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Rune's Major Mission Statement

By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, May 17, 2023

A bold Holger Rune relishes his role as king conqueror.

Delivering Masters deja vu, the 20-year-old Rune dethroned defending champion Novak Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 to reach the Rome semifinals in his tournament debut.

More: Rune Dethrones Defending Champion Djokovic in Rome

It's the second time in the last six Masters 1000 events that Rune ended six-time champion Djokovic's reign.

Last November, Rune rallied from a break down in the decisive set and fought off six break points in the fierce final game to dethrone defending champion Djokovic 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 and capture his maiden Masters championship in a pulsating Paris Masters final thriller.

After stopping six-time Rome champion Djokovic today, Rune reiterated his major mission statement: Win a maiden major this season.

"I want to win a Grand Slam this year," Rune told the media in Rome. "That's what I've said in the past, and I stick to that. Obviously I hope it can be achieved at the French Open.

"If not, I hope to make it in the other two Grand Slams. First we start with one, then we see."

The seventh-ranked Rune will face either fourth-seeded Casper Ruud or 24th-seeded Francisco Cerundolo for a spot in the Rome final.

World No. 1 Djokovic, who says Rune reminds him of himself, cited talented 20-year-olds Carlos Alcaraz and Rune as Roland Garros top contenders—if 14-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal can't play Paris.

"But next to [Nadal] of course Alcaraz, Rune, these guys are right there in the contention, some of the biggest favorites to win the title," said Djokovic, who will play for a men's record 23rd major championship in Paris this month.

Dreaming of a Grand Slam breakthrough, Rune, who exchanged words with Stan Wawrinka during a terse Indian Wells handshake in March, has shown he isn't scared to stand up to major champions. 

Rune rejects the label he's tennis' latest "bad boy" saying he plays with passion and purpose rather to be a chaos competitor.

"I don't see myself as the bad boy at all," Rune said. "I mean, I play with a lot of passion and energy when I'm on the court. I think many players does that.

"I don't know why that should be a bad boy thing, to play with energy on the court. A bad boy thing is to break racquets and stuff like this. If I remember well, I don't break a racquet when I play. I don't see myself like that."

Photo credit: Matthew Calvis