to coach certain strokes. In some ways that is not unlike having a specialist putting coach in golf, although it is not conventional thinking in tennis. He is said to believe that most expertise can be extracted from a coach within the first six months.

    One concern is that the chopping and changing creates a lack of stability around someone who finished A-levels a year ago and is still adjusting to the demands of an unprecedentedly swift rise.

    It was not even that there had been any falling out with Beltz, a proven coach known for his amiable nature.

    ‘He has a huge heart and I have enjoyed our strong chemistry during the time together,’ she said.

    The danger is that, with every change, more coaches with the requisite experience will look at the prospect of working with her and decide the precarious nature of employment is not worth it.

    But then this the most individual of sports, and what works for the many does not necessarily meet the requirements of the few.”

    Emma’s approach to coaching and the development of an effective style is unique to her – also seems to me she thinks in a different way to most players, although I can’t put my finger on exactly how.
    If she does fulfill her promise perhaps we’ll see a change in approach to tennis coaching. Fewer full time coaches, more short term associations.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 28, 2022 at 8:43 am

    Catherine, I see Emma as a one dimensional player who has stagnated. She caught lightning in a bottle but since her glorious triumph in New York, the whole difference now is mental, everybody else is extra motivated to score a win over Lil Miss Britches. As a somewhat lucky fortunate miraculous new Grand Slam champion, her motivation and desire can’t match all those players who never won a major or came close. All the millions filling her pockets is also a distraction and a pressure increaser. It’s not about technical or coaching chemistry with Emma. All her hopes and dreams came true far sooner than she expected, than anyone expected. She has already accomplished before age 20 something that hundreds if not thousands of other excellent WTA players in history failed to do or even come close to doing. And all these active WTA players now are fiercely viciously determined and motivated to make sure Emma does not win a second grand slam title – at their expense.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 28, 2022 at 8:55 am

    Changing subjects about bold statements, how about this one this week I obtained: This week I asked a former atp board member if atp, fed, rafa, fed agent could be behind the conspiracy to destroy #Djokovic? The reply: “At this point they all benefit from it.”

  • catherine · April 28, 2022 at 10:55 am

    Scoop – have to agree to disagree. Can’t see Emma as ‘one dimensional’ and I don’t honestly think she cares that much how other players rate her. She’s been on the radar of the LTA since she was around 5 years old and stayed away from the limelight because she needed to finish her schooling. She’s used to succeeding, her friends describe her as ‘a kind of a genius’. In Madrid she said she ‘doesn’t mind losing in the first round’. Her brain works differently. And she could step into a good job tomorrow. In finance.

    I can see Emma maturing as a player in her mid-twenties – and if that doesn’t happen I’m pretty sure she won’t be devastated.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 28, 2022 at 8:15 pm

    Catherine, Emma Raducanu can achieve anything, if she can win a Grand Slam as an unknown teenager out of nowhere, she can do anything. She figured it out once and she will figure it out again. She created quite possibly the all time greatest tennis miracle ever at 2021 US Open.



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