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Roberto Carballes Baena was also “surprised” about playing Holger Rune on Court 5
But he was certainly not complaining, after scoring a draw-breaking upset over the No. 4 seed: “The dimensions of the tennis court are still the same.”
Published Aug 29, 2023
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NEW YORK—Roberto Carballes Baena had to do a double-take when he first saw the US Open opening day schedule—and it’s not just because the No. 63-ranked Spaniard had been drawn to face No. 4 seed Holger Rune for the second Grand Slam in a row.
Earlier in the season, the pair’s Wimbledon clash took place on Court No. 3, the fourth-largest court at the All England Club, where Rune won comfortably in three sets on his way to the quarterfinals. But at the US Open, Carballes Baena says he was as surprised as Rune when he saw they were scheduled to play on Court 5. The non-ticketed court is a fan favorite spot sandwiched between two other show courts, and it sits almost symbolically in the shadow of Arthur Ashe Stadium—the world’s largest tennis stadium.
World No. 4 Rune was famously unhappy about the court assignment, and the perceived snub. Ahead of the match, he sarcastically shared a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, showing a map of the grounds “in case you can(‘t) find Court 5” as he invited fans to attend.
Carballes Baena says he didn’t see Rune’s tweet or hear much of the pre-match fuss about the scheduling—but he certainly wasn’t complaining, after scoring the upset of the day with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over the Dane.
“At the end of the day, whether you’re playing on Court 5 or on a bigger one, the dimensions of the tennis court are still the same,” Carballes Baena told press in Spanish afterward. “It changes nothing.
"But honestly, it surprised me too. I had also assumed we were going to be playing on a bit of a bigger court, him being the world No. 4. Whatever the reason was, I don’t think anything happened to give me an advantage.”
Carballes Baena broke Rune seven times, as the Dane racked up 42 unforced errors across four sets. The victory earned the Spaniard his first Top 10 win—and with it, broke his streak of bad luck in the early rounds of Grand Slams.
“I mean, I’ve had some tough matches in previous years, but this year was something else!” he laughed. “(Novak) Djokovic in Australia, (Stefanos) Tsitsipas (at Roland Garros), Rune (at Wimbledon) and now Rune again. But in the end, these are the moments I train for.
“Of course, if you play against other players you might have better chances, because you’re not always going to be able to defeat the world No. 4. But you have to try and take advantage of the opportunities, like today.”
Into the second round at the US Open for the fifth time, Carballes Baena has already equalled his best result at the year’s final Grand Slam. He’s taking a different approach this time, working with coaches Jose Maria Garrido and Jose Maria Arenas to dial up the aggression in his game and close the gap between himself and the rest of the field.
“I’m happy. Of course, it would be great if I didn’t keep playing the Top 5 or Top 7 in the first or second rounds!” he added. “But it is what it is.”
Carballes Baena faces Aslan Karatsev next, with the highest seed in his section being No. 14 Tommy Paul as a potential fourth-round opponent.