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Rune upsets Djokovic in quarterfinals of Rome Masters

Holger Rune’s rise and Novak Djokovic’s recent woes continued simultaneously at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia during quarterfinal competition on Wednesday.

Rune defeated Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in two hours and 19 minutes to set up a semifinal matchup with either Casper Ruud or Francisco Cerundolo. For now, though, Rune will have a day off to enjoy what was a second consecutive upset of Djokovic.

The Dane had previously shocked the veteran Serb in the final of the 2022 Paris Masters. This Rome result–although another upset, to be sure–was far less stunning. After all, Rune boasts a 26-9 match record in 2023 and has climbed to seventh in the rankings. He has already reached one Masters 1000 title match (Monte-Carlo, lost to Andrey Rublev) and is one victory away from another.

Brimming with confidence based on current form and his Paris win over Djokovic, Rune played Wednesday’s match like he believe he should win. The 20-year-old’s aggressive tennis was way too good for Djokovic in both the first and third sets, with the only exception coming late in the second. Following an hour rain delay, Djokovic came back out and broke right away to force a decider. But the 35-year-old as never competitive in the third.

“It’s really a big win for me,” Rune said. “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 know at the end, when Novak goes into this mode (at the end of the second set), nothing can come at him and he plays really free and aggressive. 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.'”

As for Djokovic, he now goes Roland Garros on the heels of three clay-court losses. He also succumbed to Lorenzo Musetti in the Monte-Carlo third round and to Dusan Lajovic in the Banja Luka quarterfinals.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.