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Holger Rune storms back to reach Rome final, scores first win in five clashes with Casper Ruud
The 20-year-old Dane advanced to his third clay-court final of the year courtesy of a 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-2 victory on Saturday.
Published May 20, 2023
Much was made about the last time Casper Ruud and Holger Rune took the court together during a spicy 2022 Roland Garros quarterfinal, and the drama that spilled out in the locker room afterwards. The same could be said for the 2023 trajectories of the two competitors, with Rune being favored across the board by pundits who weren’t fazed by the fact he had won a single set in 10 played with the Norwegian on clay.
The pepper was certainly back in the pair’s latest meeting Saturday. Ruud came out peppering forehands with his best set of tennis in 2022. The peppery side of Rune emerged in a second-set rally that saw him go on a five-game run that carried over into their decider. And there was the pepper Ruud brought to a chat with the chair umpire after the second set finished when he was told to stop receiving coaching.
When all was said and done, Rune secured his first win in five meetings with the two-time major finalist. The No. 7 seed pulled away, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-2, to reach his third clay-court final this spring and second on the ATP Masters 1000 stage.
“I told myself, at this moment, I had nothing to lose. He’s probably gonna win the match,” Rune told the World Feed afterwards. “I told myself to play free, enjoy it, it’s probably my last set here. I just had to try to play how I want to play, just aggressive, enjoy it. I did that. That was actually the key to come back.”
The 20-year-old awaits the winner of Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final. He is yet to lose to either opponent.
Rune came into the latest chapter of his rivalry with Ruud on the back of posting his second straight win over Novak Djokovic. While he carried over the confidence of that quarterfinal effort, Ruud channeled the belief that led to his pair of Grand Slam finals the season prior to create a stirring opening set of tennis. Both players hit the ball extremely well and put on a clinic in sliding and changing tempos—as Jim Courier put it, “a bevy of brilliance.” It was Ruud, though, who won the forehand matchup and brought cleaner execution to avoid facing a single break point. A trio of misfires from Rune aided in his opponent closing out the eventual tie-break with little resistance.
Ruud connected for 23 winners in opening the one-set lead and for a period, maintained that level to continue applying pressure. At 2-2 in the second set, Rune sprayed consecutive forehands to concede the first break of the contest. During the changeover, he called for a medical timeout to have his right shoulder worked on.
The rhythm break didn’t appear to initially affect Ruud, who consolidated to stretch his lead. But as he would soon learn, there would be no deceleration off the Dane’s serve and forehand to rely on, and when he opened the door with a lapse in concentration, Rune pounced. Serving at 4-3, 30-15, Ruud double-faulted. Two more sloppy errors followed in seeing April's Munich champion get back on even terms in the set.
A tense four-deuce game followed, one where Rune showcased his mental resolve in staving off a duo of break points that would have enabled his Scandinavian rival to serve for the encounter. The beginning of the end followed for Ruud in the next game, as Rune could do no wrong in breaking at love to level the clash.
Before leaving the court for a set break, Ruud was instructed by the chair umpire not to use the time for coaching from his box. Bringing up Rune's medical timeout, Ruud’s energy spent thinking about the situation translated to a forgettable final set, one where the reigning Roland Garros runner-up couldn't replicate his 70 minutes of competition. While he lost focus, Rune dialed in with gusto. The end result: 25 points won by Rune to just 12 for Ruud.
“I think he plays very fearless, takes the ball early, which is really impressive to do on clay. It's not very typical to sort of do too well on clay because you have some wrong bounces and all these things. He did it really well,” Ruud said in press. “A couple times I played heavy, he just went on the rise, hit the clean winner back. I think that's really well done.”
When the two shook hands, the pepper left the spice cabinet in favor of a sweetening agent. An exchange of chest pats and a “good luck” from Ruud wrapped proceedings up after two hours and 43 minutes.