It’s somewhat hard to believe just two weeks ago Denis Shapovalov was not only beating Rafael Nadal in Rome but finishing it off with a nice and easy 6-2 final set under the lights in the Italian capital.
Despite a poor loss in his opening match in Geneva last week, many still expected the Canadian to have a fairly good Roland Garros and likely to finally make it past the second round at the fourth time of asking.
Unfortunately, whilst drawn in the favourable half of the draw–the one without the three favorites Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Carlos Alcaraz, the 14th seed found himself with one of the hardest opening matches he could have ever hoped for, Holger Rune.
Rune may only have turned 19 years old just a few weeks ago but with an ATP title under his belt in Munich already alongside countless Challengers and a great win over world #3 Alexander Zverev, he’s already shown he’s on his way to becoming one of the best players in the world.
With all of that in mind, some did think the Dane had a fair chance against the Canadian, but no one to such a large extent to where the 19-year-old would completely embarrass the 23-year-old in Paris.
Holger Rune def. Denis Shapovalov 63 61 76(4)
The very start of the match is what you expected it to be. Both men were a bit nervy but still able to hold serve with Shapovalov having the first chance to break at 2-2. Not taking the chance, the Dane broke in the very next game and never looked back, winning seven games in a row to lead 6-3 3-0–serving amazingly well at 87% of first serve points won in the first set and an even more incredible 90% in the second.
Midway through the second set it looked as if the Canadian had given up. Every winner was followed by at least three unforced errors and the lack of motivation was clear as the shoulders dropped. On the other side of the net an enthusiastic teenage only kept rubbing salt in the wound holding three back-to-back love service games to close out the set.
In the third set it was just a matter of whether the world #40 could keep on doing what he was and also if the world #15 could play better, because simply put the first few sets weren’t good enough. Safe to say Rune’s level did keep up and whilst Shapovalov became extremely motivated and vocal, such as screaming when holding serve.
At 3-3 in the third the Dane had triple break point and squandered the first with a poor lob attempt before Shapovalov held with four great points back-to-back. This felt like it could be a turning point but in Shapovalov’s case a case of far too many unforced errors just let to being triple break down in his very next service game and this time broken to allow the teen to serve for the match at 5-4.
Being the fighter he is, Shapovalov managed to save match point with a poor unforced error from Rune and go on to win an extended rally at deuce to create a break back point. Unfortunately for the lower ranked man, it was followed by another poor unforced error to gift the break back. Then going on to hold to love in the very next service games with two aces and a stunning backhand pass after a great point.
Nerves got to the Dane once again turning a routine hold for a tiebreak into a struggle and another wild forehand gifting Shapovalov a set point. Luckily a great drop shot saved the Munich champion’s skin before securing a tiebreak. Once again just when it looked as if Shapovalov was finding something to build off, the unforced errors crept back into his aggressive game leading to the Dane finishing the job, 6-3 6-1 7-6(4).
Perhaps Holger Rune winning wasn’t too unexpected, but the nature of the win is something not many expected at all. Some even expected tiredness to play a factor on his young body after a long grueling few days only last week.
The scary part is this section of the draw has massively opened up. He’ll next play Pedro Martinez or Henri Laaksonen, both who he should beat ,and then lucky loser Pedro Cachin, ranked outside the world’s top 150, or Hugo Gaston or 19th seed Alex De Minaur who hasn’t had his best results on clay.
Fair to say, Holger Rune is looking more and more like the real deal week by week and after such a stunning win here today, it’s hard not to see him making the second week for the first time in a Grand Slam. Whilst Carlos Alcaraz is stealing all the headlines right now in men’s tennis amongst the teens, fans should really not overlook just how good Holger Rune is and will become.
Main Photo from Getty.