Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune’s rivalry is needed in tennis, says John McEnroe as the young pair both made it into round two of the French Open.
Despite their lack of head-to-heads to date, they have separately emerged as the two players judged by many to be the sport’s next great rivalry, in place of those created by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
And as they both set out to reach the 2023 French Open final – where they could meet – McEnroe says they can make tennis “much more interesting”.
“I believe you need rivalries,” he said on Eurosport. “We haven’t seen a lot, particularly on the women’s side.
“You think about how much better the men have got because they’ve played each other so often. It’s insane. They were forced to get better.
“Now, you’re hoping, as Djokovic and Nadal wind down, you’re hoping Alcaraz and Rune in particular step up and have a great rivalry because all sports need it.
“It makes it much more fun and much more interesting. People generally pay more attention.
“Look at Alcaraz, the guy’s the best 20-year-old I’ve ever seen and at this point, I’d put him above Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and [Pete] Sampras as the greatest player I’ve ever seen at 20.”
Joining McEnroe to discuss the duo was Mats Wilander, who reckons Rune is better than Alcaraz in one key department.
“His backhand is absolutely brilliant. One of the best in the game. To win this tournament, you have to hit a lot of forehands. I like that he’s thinking about that, and developing his style because it was [before], to not hit the forehand hard and to instead hit the backhand hard.
“I love that he’s coming forward, taking the serve early and [approaching]; a la Mr McEnroe.
‘Had to adjust to the conditions’ – Rune relieved with first round victory
“He’s developing and he’s aggressive; he didn’t serve very well, but it’s a big weapon. I think it [the serve] is better than Alcaraz’s.”
McEnroe didn’t seek to disagree with Wilander, saying Rune is “the favourite” to go all the way to the final in Paris.
He said: “Rune is the real deal. To me, he’s the favourite to get to the final, playing with a lot of confidence. I wouldn’t call today one of his best, but he’s trying to add to his game already, taking the ball early and moving forward.
“Eubanks is a guy who doesn’t know his way around clay but has a big serve and a big game. In these weird conditions, it’s difficult to move for the clay-court specialists. Rune did fine. He’s been dealing with the pressure pretty well for the most part.
“He laid an egg last year when [Casper] Ruud blew him off. I don’t think that went over too well, and he subsequently lost eight first-rounds in a row, but he’s come back and he’s growing up a bit.
“He’s the man. He’s going to win multiple majors too.”
– – –
Read the full article here