WATCH: Paire had had it after a disappointing defeat to good friend Holger Rune in Washington, D.C.


WASHINGTON—Holger Rune may have expected disappointment from Benoit Paire after handing him a 6-3, 6-2 defeat, but the No. 9 seed couldn’t have predicted a literal meltdown from the Frenchman at the Citi Open.

Code violations abounded from Paire in the final game as Rune struggled to close out his good friend, and by the time the two were at net, Paire had slid off his shirt and stepped out of it for an otherwise friendly handshake in hot and humid conditions.

“I think it was just kind of fun,” he said of the soon-to-be blooper reel moment. “He’s a big competitor, so he wants to win every match he plays. Of course, he was a bit upset but at the same time, he’s a good guy, so we always have a good time on court.”

To show there were no hard feelings, Paire and Rune shared a selfie from the locker room after the match:

For Rune, the win was a welcome relief after seven straight defeats dating back to his run to the Roland Garros quarterfinals, a result that featured a four-set victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas and a dramatic—even at times contentious—loss to Casper Ruud.

“The ranking changed a lot after that, so it was kind of like I was ‘supposed’ to win every match because all the sudden I’m ranked higher than my opponents,” Rune explained in the mixed zone. “I was not really used to that because I was coming from the lower rankings, but it’s a new step. I think everyone has to go through this and if you want to go up—as I want to—you’ve got to be able to manage a lot of things.”


It was indeed a busy spring for Rune, who turned 19 days before winning his first ATP title in Munich, and the strong European swing moved the former Roland Garros junior champ up over 40 spots in the rankings to earn a career-high of No. 27.

“It obviously gave me a lot of confidence and belief that I could compete on this level and also beat the big guys. I’ve shown that a couple of times and this title just gave me a huge boost to someday win the big titles.”

Essential to his rise has been a markedly improved fitness: while he faded in an otherwise unforgettable Grand Slam main-draw debut against Novak Djokovic last summer at the US Open, he posted strong serving numbers against Paire on Wednesday, dropping just seven points behind his first serve and saving all four break points faced.

“I’ve been a lot better, physically. At the French Open, I was able to play four sets against some of the best players in the world without feeling cramped or even tired. Of course, you feel a little tired, but I was managing to save my energy and play well in the right moments. I’ve improved a lot, both mentally and physically.”

After unwinding with a round of ping pong against countrywoman Clara Tauson, Rune will next face J.J. Wolf for a spot in his first quarterfinal since Roland Garros.