WATCH: Aggressive Holger Rune blows Casper Ruud away with irresistible comeback
Holger Rune rallied from the loss of a tight and tense first set tiebreak to claim an ultimately emphatic 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-2 over Casper Ruud and book his third ATP Masters final.
Rune is yet to taste defeat in Rome as he is making his debut in the Eternal City this year.
Rune moved within one match win of capturing his second ATP Masters 1000 title on Saturday but was once again taken to three sets.
Against Djokovic, Rune had started well but went off the boil after an argument with the officials before a rain break worked to his advantage and he won the third set.
He started a little more tentatively this time and couldn’t gain the upper hand early, while Ruud held his nerve in the tiebreak.
“I had nothing to lose in the second [set], so I just told myself to play freely and enjoy it as I thought it would be my last set here,” Rune said. “I told myself to play aggressively and enjoy it and I did it and that was the key to comeback.”
Just as he had done to turn the tide against Djokovic, Rune started to ratchet up the power on his groundstrokes with booming forehands and deep drilled backhands.
Rune can improve to a career-best world No 5 if he wins the title in Rome this weekend.
The Dane has had a successful season on clay courts. Before winning the title in Munich, he advanced to the Monte-Carlo final. For the year, he has a 13-2 record on clay in 2023.
He has now beaten top ten players in successive matches having downed world No 1 Djokovic in the last eight and No 4 Ruud.
“I really played some of my best tennis in the past two matches against Novak and then Casper,” Rune said. “Two difficult players to play, so I had to find my best tennis and I actually didn’t find it today, only at the end and that is why I turned it around.”
Both players started out solid as they pushed each other around with their pace and diverse shotmaking in an intriguing but tight battle. The first set had to be decided by a tie-break with nothing to split the two top ten stars, and Ruud improved his depth on returns to take the lead abnd draw away.
The Norwegian appeared poised to advance to his second Masters 1000 final after taking the second set 4-2 lead. Rune wasn’t going down without a fight though. He began to pursue the ball aggressively and capitalise on Ruud’s less crisp shots to win four games in a row and even the score. In the decider, the Dane was then incredibly effective on serve.
Rune blasted to a decisive set victory without facing a break point and twice cracking Ruud’s serve.
The second semi-final features Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
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