Teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz has blazed through 2022, leaving older players in his dust, but lowkey Holger Rune is the same age and also a real threat to win Grand Slams. The question is, which kid has the loftier ceiling in terms of ability? An analysis follows.
Alcaraz and Rune: Tale of the Tape
Both 19 years old, Rune was born just 6 days before Alcaraz. The Dane and the Spaniard are also similar in height, with Carlitos measuring 6’1” and Rune just an inch taller at 6’2”. Alcaraz has a listed weight of 159, but that seems outdated. Carlitos put himself through a rigorous offseason workout regimen and showed up in Australia this year looking buff. Rune’s listed weight is 170. Both teenagers learned their game on clay, with Alcaraz training in Spain and moving to Juan Carlos Ferrero’s academy in 2018 and Rune training at the Patrick Mouratoglou Academy in Nice, France since 2016.
Forehand: Advantage Alcaraz
Alcaraz and Rune possess stunningly powerful forehands. At first blush, Carlitos appears to have the edge in speed, regularly blasting this stroke at 100 mph. However, Rune has consistent, even pace and a workmanlike style rarely producing errors on that wing. Given that both exhibit excellent ability to topspin or flatten out the forehand, the edge goes to Alcaraz on sheer pace.
Backhand: Advantage Alcaraz
As of last year, Rune was said to still be developing his backhand. The backhand of Alcaraz is seen as equally as dangerous as his forehand. Holger himself recently said that while he doesn’t necessarily get the same satisfaction from it, backhand down the line has saved him many times. On that wing, it’s not a saving grace but an actual weapon for Alcaraz. Advantage him.
Serve: Advantage Alcaraz (barely)
Both players serve in the 125-130 range on first serve, depending on conditions and are capable of touching 130. According to statistics by Infosys for Roland Garros 2022, Rune ranks 5th in first serve, while Alcaraz ranks 6th, heading into the quarterfinals. But there’s more to the service than first serve, and Alcaraz has a huge edge in the very same area that Nadal as dominated on clay all these years: Second serve points won. In terms of the second serve overall, data provider Infosys ranks Alcaraz as second only to Djokovic and one spot ahead of Rafa so far in this tournament. Both Rune and Alcaraz have wicked kick serves, which work brilliantly on clay.
Foot Speed: Tie
If you put these to players side-by-side in a 50 yard dash, I honestly wouldn’t know who to pick. Both men possess superior quickness and speed. While Alcaraz might be a little more adept at turning defense to offense once he reaches the ball, Rune is the more consistent of the two after a long run.
Details & Data: Rune
Holger has been described as a perfectionist when it comes to technique. On one level, this would seem to be a detriment, as thinking about mechanics is not what you want when the pressure is on. But there’s one big advantage to clean technique: Less chance of injury. Near-perfect use of the kinetic chain, without too much open stance or torque on elbows and shoulders, can prevent overuse injuries and prolong careers.
Not only is Holger a technique geek, he is also open and accepting of using data, as he works with the strong analytics team at Mouratoglou’s academy. It’s unclear if Alcaraz is using data at this point.
Rune has been accused of cockiness, while the book on Alcaraz seems to be that he’s a “confident kid.” How does that work? The difference is subtle, but it’s a dose of humility that tempers the swagger. Rune got himself into trouble over some derogatory words on court, while Alcaraz, frankly, is saying all the angelic things. If Rune can bring a little more of the Scandinavian cool to the court without the dust-ups, he’ll be onto something.
In conclusion, Alcaraz seems to have the early lead in all the major categories. That might mean that Rune has more room to grow and therefore has a higher ceiling. But not necessarily. Sometimes young players plateau or even backslide. Watch the closing arguments of Roland Garros 2022 to see which teenager holds up better under the strain.