A difficult spell for Holger Rune continued as the Dane was beaten by Jordan Thompson in the first round of the Queen's Club Championships on Monday.

Rune has fallen from a high of four down to number 15 in the ATP rankings and was unable to hold on to a lead in his match with Thompson in London.

Australian Thompson fought back to prevail 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 in an entertaining encounter against the seventh seed.

Rune made the semi-finals at Queen's and the quarter-finals of Wimbledon last year, but is now seriously lacking momentum as the third grand slam of 2024 fast approaches.

Elsewhere at the ATP 500 event, third seed Grigor Dimitrov is safely through after cruising past Adrian Mannarino 6-1 6-2 in only 63 minutes.

Dimitrov will face either Sebastian Korda or Karen Khachanov in the last 16. 

Top seed and defending champion Carlos Alcaraz starts his campaign against Argentine Francisco Cerundolo on Tuesday. 

That is also when Thompson’s compatriot and last year’s runner-up Alex de Minaur begins his tournament with what could be a testing clash against Italian Lorenzo Musetti.

Data Debrief: Thompson's serve sees off Rune 

In the first career meeting between the two players, both Rune and Thompson were strong on serve. The three sets only produced two breaks – one from each player – in a battle that topped the two-hour mark.

Thompson came into the tournament on a five-match losing streak, but has often impressed on grass, with this being his 64th career win on the surface.

He had eight aces to just one double fault and crucially won 69 per cent (20/29) of his second-serve points, affording Rune just one break-point opportunity across the whole match.

Thompson added 27 winners and could face home hope Andy Murray next round if the Briton can defeat Alexei Popyrin.

As for Dimitrov, he recorded 28 winners and only five unforced errors in his impressive win over Mannarino. Having made the quarter-finals at the French Open, the Bulgarian looks poised to enter Wimbledon in good form.

Holger Rune believes he should be considered among the favourites to win a grand slam in 2024.

The 20-year-old Dane enjoyed a strong campaign last year, winning one title and reaching the finals of the Masters in Rome and Monte-Carlo.

Rune got this season off to a good start too, reaching the final of the Brisbane International, which he lost in straight sets to Grigor Dimitrov.

World number eight Rune will be aiming to go one further at the Australian Open, with his campaign starting against Yoshihito Nishioka.

While Opta's predictive model gives Rune just a one per cent chance of going all the way in Melbourne, he is confident he can claim his maiden major title this year.

"I believe that I am a contender to win a grand slam next year," he told Stats Perform.

"It's going to take a lot of work, but I've sacrificed a lot and I'm trusting the process every day and coming out of my comfort zone.

"Every practice is physical and trying to improve mentally also so if I do better next year it won't surprise me." 

It is not just the four majors on the cards this season, but a potential medal at the Paris Olympics.

Rune added: "Yeah, it's going to be a very exciting season. There's a lot of chances next year for grand slams, for the Olympics, and I'm going to go for it.

"I'm going to go to every tournament that I can.

"[The Olympics mean] a lot, everything. With the grand slams, it's the biggest thing in tennis. It's every fourth year, so it's very rare.

"I think if you ask me whether I'd rather win a grand slam or the Olympics, I think I'll still say a grand slam, but the second thing I would say is the Olympics. It's a massive event."

Novak Djokovic is still setting "unbelievable" standards and remains the man to beat heading into the 2024 campaign, according to Holger Rune.

Twenty-four time grand slam winner Djokovic added another Australian Open, French Open and US Open crown to his collection this year.

The 36-year-old won a Tour-best seven singles titles in 2023 and finished top of the ATP Rankings for a record-extending eighth year in a row.

"I think it's great to see that Novak can still play at this level. It's unbelievable what he's doing," Rune said.

Only Carlos Alcaraz stopped Djokovic from landing a career first calendar Grand Slam with his triumph in the Wimbledon final.

However, if the next generation are to truly take the mantle from Djokovic, Rune accepts they need to start bloodying the Serbian's nose more regularly.

Alcaraz was closest to Djokovic in 2023 with six tour titles, while Daniil Medvedev won five and Jannik Sinner four.

For all the talk of someone new potentially dominating the male game, though, Rune does not believe Djokovic's era of dominance is over yet.

