Djokovic and Alcaraz could have 2023 threatened by ‘exceptional’ rival

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A new face appears to be cementing himself as a threat to the top tennis players for 2023 as the current season draws to a close. Holger Rune reached his maiden Masters 1000 final on Saturday as he earned his fourth-successive win over a top 10 player, defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4 6-2. And the Canadian has now piled the praise on the “exceptional” teenager as he teased big things for Rune in 2023.

Rune has been one of the most improved players this year, coming in second to world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz who is just six days younger than him. The Dane started the year ranked at No 102 in the world and will be at least No 12 on Monday thanks to his run to the Paris Masters final, where he faces either Novak Djokovic or Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 19-year-old has already won two titles this year, beating top players in Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev in the finals, and looks to be cementing himself as a player to watch in the 2023 season. Rune looks set to become the latest threat to the likes of Djokovic and Alcaraz in their quest to win the biggest titles next year as his latest opponent shared his surprise at the teen’s rapid rise.

“Well, I’m surprised, yes,” Auger-Aliassime said of Rune’s surge in the rankings this year. “I knew he had a lot of qualities. Well, we have Carlos who is a standout player, for instance. At his age I was in the top 100 as well at 18. We have a similar career. But I’m surprised, and I have to say hats off to him for his wonderful rise in the ranking.”

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The world No 8 was also impressed at the experience Rune had amassed from his minimal time on the tour, winning multiple titles as well as reaching the final in Basel last week, where he coincidentally lost to Auger-Aliassime. “He has played very well throughout this season,” the Canadian continued.

“He’s had also very tough moments, which is not normal for someone who is 18 years old. He managed to be in the final in Stockholm, in Basel. It’s very incredible at his age. He hasn’t been much on the tour. Hats off to him, because he’s exceptional.”

As well as improving his results and ranking, the four-time title winner also thought Rune had developed physically over the course of his breakthrough season and noted his newfound ability to win multiple matches in a row over a longer period of time. Auger-Aliassime continued: “Today he was very aggressive. He was playing very strongly on both sides.

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“He’s serving much better. He served very well during the last weeks. But he’s serving much better. I think he improved from a physical point of view, as well.” And the 22-year-old was intrigued to see how Rune would fare next season, with the teenager already looking like a new rival for the likes of Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in their bid to win the most Grand Slams in ATP history.

“Before it was hard to have so many matches under his belt in a row. It means that he has improved physically, so it will be interesting to see next year how things will unroll,” Auger-Aliassime added.

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