Holger Rune moved to within one win of capturing his second ATP Masters 1000 title on Saturday, when he earned a comeback victory against Casper Ruud at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
In a tight clash, the Dane rallied from a break down in the second set to overcame the fourth seed Ruud 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-2 and earn his 27th win of the season.
Rune, who is making his debut in Rome, defeated Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals. He backed up that standout win with a clean hitting performance against Ruud to improve to 1-4 in their ATP Head2Head series. The 20-year-old struck his groundstrokes with power and showed deft touch at times, outfoxing Ruud in a series of cat-and-mouse exchanges to advance after two hours and 41 minutes.
“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.”
The Dane has enjoyed a strong clay-court season. He reached the final in Monte-Carlo before he clinched the crown in Munich, and he holds a 13-2 record on the surface for the year. With his victory against Ruud, Rune has climbed one spot to No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. If he wins the title on Sunday, he could jump to No. 5.
“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.”
Rune lifted his maiden Masters 1000 title in Paris last year and will play for his fifth tour-level trophy and second at Masters 1000 level on Sunday against Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Chasing his first ATP Masters 1000 crown, Ruud was competing in the semi-finals in Rome for the third consecutive time. The 24-year-old arrived in the Italian capital having had a modest season by his standards. The fourth seed lifted the trophy in Estoril but struggled at Masters 1000 events, failing to advance beyond the third round in Indian Wells, Miami, Monte-Carlo or Madrid.
He looked back to his best on the clay in Rome, where he earned victories against Arthur Rinderknech, Alexander Bublik, Laslo Djere and Francisco Cerundolo.
In an entertaining match, both players came out firing as they pulled each other around with their pace and variety. With nothing to separate them, a tie-break was left to decide the first set, with Ruud improving his depth on return to pull away and lead.
From 4-2 ahead in the second set, the Norwegian looked set to reach his second Masters 1000 final. However, Rune refused to falter. He started to go after the ball more, pouncing on short balls from Ruud to reel off four straight games and level. The Dane was then strong on serve in the decider. He did not face a break point in the third set to advance.
Did You Know?
Saturday’s semi-final between the Norwegian Ruud and Dane Rune was the first all-Scandinavian Masters 1000 semi-final since Jonas Bjorkman defeated Thomas Enqvist in Paris in 1997.