"Alcaraz won a slam this year. Sinner finished in the top four. I was number four for the first time this year," he said. 

"I think the next generation is very interesting. I think we are trying to compete with Novak and to see if we can match him. 

"Still, he's winning three out of four grand slams - it's kind of tough. Before we can say that, we need to start winning more regularly against him."

 

Rafael Nadal's return from injury will be "great for tennis", says world number eight Holger Rune, as the Spaniard builds towards an appearance at next month's Australian Open.

Nadal will return after close to a year on the sidelines at the Brisbane International, which runs from December 31 to January 7, as he targets a bid for a 23rd grand slam title at Melbourne Park later in January.

The 37-year-old has not competed since this year's edition of the Australian Open, having suffered a hip injury during a surprise second-round defeat to Mackenzie McDonald.

Nadal attempted to recover from his injury before the start of the French Open in May, only to be forced to withdraw from that tournament and undergo season-ending surgery.

The 'King of Clay' has said 2024 will likely be his final year on the tour, and while Rune accepts it will be difficult for Nadal to recapture his best form, the Dane is excited to see how he fares.

"It's great for tennis that Rafa is coming back," Rune said. "It brings even more fans to the tournaments and more excitement for the sport. I think this is good. 

"We're going to have Novak [Djokovic], Rafa, [Carlos] Alcaraz, [Jannik] Sinner and more guys for the Australian Open. That's going to be super fun and it's exciting to see how it's going to go.

"You see some videos where he's practicing hard, but of course it's always difficult to come back and play after so long. But I'm excited to see it."

Jack Draper was the last player to lose to Nadal, going down in four sets in the first round of the 2023 Australian Open, and he is keen for a chance to avenge that defeat next year.

"I mean, I think it's amazing for tennis. Obviously, he's put in a lot of hard work to be back on tour, I'm seeing lots of videos of him training very intensely," Draper said.

"It's just good for the spectators, the players, that someone of his calibre – one of the greatest of all time – is back playing.

"I hope I get a chance to play him again because I think I was one of the last people to play him. It'll be amazing to have him back on the tour."

World number 32 Alexander Bublik echoed those sentiments, adding he was excited to see who will have the honour of being Nadal's final opponent if – as expected – he retires next year.

"Of course, it's very exciting that Rafa is coming back," Bublik said. "He's a legend of our game.

"But I just discussed it with Holger… I'm more excited to think who is going to play him in his last match, who he's going to finish such a legendary career against. 

"So for me, it's an exciting time. We'll see how he comes back but he's going to bring a lot to the game."

Novak Djokovic ensured he will finish the year ranked world number one for an eighth time after battling to a late-night victory over Holger Rune in his opening match at the ATP Finals.

Djokovic is chasing a record seventh title but again found 20-year-old Rune, who is making his debut at the eight-man event, a troublesome opponent before pulling off a third win in five meetings.

It was past midnight in Turin when Djokovic completed a 7-6 (4) 6-7 (1) 6-3 victory after three hours and four minutes on court.

Rune has fared much better against Djokovic than most of his rivals over the last couple of years, beating him in Paris last autumn and Rome in the spring before a narrow defeat in the French capital a week-and-a-half ago.

The Serbian went on to claim the Masters series title, maintaining his record of not having lost a match since the Wimbledon final.

It was Rune who struck first with a break to lead 3-2 but Djokovic hit straight back and the high-class set went all the way to a tie-break, which the top seed took with a forehand smashed cross-court past his helpless opponent.

Rune reacted well, breaking again to lead 2-0 in the second set, but once more Djokovic found the immediate response, and a strong serve foiled the young Dane when he forced a set point at 4-5.

Rune slumped after reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals prior to hiring Djokovic’s former coach Boris Becker last month, but there were plenty of moments here to demonstrate his huge talent and fearsome ball-striking.

He has won at least a set against Djokovic in every match they have played, but he had a helping hand in setting up a decider, his rival playing a highly unusual lacklustre tie-break.

Djokovic broke straight away to start the deciding set, only for this time Rune to recover the deficit immediately, prompting a frustrated Djokovic to stamp on two rackets, snapping the frames.

But he broke again to lead 4-2 and this time there was no way back for Rune.

