NEW YORK—Holger Rune kept hearing a female fan in the Court 5 bleachers making noise as he tried to play on Monday.

“All the time, all the time,” the 20-year-old Dane told the chair umpire and referee, before complaining, in an exasperated voice, “You’re not taking care of it!”

This was early in the fourth set of his first-round match with Roberto Carballes Baena, and time was rapidly running out on Rune’s final Slam campaign of 2023. As the No. 4 seed, he was annoyed about being scheduled on this small, noisy, distraction-filled court to begin with. In his mind, it was so far off the beaten path that he felt the need to tweet out a map of the US Open grounds to help his fans find it. The sarcasm in the message wasn’t hard to pick up.


Asked about the court assignment on Danish TV, he agreed with host Peter Bastiansen that it was “disrespectful,” and claimed that two ATP schedulers “always give me the worst courts.”

Rune is right that Court 5 is a small and potentially unsettling venue for a No. 4 seed at a Slam. Planted in the middle of three busy courts, it’s a fan’s dream. You’re a few feet from the players, and you can easily stand and watch two matches at once. For the pros, it’s less ideal. You have to deal with music floating in from the grounds, booming announcements from the nearby Grandstand, and scores being called from the courts on either side of you. It’s not unusual for a player on Court 5 to set up for a smash or a volley, and hear an umpire from the next court clearly say “time” or “let” or “stop” or “new balls, please” just as they’re about to swing.

Aside from the mysterious woman chattering in the bleachers, though, the crowd was supportive of Rune, often loudly so, in his match with Carballes Baena. One young fan told him, “I like your shirt.” But Rune just wasn’t up to the task today. He looked a step slow during points, and he huffed and puffed after many of the longer ones. He couldn’t stay in rallies as long as the steady Spaniard, but he also couldn’t mount the attack necessary to grab the initiative in the rallies. It was the bigger and stronger Rune who did much of the scrambling behind the baseline, and who also made twice as many unforced errors.


“Disappointing day today,” said Rune, who took a medical time-out for a left leg problem in the third set. He cited an early loss in Toronto and a retirement for a back issue in Cincinnati, as “not the best preparation” for a major.

Rune claimed he had “no problem” with Court 5 itself. “It’s a nice atmosphere,” he said. The problem was the perceived lack of respect for his ranking.

“As [better] as you get in the rankings, it’s more benefits you should get with playing in better conditions,” he said. “I think that’s a normal way, and…it’s how they do with all the players. But they didn’t do it with me here.”

“That’s obviously disappointing, but [I’m] not going to blame the court on the loss.”


Rune reached the quarterfinals at each of the last two majors, but didn't make it to the second day of the season's final Slam.

Rune reached the quarterfinals at each of the last two majors, but didn't make it to the second day of the season's final Slam.

Rune said he asked for an explanation from the tournament, and was told that “that they put the Americans on the big courts, which is totally fine.” He said he didn’t agree that that fact explained everything about the decision, but that was as far as the discussion went.

Rune obviously came to New York unsure of his health and his game. Maybe the court assignment played into that negativity, but he didn’t look especially ready to play on any court today. It’s a long season for any player, and particularly for a high-strung 20-year-old still learning his way around the tour.

He’s also not the first European to have early struggles at the Open. You could see flashes—in his leaping backhand especially—of the form that should one day win him fans here. Next time, perhaps, Rune won’t worry so much about where he gets to show it off to them.