the Australian Open kicks off on Monday without the world’s top-ranked player Carlos Alcaráz, who is only 19 years old. But there will be another 19-year-old who will be hoping to make his mark on the Grand Slam stage in Melbourne over the next fortnight.
Holger Rune is just six days older than Alcaraz and is already ranked in the world’s top 10. The Dane is known for his big ambitions and dedication to the sport at a young age. But world No 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas feels that Rune’s ‘obsession’ with the sport, which has brought him this far, could also have a potential downside.
“He’s a very strong opponent. He has matured pretty fast, I would say, in his game. But, of course, that comes with a lot of hard work. I’ve seen him at the academy working hours and hours,” Tsitsipas told the press at Media Day on the eve of the first Grand Slam of the season.
“He’s obsessed with tennis. You can see how obsessed he is with the sport. He lives, breathes and just I think thinks tennis all the time, which it’s both good, but it might also have some downsides because you know you have to have other things in your life that excite you and brings joy. Tennis is an important part of your life. But I’m just worried about him burning out. It’s a lot of tennis. I see players. I would say I have a good eye, I’m able to analyze them a little bit. But, of course, there is a lot of improvement for him I sometimes believe in how he behaves on court. He’s a great athlete. He is able to beat anyone. He’s a very, you know, disciplined guy when he plays matches.”
Tsitsipas and Rune are quite familiar with each other. The pair met twice on the tour last year with the teenager winning both matches and they also spent a lot of time at the Mouratoglou Academy in France over the years. The Greek, who could leave Melbourne as the world No 1, sees similarities between the young Dane and himself.
“He reminds me a little of myself when I was younger at his age. Just getting started. I don’t know much about the ATP Tour. I’m trying to discover along the way, get to know the players better, the tour better,” Tsitsipas said. “I think this year could be his year, a year where he does much better than the year before. He proved it in Bercy recently and some other tournaments prior to that, winning titles, lifting some good trophies. If I had to make a prediction, I would make a prediction of him that he’s going to have a good 2023.”
“I need to constantly be in the mindset of bouncing back stronger” – Tsitsipas
Tsitsipas, who started off the season by helping Greece reach the semi-finals of the United Cup, said that he wants to develop the mindset of bouncing back stronger from defeats this year.
“I do have a goal. I’ve already clarified it since the beginning of the year what I want to achieve. But I know it’s a long run and I cannot rush myself. I cannot just run a thousand miles an hour and expect something to happen. I need to stay in the game. I need to stay consistent over the course of the next 12 months. I need to get back on the court when these losses are going to come at some point. I need to constantly be in the mindset of bouncing back stronger,” Tsitsipas added.
“That is the thing that will be the most challenging, let’s say, this year. We have younger guys coming from behind. We still have Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal playing good tennis. They’re still there. We’re dealing with a lot of different things being thrown at us. In my case, I know that this year a lot of things can be done this year. I have the capacity to withstand the pressures and the challenges that this year is going to bring to me. With the right preparation comes the right execution.”
The Greek opens his campaign for a first Grand Slam title against Frenchman Quentin Halys on Monday.