Djokovic told Prime Video: “It took everything. I saw in the first game when he fired shots from the baseline, I knew it was going to be a tough night for me. I thought he played great. I played great in some moments.

“Overall a win is a win. It was a very emotional win and a tough win knowing the significance of tonight’s match. After a really terrible second-set tie-break I think I played a really solid third set.”

Earlier, Italian Jannik Sinner delighted the crowd by defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the opening singles match.

Sinner, 22, played as an alternate two years ago but qualified for the first time this season after claiming four ATP Tour titles and rising to world number four. He is one of the favourites to lift the trophy this week, which would be the dream scenario for the home fans, and a 6-4 6-4 victory over Tsitsipas is a big step towards the semi-finals.

Carlos Alcaraz beat fellow young gun and childhood friend Holger Rune to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time.

World number one Alcaraz and sixth seed Rune played doubles together when they were 14 and now the duo were the first men under 21 to face each other in a Wimbledon quarter-final in the open era.

It was the first time they had met at a grand slam, the start of a rivalry which could last for 10 or 15 years, and it was the Spaniard who came out top with a 7-6 (3) 6-4 6-4 victory on Centre Court.

Just six days separate the pair – Rune being the older – and as they headed into a first-set tie-break there was virtually nothing to choose between them either.

Alcaraz had hit 12 winners to Rune’s 13, both had made 12 unforced errors and both had won a total of 38 points.

Both had also double-faulted once, but Rune picked the wrong time to add to that particular tally to hand Alcaraz the advantage in the tie-break, which he went on to win with a stunning backhand return.

They exchanged further blows until 4-4 in the second set when Rune netted a simple overhead, and Alcaraz punished a second serve with another pin-point return to secure the first break of the match.

With England captain Ben Stokes watching in the crowd, it was Rune’s title hopes that were turning to ashes.

The weary Dane was given a warning for a time violation and was promptly broken for 3-2 in the third.

Rune saved a match point on his own serve but could not get near Alcaraz’s as the top seed wrapped up victory in two hours and 20 minutes.

Alcaraz, still a relative grass-court rookie despite his win at Queen’s Club a fortnight ago, said: “Honestly it’s amazing for me, a dream since I started playing tennis, making good results at Wimbledon, such a beautiful tournament.

“To be able to play a semi-final here… I think I’m playing at a great level, I didn’t expect to play such a great level on this surface so for me, it’s crazy.

“At the beginning I was really nervous playing a quarter-final and playing against Rune, someone the same age and playing at a great level. But once you get to a quarter-final there are no friends, you have to focus on yourself and I did great in that.”

Alcaraz will play Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev, who beat him in the second round two years ago when he really was a novice on grass, in the semi-final.

“We played two times, once here at Wimbledon,” added Alcaraz. “It’s going to be a tough one.

“But right now I’m going to enjoy this moment. You don’t play a semi-final every year.”

Andy Murray’s final warm-up for Wimbledon ended in a straight sets defeat to world number six Holger Rune at the Hurlingham Club.

The two-time Wimbledon champion, who opted for some extra match play following his first-round exit at Queen’s Club last week, was beaten 6-4 6-4 at the Giorgio Armani Tennis Classic.

Murray moved well on court against his 20-year-old opponent but could not capitalise on his chances, notably four break points in the sixth game of a tight opening set.

A double fault from the 36-year-old gifted Rune the first break of the contest and he was ultimately unable to battle back after dropping serve in the first game of the second.

Murray had won 10 successive matches in claiming back-to-back grass-court titles in Surbiton and Nottingham before suffering an early exit at Queen’s at the hands of Alex De Minaur.

“It’s great obviously to play these sorts of matches a few days out from Wimbledon,” Murray said in his on-court interview after his defeat.

“He’s one of the top players in the world, so you get to see exactly where your game is at. There are things to work on but it keeps you very sharp.

“I would have liked to have done a little bit better but I can start from here and build on this.”

Two days before discovering his fate as an unseeded player in the Wimbledon draw, the Scot was given a serious workout on a warm afternoon in west London.

A fashion show provided the pre-match entertainment on the north bank of the river Thames and it was the energetic Rune who proved to be the more stylish on court.

