For tennis fans, December is the worst month of the year. With the season over and zero tournaments to be played, we are left with Tennis Channel marathons and opportunities to look back at the biggest moments of the 2022 season.
The one benefit of the month is we have the proper time to recap and break down all the results we’ve seen for the past 11 months. In turn, we can begin to make assumptions as to how 2023 will turn out based on a large sample size.
With that in mind, we’re targeting five players for what we’re calling our “2023 Dropshot Network Player Files.” These five players represent the most intriguing of the upcoming season — based on how their 2022’s went and how their storylines project for the season to come.
We already took a deep dive into Nick Kyrgios and Taylor Fritz, so now let’s break down the 19-year-old Holger Rune.
Notable 2022 Results
In 2022, Rune went from having to qualify for tournaments (like Indian Wells and Miami) and playing in a Challenger event in Italy to reaching the top-10, winning three ATP titles and beating Novak Djokovic.
It was a remarkable season for the youngster from Denmark, as he won Munich (250-event), Stockholm (250-event) and Paris (1000-level). Rune also made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, but it was the end of his season that really put his campaign on the map.
In his final four tournaments of the season, Rune went 19-2, winning two titles and reaching the final in the other two events. He defeated five (!) top-10 players in Paris alone and also notched victories over Jannik Sinner and Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sofia and Stockholm, respectively.
That resulted in Rune capturing the 2022 Newcomer of the Year award and earning a final ranking of 11th in the world.
The State of Rune Entering 2023
It’s obvious why Rune was added into this series. Entering the new season, there is no player on tour who is on fire more than him. If that momentum is any indication, the Denmark native is in for another massive season.
When it comes to young players, we know Carlos Alcaraz is one of the best talents (no matter the age) in all of tennis, and Sinner is certainly capable of going neck-and-neck with the Spaniard for years to come. But there’s a legitimate case to make for Rune to join the duo and create the new “Big Three” of the future.
That’s not to discount Felix Auger-Aliassime (22 years old), Casper Ruud (23) and even Jack Draper (20), but Alcaraz, Sinner and Rune are all younger than the first two mentioned and are a couple steps above Draper at this point in their careers.
What Rune will have to do in 2023 is play with a bit more consistency. It seems when he’s red-hot, he’s one of the top players on the planet. However, when he’s not playing well, he’s capable of losing to anyone.
During the summer months, Rune lost six straight matches, including to No. 147 Ryan Peniston and No. 82 Bernabe Zapata Miralles. Only one of his losses during that stretch came to an opponent who was in the top 20 (Pablo Carreno Busta).
You could say that comes with the territory of being 19 years old, but it’s certainly something Rune can look to improve upon in the new year.
Also, Rune didn’t perform all that well in the majors beyond Roland Garros (he lost in the first round of the Aussie Open and Wimbledon, and in the Round of 32 at the US Open).
Again, that’s a lot to ask of a 19-year-old, but he’ll now be held to a higher standard due to his ranking and the finish he had to 2022.
Finally, Rune has very little experience on grass (0-3 overall on ATP Tour), so playing more tournaments on the surface will help him become more versatile and more advanced across different conditions.
I’m not an online gamer, but if anyone reading this is, you are familiar with RuneScape. Basically, it’s a fantasy computer game featuring different kingdoms, cities and regions for over 300 million accounts.
So, how the heck does this relate to the tennis player we’re discussing in this piece? Well, like the players in RuneScape — who have individually-based goals, complete quests and fight “monsters” — Rune sets his own objectives, but has to compete different tournaments on different surfaces against nearly entirely different opponents every week.
The more well-rounded the RuneScape player is the better they perform and the higher their level becomes. The same goes with Rune.
This relates back to the grass point above. We already know how skilled and talented Rune is, but in order to reach that true potential, he’ll have to become much more versatile — to the point where he’s much more comfortable on grass courts.
Now, the promising part for Rune is the three matches he played on the surface in 2022 were all relatively close.
- Halle: Lost 3-6, 6-7 to Carreno Busta
- Eastbourne: Lost 6-4, 6-7, 1-6 to Peniston
- Wimbledon: Lost 3-6, 5-7, 4-6 to Marcos Giron
PCB and Giron are obviously respectable losses, and even facing Peniston in his home country isn’t a “back-to-the-drawing-board” kind of defeat.
This shows that Rune is on the cusp — he just needs more matches under his belt.
And at some point, he can conquer all the kingdoms, cities and regions he wants and reach an even higher level — just like one would in RuneScape.
What Tournaments Mean the Most to Rune
To be honest, I don’t think you can really separate any with Rune. I watched him play in an exhibition tournament this past week, and he was still fist pumping and showing emotions as if it was a tour-level event.
Obviously, there will be some extra focus in the majors and on grass, but it seems like Rune is just having a ton of fun right now — which is what you want if you’re a fan of any tennis player.
Just look at him grinding on the courts right after the season ended in late November.
Conclusion to Rune
Right now, there’s no hotter player on the ATP Tour than Rune. But like any extremely young player, there’s always things to improve, and there’s no time to be complacent.
Becoming more consistent, winning more often at Grand Slams and adding more versatility across all surfaces will help Rune get his name mentioned alongside Alcaraz and Sinner.
That should be his goal in 2023.