Novak Djokovic got revenge on Holger Rune at the Rolex Masters in Paris after losing to the youngster in last year’s final. Meeting them on the same court in the quarter-finals this time, the pair faced off in a thrilling match that saw the world No. Djokovic was still able to come through 7-5 6-7(3) 6-4, ending the 20-year-old’s unbeaten streak in the tournament.
Rune took to the court with a 2-1 winning record against Djokovic, beating him in the quarter-finals of the Masters in Rome earlier this year in addition to his victory in the Paris final 12 months ago. The sixth seed has only lost a match in Bercy, going 8-0 so far, and has not had his serve broken at the tournament this year.
That record looked set to remain intact in the first series as nothing could separate the two. Neither man was able to set up any chance of a break point as they neared the business end of the opener until Rune got up to stay there at 5-6. Djokovic brought the heat as he bounced at a crucial moment, setting up the first break point of the match – also a set point.
And he needed just one, finishing the job at the net to take the opener in just under an hour. The 36-year-old waved his arms in the air as he soaked in the atmosphere inside the Accor Arena. But it didn’t take long for Rune to get his first break point opportunity either as he responded at the start of the second, breaking Djokovic at love and taking a 2-1 lead.
The top seed was relentless, however, breaking straight back. It is clear that the 24-time Grand Slam champion had a chance to stay in the game with Rune. But the game changed when Rune was 15-30 down. He faced one of Djokovic’s shots after hitting the return and the top seed marched straight to the umpire’s chair, arguing that the sixth seed’s challenge was too late.
Renaud Lichtenstein said Rune challenged after hitting the ball but before his own shot landed, meaning he allowed it. But Djokovic said it was “bulls**t” and asked the supervisor – a request that was not granted. It meant that, for the second night in a row, Djokovic was booed by the crowd as they reacted to his decision to approach the presiding official. The umpire claimed that Rune had a challenge before his return, which meant he made it in time, and instead of two match points for Djokovic it was 30-30.
But in trademark Djokovic fashion, the adversity only spurred him on and set up a match point. It wasn’t clear though as Rune saved to level 5-5 with the fans on their feet. The rollercoaster second set went to a tiebreak as Rune bounced back, taking a double mini-break lead just minutes after staring down the barrel of victory.
He took the dramatic set 7-6(3) after 68 minutes to force a decider. And the crowd still wasn’t happy with Djokovic, booing him as he left the court on a bathroom break. The six-time Paris Masters champion was unstoppable and responded by taking an early lead in the third set and the final.
There was a brief pause when Rune’s finger started bleeding when the physio was called to heal it, and the rules stated that play cannot continue when a player is actively bleeding. The Dane was unable to return to the game, despite calls from his coach Boris Becker, who told his charge that he was still there.
With his match point in the second set a distant memory, Djokovic stepped up to meet the win and the chance to avenge last year’s final. Despite running with the crowd earlier, the world No.
Rune was on the floor after an epic exchange that gave Djokovic two more match points. With the clock ticking down to three hours, he managed a three-set victory to advance to the semi-finals. The win allowed him to even his record against Rune at 2-2. It was also a significant win for Djokovic as this was the first time he was playing against his old coach Becker. The German has recently started working with Rune and – ahead of this week’s tournament, before he knew he would face Rune – Djokovic admitted that it would not be “so nice and comfortable” to face his old mentor.
The top seed will now face fifth seed Andrey Rublev or Alex de Minaur in Saturday’s semi-final. Djokovic has a 4-1 lifetime record against Rublev and won his only match against De Minaur at this year’s Australian Open.
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