Like many of the catwalk models, the Dane had his baseball cap on backwards and he exuded the confidence of a player who has recently won four ATP titles, including defeating Novak Djokovic in the 2022 Paris Masters final.

Former world number one Murray grew into the encounter and showed glimpses of his grand-slam winning best throughout with soft hands at the net, powerful groundstrokes and some delightful lobs.

However, Rune often had the edge when it mattered in an exhibition match lasting around an hour and 40 minutes.

Murray, currently ranked 39 by the ATP, was finally broken in the ninth game following one of a handful of double faults across the high-profile exhibition match.

Rune wasted little time in wrapping up the set and then swiftly backed it up with a further break en route to another impressive victory of his fledgling career which underlines his credentials as an outsider for glory at SW19 in the coming fortnight.

Andy Murray will warm up for Wimbledon with a match against rising star Holger Rune at the Giorgio Armani Tennis Classic at Hurlingham on Wednesday.

The two-time former Wimbledon champion has opted for some extra match play following his first-round exit to Alex De Minaur at Queen’s Club last week.

World number six Rune, 20, reached the semi-finals of the cinch Championships before also losing to De Minaur and should provide strong opposition for Murray at the exhibition event.

Hurlingham frequently attracts the world’s best players and will also host world number one Carlos Alcaraz, top British player Cameron Norrie and defending Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic.

The Serbian, who will bid to equal Roger Federer’s tally of eight titles at the All England Club, faces exciting American star Frances Tiafoe on Thursday.

Holger Rune upset world number one Novak Djokovic to reach the semi-finals of the Italian Open.

The 20-year-old Dane came through 6-2 4-6 6-2 against the defending champion in a rain-hit encounter in Rome.

Seventh seed Rune raced through the opening set in 39 minutes before Djokovic was seen to by the physio early in the second and given some medication before the weather forced play to be suspended.

Top seed Djokovic – who beat Britain’s Cameron Norrie in a feisty fourth-round match – levelled the match soon after the resumption, but it was Rune who pulled clear in the decider.

Rune, making his tournament debut, opened a 4-0 lead after a double break before closing out the match for successive victories in his matches against the Serbian.

“It’s really a big win for me,” Rune said in his on-court interview.

“Obviously I did it last year in Paris as well, but every match is a huge challenge for me when I play against Novak.

“He is one of the greatest that’s ever played the game. I knew I had to be at my best and I said it yesterday, and I was today.

“I am super proud of myself and I enjoyed every moment out there, but I stay humble of course. I have a lot to achieve.”

Holger Rune defeated Botic van de Zandschulp in the BMW Open final for the second straight year but had to do things the hard way this time.

The top seed in 2023, Rune won his first career title at this event last year, albeit only after Van de Zandschulp retired from the final with chest pains.

It was "probably the worst way to win a final", Rune said back then, so Sunday's 6-3 1-6 7-6 (7-3) victory would have felt especially sweet.

Van de Zandschulp's only career final appearances have been in Munich, meaning he is still waiting for a first title. That wait should have ended here.

Rune took the opening set, breaking immediately, but the fourth seed roared back in the second to tee up a decider.

Momentum was with Van de Zandschulp, who broke twice and forged a pair of match points.

Both were squandered, however, and Rune recovered to tie the set, then did so again when Van de Zandschulp broke into the lead once more and created two more match points.

That meant a tie-break, in which Rune swiftly gained control and held off the giant Dutchman for a hard-earned win.

Carlos Alcaraz raced through to the Barcelona Open final as the defending champion set up a final showdown with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

With his 20th birthday approaching on May 5, world number two Alcaraz will have the chance on Sunday to land his ninth ATP title as a teenager.

Alcaraz crushed the hopes of first-time Barcelona semi-finalist Dan Evans, racing to a 6-2 6-2 victory over a player who was seeking to become the first British finalist at this tournament.

Earlier, Tsitsipas, who had not dropped serve en route to the semi-finals, had to dig deep for a 6-4 5-7 6-3 victory against Lorenzo Musetti, the Italian who beat Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo last week.

Greek star Tsitsipas bizarrely has a 0-9 record in finals at ATP 500 level, the tier at which this tournament sits, despite having won two of his six title matches in elite ATP 1000 events.

