Italian Open 2023: A shocker in Rome as Holger Rune ousts Novak Djokovic

The 20-year-old Dane defeated the World No. 1 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 to earn back-to-back ATP Masters 1000 victories.

Holger Rune in a file photo (image: twitter)
By Nilavro Ghosh | May 18, 2023 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

At the Italian Open 2023, Holger Rune defeated six-time champion Novak Djokovic by maintaining his composure in wet Rome on Wednesday. The 20-year-old Dane defeated the World No. 1 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 to earn back-to-back ATP Masters 1000 victories. Although Djokovic won the second set right away after the players were forced to leave the court due to rain for just over an hour, Rune collected himself to win the match at the Foro Italico in two hours and 19 minutes. In his most recent six ATP Masters 1000 competitions, including Rome, Rune is now 17-4. This number includes his victory at the Rolex Paris Masters, where he also defeated Djokovic in three sets to win the trophy, on his way to his first title at that level. The 93-time tour-level champion is now down 2-1 in their head-to-head matchup.

“It’s really a big win for me,” said Rune in his on-court interview. “Obviously I did it last year in Paris as well, but every match is a huge challenge for me when I play against Novak. He’s one of the greatest that’s ever played the game. I knew I had to be at my best and I said it yesterday, and I was today. I’m super proud of myself and I enjoyed every moment out there.”

“I stay humble of course. I have a lot to achieve,” said the Dane. “I think you should always be humble. I think I am, I hope so and I hope people see me this way. I’m a huge fighter on the court and I leave everything when I play my matches. I’m super proud I was able to get the victory today. I had to fight hard and play my best tennis. Huge credit to Novak, I’m a big fan of his. He’s a huge inspiration and I wish him all the best.”

Djokovic not 100%

The top seed and defending champion Djokovic, who looked physically unwell and needed physiotherapy at 2-1 in the second set, was defeated by the Dane after racing to the opening set. The Serbian, who is known for his tenacity, raised his game and broke for the first time in the match to take a 5-2 lead. Play was suspended due to bad weather at 6-2, 4-5, 0/30 even though Rune had pushed the 35-year-old back by winning the break. The World No. 7 was under pressure to hold serve and stay in the second set. As soon as play resumed, Djokovic won the two points he required to tie the match and force a third set.

However, in the decisive game, the Serbian was helpless to stop Rune, a Rome rookie, as the Dane was able to control rallies with a combination of strength from the baseline and cunning drop shots to draw Djokovic forward. He secured a match against Casper Ruud or Francisco Cerundolo in the Italian capital by jumping out to an unstoppable 4-0 lead in the third set.

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The return game of Rune was a persistent pain for Djokovic. The Dane won the match with 26 winners to his opponent’s 22 by converting five of his ten break points. After Djokovic had roused the Rome crowd with his charge in the second set, he was able to regain control of the match by hitting through the wet clay.

“I know at the end, when Novak goes into this mode, nothing can come at him and he plays really free and aggressive,” said Rune. “When you want to close the match, it’s really difficult. He puts a lot of pressure on you, but I managed to hit some good shots and stay brave. That was the most important. I think I was a little less brave in the second set but after the rain delay, I managed to come out and be brave even though I lost the set. I just told myself, ‘Okay, it’s all right, I just have to keep going.'”

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