November 30, 2023

Maxsports

All Sports To The Max

Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune have to put aside old friendship in their pursuit of Wimbledon glory

Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune will make Open Era history when they meet in today’s Wimbledon quarter-finals – but the pair must put aside an old friendship in pursuit of glory

Looking back on it, Danilo Raicevic and Lovre Erceg never stood a chance. It was in 2017 when the Montenegrin/Croatian pair lost 6-3, 6-2 to Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune in the prestigious Petit As Under 14 event.

They were no doubt disappointed, but perhaps when they watch their opponents from that day do battle on Centre Court this afternoon, they will feel rather proud of those five games won across two sets.

Ahead of their much-anticipated clash – the first time in the Open Era two men under the age of 21 have faced each other in a Wimbledon quarter-final – Rune looked back on that day when he and Alcaraz were on the same side of the net.

‘I remember,’ said the 20-year-old Dane. ‘We were two singles players, and when a singles player plays doubles, they want to cover the court by themselves.

‘We both tried to do that a little bit. He’s amazing – the more shots he could hit the better! We played good together.

Carlos Alcaraz (left) and Holger Rune go way back

Now the old friends are set to collide at Wimbledon

Carlos Alcaraz (left) and Holger Rune first met as pre-teens on the junior tennis circuit in 2017

The pair have risen to the pinnacle of tennis and will face off for the first time in the Wimbledon quarter-finals on Wednesday

The pair have risen to the pinnacle of tennis and will face off for the first time in the Wimbledon quarter-finals on Wednesday

‘For sure I would like to play doubles with him again. Maybe one day we can have the chance.’

Returning to the present day, Spaniard Alcaraz, also 20, said: ‘I’m really excited about this match, I think he’s the same. We shared a lot of great moments. We’ve not texted each other, but we know each other really well.

‘When we were 12 or 11 years old, I think that’s the first time I saw him, in a tournament in Mallorca.’

There was genuine warmth in the way they spoke of each other, but that friendship is likely to be tested in the fires of competition over the next 15 or so years.

That is what makes today’s match so intriguing: the certainty that this is the start of a long Grand Slam rivalry, and the uncertainty over how this first clash will play out.

Follow Mail Sport on Threads here: https://www.threads.net/@mailsport 

Meetings in the truncated scoring format of the Next Gen Finals in 2021 and in the Paris Masters last year when Alcaraz retired with an abdominal injury can both be discounted.

A glance at the numbers this fortnight gets us no closer to picking a winner. First serves in: Rune 63 per cent, Alcaraz 63. First serve points won: 78 per cent vs 79 per cent. The Dane has hit 57 forehand winners and 25 on the backhand; the Spaniard has 60 and 24.

As world No 1 with a major title already under his belt at last year’s US Open, Alcaraz starts as favourite.

He has greater variety to his game: watch out for razor sharp volleying and a drop shot which is close to impossible to read, so late does he adjust his grip to cut under the ball.

Alcaraz has been challenged by Nicolas Jarry and Matteo Berrettini en route to quarter-finals

Alcaraz has been challenged by Nicolas Jarry and Matteo Berrettini en route to quarter-finals

Rune will look to neutralise the threat of Alcaraz's lethal forehand drop shot on Wednesday

Rune will look to neutralise the threat of Alcaraz’s lethal forehand drop shot on Wednesday

But Rune is a little more solid and will look to rally backhand to backhand as much as possible.

The two players summarised the match-up rather well when each was asked what shot he would like to borrow from the other. Rune demurred at first, insisting he was happy with every aspect of his game, but when pushed he plumped for Alcaraz’s forehand drop shot.

Alcaraz said: ‘If I have to take some weapon from him, I’m going to say the backhand. I’m not saying that my backhand is bad… but he has a great backhand.’

Sit back and enjoy. One would like to think Danilo and Lovre will be in touch with each other this afternoon, reminiscing about the day they snatched a few games from two young men who now stand with the tennis world at their feet.

Follow Mail Sport on Threads here: https://www.threads.net/@mailsport