Where to begin with the Monte Carlo semifinal between Holger Rune and Jannik Sinner—the shoddy weather, the momentum changes, the points themselves, the yin and yang of their personalities?

All the factors resulted in a "mental" semifinal showdown, one Rune battled to clinch, 1-6, 7-5, 7-5, for his second Masters 1000 final appearance and first at this level on clay. Andrey Rublev, who earlier defeated Taylor Fritz with his own three-set rally, awaits Sunday.

“It was quite unbelievable. Jannik started firing, hitting a lot of winners. He’s been in great form the last couple of months,” Rune said afterwards. “I had to dig deep, find solutions, which I did very well. Not ideal weather to play in the beginning, but it is what it is. It was an amazing crowd, actually, even though they were cheering for Jannik. I still think it’s fun to play like this.”

Sinner came out blazing to outpace Rune in the opening set, punishing anything defensive the Dane floated back with his potent power off the baseline. The 21-year-old was equally proficient at the line, claiming 12 of 14 first-serve points.

Love or hate him, Rune don't care.

Love or hate him, Rune don't care.


Rune quickly reset, sensing a dip in hitting from the opposition to open a 3-0 lead. Though rain then interrupted play for 50 minutes or so, the No. 6 seed remained the steadier baseliner when the two returned—until the eighth game. With Sinner serving at 2-5, 0-30, Rune errantly framed two forehand returns en route to missing the window of opportunity.

Minutes later, Sinner broke at love to get back on serve, then staved off a pair of set points in leveling the scoreboard. Starting behind 0-15 in his next service game, Rune held his finger to shush the crowd upon taking the next point. Jeers erupted, as Rune continued to engage.

“Holger, wait please. You don’t help doing that. Just play,” communicated chair umpire Carlos Bernardes. Rune appeared to respond like he couldn’t hear the Brazilian.

When Sinner netted his return on the following point, Rune motioned to his ear. Two points later, he repeated that gesture after confidently serving out the game. On his fourth set point, Rune officially returned to an even playing field, as Sinner rolled a crosscourt backhand into the net.

Throughout the clash, Rune tested Sinner’s ability to handle his drop shot. The ploy routinely worked in the teen’s favor, either by lining up the passing target he looked for or drawing a misjudged defensive reply from the seventh seed. Sinner also repeatedly botched finishing volleys when coming forward on his own accord. Rune, meanwhile, thrived with reading changes of pace and shrinking the court.

This from Rune didn't go over well with Sinner.


During the decider, Sinner did well to fight off three non-consecutive break points to even the score at 2-2 in a 16-point game. Under pressure again at 3-4, 30-30, Sinner overhit a forehand. Rune’s forehand swot to the out ball went right up the middle with pace behind it, forcing the Italian to duck out of the way. Unamused by the conduct, Sinner erased the first of two break points he would face, later playing to the crowd by motioning for noise. At 4-5, he was two points from losing in two instances, with a flubbed volley and Rune’s dropper once again proving barriers to Sinner’s success.

The San Candido native fought onward, though couldn’t bail himself out of trouble a third time of asking when his 30-0 advantage was wiped away. With the courtside clock showing the 2:46 mark, Rune wrapped up the victory after Sinner’s final forehand found the net. Last year's Paris Masters champ celebrated by high-fiving a row of fans and signed the camera lens with one word: "mental" accompanied by a heart.

Asked in press about Rune's interaction with the crowd and the less-than-warm handshake at the end, Sinner responded, “No, I don't want to comment.”

Rune will now look to avenge his heartbreaking Australian Open defeat to Rublev. In Melbourne, the Russian saved a pair of match points to survive their fourth-round duel in a final-set, 10-point tiebreaker that ended with Rublev winning it, 11-9.

“It wasn’t fun at all. I hope it’s gonna be different,” said Rune. “It was very unlucky for me but of course he played an amazing match. I think we both played a great match, small margins here and there like today.”