Djokovic Dethroned by Ruthless Rune in Bercy

It has been quite the year for Holger Rune. The young Dane started the year ranked 103 and went on a meteoric rise in the first half of the year, posting particularly impressive results in the European Clay Court season, where he won his first ATP Title in Munich, beating Sascha Zverev on the way, and then cracked the Top 30 after making his first Grand Slam quarter-final in Roland Garros.

However, Rune’s rise has not been a continuous one. He did not take his quarter-final defeat to Casper Ruud well and offered a very cold handshake at the net, before going on to accuse Ruud and his team of gloating in the locker room, an allegation which turned out to be completely false. Suddenly, all of the admiration Rune had earned with his tennis disappeared in a flash, as fans deserted him in droves. This began to affect his performances on-court, as Rune went on to lose 6 consecutive matches, and did not rediscover his form until after the US Open, during the European Indoor swing. Rune made back-to-back finals in Stockholm and then Basel and looked great shape to finish the year strongly in Paris.

Despite the positivity in terms of his tennis, Rune still has not learned to separate himself from controversy. Rune verbally abused umpire Mohammed Layhani during his defeat to Felix Auger-Aliassime and then took to Twitter to argue with his critics afterwards. A mere 2 days later, Rune got himself in hot water again in Paris, and was scolded by umpire Amelie Tourte for kicking the net, causing her to come down from her chair to remeasure and fix the damage that Rune had done, causing considerable delay. Rune’s opponent, Stan Wawrinka, then quietly advised him to stop ‘acting like a baby on court’, advice which Rune will do well to head, considering the career of the man imparting it.

Despite all of this, Rune has had an incredible week and won his first Masters 1000 Title in Paris, beating Novak Djokovic 3-6 6-3 7-5 in a topsy turvy final, where Djokovic will rue several missed opportunities. Djokovic failed to convert a multitude of break points early in the second set and found himself a break ahead in the third but was pegged back by a resilient Rune on both occasions, who certainly wasn’t playing tennis like a baby. Beating Djokovic in Bercy is no easy task; the Serb has won the tournament 6 times and was the defending champion this year, but found himself outdone by Rune’s high risk tennis on this occasion.

Rune has now moved up to 10 in the ATP Rankings and will now be the second alternate at the ATP Finals in Turin. Rune was due to play the NextGen ATP Finals in Milan, but has smartly withdrawn, in the event that he’s called upon to play in Turin. Whatever your thoughts on Rune’s character may be, his talent is undeniable, and he is certain to have a strong 2023, particularly on the clay.

Meanwhile, the WTA Finals are underway in Fort Worth, but have unfortunately made the headlines for the wrong reasons this week, with many tennis fans noticing swathes of empty seats in the venue where the event is being held. The WTA has since been accused of failing to promote the event adequately and not choosing the venue carefully enough, without enough prior notice for tennis fans hoping to travel from abroad to watch the tournament.

In the past, the WTA Finals have been held in a variety of cities and were meant to be held in Shenzhen. However, due to continuing Covid measures in China and the doubts over the safety of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, the WTA has cut ties with China completely, meaning a new venue had to be found. America is a key market for tennis, so on the surface, Fort Worth seemed to be a good option. Nevertheless, due to poor marketing and a dwindling interest in the Sport in the USA, attendance has been poor this week and is showing little signs of improvement as the tournament draws on, despite heavily discounted tickets.

To make matters worse, Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff, the two home hopes for the WTA Finals, were eliminated in the Group Stages. The physical and emotional demands of playing both singles and doubles appeared to be too much for Gauff, who has had a very long season, and has played an awful lot of tennis considering her young age. Pegula, who partnered Gauff in the doubles, looked mentally jaded as well, and failed to find her best tennis in the key moments, particularly in her opening match against Maria Sakkari.

Iga Swiatek still looks the favourite to end her scintillating season with the title in Texas, having won all of her Round Robin matches without dropping a set. Swiatek will face Aryna Sabalenka in the semi-finals, who is playing well, but will need to find another gear to topple Swiatek. In the other semi-final, Maria Sakkari will play Caroline Garcia, in a match that can be described as anything but predictable.

Written by Emre Saridogan