Alcaraz will start as a firm favourite in the final. He holds a 3-0 career head-to-head lead over Tsitsipas from their past meetings, including a three-set win in the Barcelona quarter-finals last year.

That was a stormy encounter, with Alcaraz taking exception to almost being hit by a shot from Tsitsipas at the end of the opening set, so the rematch could be one to savour.

"It's so special to play a final here in Barcelona, a tournament I love playing," Alcaraz said on Prime Video. "I came to watch this tournament when I was very, very young, and I played for this club when I was 12, 11. I love this club, I love this tournament, and it's so special to have the chance to lift the trophy here again.

"Last year [against Tsitsipas] we had a spicy match, but I know he's a really nice guy off the court."

At the BMW Open in Munich, it was much the same story on Saturday.

Defending champion Holger Rune, another 19-year-old with a birthday approaching, in his case on April 29, earned another shot at the title.

Rune set up a Sunday showdown against Botic van de Zandschulp, in what will be a repeat of last year's final.

A resilient Rune lived up to his top seeding by ending Christopher O'Connell's fine run, which included a win against Alexander Zverev at the last-16 stage.

The 6-3 6-2 outcome masked the fact Rune saved eight break points as unseeded world number 82 O'Connell threatened to make it a tighter contest on the scoreboard than it turned out to be.

Van de Zandschulp then scored a fine win in the second semi-final as the Dutch fourth seed got the better of American second seed Taylor Fritz, winning 6-4 7-6 (7-2) 

Last year's trophy match ended in disappointment when Van de Zandschulp retired due to chest pains during the first set, with Rune saying it was "probably the worst way to win a final".

Rune has three ATP titles to his name, with 27-year-old Van de Zandschulp yet to lift a singles trophy.

Carlos Alcaraz kept his Barcelona Open title defence on track following a 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 victory over compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the quarter-finals.

The world number two is aiming to become the first player to successfully defend the Barcelona crown since Rafael Nadal won three in a row between 2016 and 2018.

And though run close by Davidovich Fokina, the reigning champion has now reeled off six sets without reply, taking his overall record at the ATP 500 event to 8-1.

The Spaniard, who is now 9-1 against his fellow countrymen since the start of 2022, will play Dan Evans in the last four. The Briton came from behind to defeat 15th seed Francisco Cerundolo 2-6 7-5 6-3.

They are joined by Stefanos Tsitsipas, whose quest for a first title of the campaign continues after a commanding 6-4 6-2 victory over eighth seed Alex De Minaur.

The second seed, who was runner-up at this event in 2018 and 2021, sealed the deal in one hour and 21 minutes to claim his ninth successive win against the Australian.

His reward is a showdown with Lorenzo Musetti, who received a walkover into the last four following Jannik Sinner's withdrawal.

Over in Munich, reigning champion Holger Rune booked his semi-final place with a dominant 6-2 6-4 win over Cristian Garin.

The world number seven, who is now 7-0 in this event, will play Christopher O'Connell. After defeating Alexander Zverev earlier in the week, the Australian qualifier built on his momentum by seeing off Flavio Cobolli 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-3.

Second seed Taylor Fritz also advanced in straight sets with a 6-3 6-4 victory over former world number three Dominic Thiem, who overcame eighth seed Marc-Andrea Huesler earlier in the day.

Fritz's semi-final opponent will be Botic van de Zandschulp after the fourth seed saw off Marcos Giron 7-6 (7-5) 6-3.

Nuno Borges will face reigning champion Carlos Alcaraz in the second round of the Barcelona Open after a 6-2 6-3 triumph over Ilya Avashka on Monday.

Borges created a remarkable 20 break points, converting only five but still comfortable against his 61st-ranked opponent.

That sets up a clash with number one seed Alcaraz, who beat Pablo Carreno Busta in the 2022 final.

Ben Shelton's 7-5 6-4 success over countryman Mackenzie McDonald means he will take on Casper Ruud, while Bernabe Zapata Miralles will play Roberto Bautista Agut in an all-Spanish second-round affair after earning a routine 6-2 6-2 win over unfancied Attila Balazs.

Meanwhile, Emil Ruusuvuori beat Alexander Bublik in Barcelona for a second straight year to set up a second-round meeting with fifth seed Frances Tiafoe.

At the BMW Open in Munich, 2022 winner Holger Rune will open his defence against Yannick Hanfmann after the German battled from a set down to beat Thiago Monteiro 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.

Marcos Giron reached the second round with a 6-1 5-7 6-2 victory over Roberto Carballes Baene.

Andrey Rublev came from a set down against Holger Rune to win the Monte Carlo Masters on Sunday, his first Masters 1000 title.

Having done the same in his semi-final against Taylor Fritz, Rublev showed grit and determination to do so again in the final, eventually winning 5-7 6-2 7-5.

Rublev become only the third player in the Open Era to have comeback wins in both the semi-final and final at Monte Carlo after Ivan Lendl (1988) and Ilie Nastase (1971).

Rune started the stronger of the two and forced a break in the sixth game of the first set with two delightful drop-shot winners, only for Rublev to break straight back in the next game.

After throwing away seven of eight break point chances in the first set, it was somewhat inevitable Rublev was unable to save a crucial one on his own serve with Rune at set point, sending a return long to hand the Dane the first frame.

This was Rune's sixth ATP Tour-level final, making him the fifth teenager to pass five since 2000.

Rublev seemed determined not to make the same mistake again as he immediately broke Rune's serve in the opening game of the second set, although he did pass up two chances for a double break before Rune levelled the set at 2-2.

The heat appeared to be affecting both players' service games in a high-octane encounter, but Rublev steadied himself before breaking again and then racing to another as he comfortably secured the second set.

As Rublev had done after dropping the opener, however, Rune responded defiantly and raced out to a 3-0 lead in the decider, but after missing a chance to go 5-1 up, he was broken back as Rublev came back to 4-4.

At 5-5, a tiring Rune twice hit the net with overhead smashes and then had a double fault at break point, leading to a crucial break for the Russian, who then served out the match to clinch the title.

"I know it's tough to lose a final, but you are too freaking young, man, and already have a Masters 1000 title, so give me one time to win it," Rublev joked with a smiling Rune at the trophy presentation.

Andrey Rublev is hoping it will be third time lucky in a Masters 1000 final after setting up a title showdown with Holger Rune in Monte Carlo.

The 25-year-old Russian has 12 tournament wins to his name, but all have come at ATP 500 or ATP 250 level, respectable but lower rungs than this tier.

Rublev lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Monte Carlo in 2021 and to Alexander Zverev in Cincinnati in the same year, as he failed to capitalise on two chances to break his Masters 1000 duck.

Now comes another opportunity on the clay against teenager Rune on Sunday, after both men ground out tough semi-final comeback wins.

Rublev beat Taylor Fritz 5-7 6-1 6-3, while Rune fought back gallantly to overcome Jannik Sinner 1-6 7-5 7-5, with rain delays affected both matches on Saturday.

Rublev is full of appreciation for Rune's game. They met at the last-16 stage of the Australian Open in January, with Rublev winning a marathon clash in a dizzying final-set tie-break.

Their only other previous clash came indoors at the Paris Masters last November, with Rune taking that third-round match in straight sets and going on to win the title as an unseeded player, beating Novak Djokovic in the final.

Rublev said of Rune: "Holger is the guy who runs a lot, and he runs really well. He read the game really well. He's very talented.

"He has a good touch. He doesn't give you any rhythm, because as soon as he has a chance he tries to do drop shots, he tries to hit full power, goes to the net, returns and goes to the net, then serves to the net.

"He doesn't give you rhythm to put pressure on him to play your style."

Rune sees Rublev as a major threat to his prospects of a second title at this level, but the 19-year-old Dane is not short of self-belief.

"I expect for myself to push full. It's the last push, it's the last match of the tournament," Rune said. "Obviously he had three sets as well, so he must be feeling the legs a little bit, I hope.

"It's going to be great. We've played each other twice. It's one-all head to head, so it's going to be interesting, for sure.

"I've just got to stay in the moment, go for it against the best players in the world, and Andrey has been showing that for many years now, he's been top five, six for many years, so I've got to play my best. I've got to take it, because he's not going to give it to me."

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