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Rune Edges Cerundolo in 5-Set Thriller, Sets up Ruud Rematch

Holger Rune won the final four points of the decisive tiebreaker edging Francisco Cerundolo in a five-set thriller to return to the Roland Garros quarterfinals.

Court Lenglen was a  red clay canvas for dizzying drama.

Three points from agonizing defeat, Holger Rune’s reflex volley spun a wild win worth framing.

A resilient Rune fought off Francisco Cerundolo and fatigue prevailing in a pulsating 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(10-7) Roland Garros thriller that spanned four hours, left both men drained and a delighted Court Suzanne Lenglen crowd saluting the pair with an extending ovation.

The 20-year-old Rune raised his 2023 clay record to 16-3 setting up a blockbuster quarterfinal rematch vs. sparring partner Casper Ruud

Down 6-7 in the fifth-set 10-point tiebreaker today, Rune relied on guts and good fortune to turn the tiebreak around.

Attacking net, Rune framed a backhand drop volley that died in the dirt leaving Cerundolo looking shellshocked by the mis-hit magic and the Dane wearing the sly smile of an unarmed man who had dodged a bullet.

A rattled Cerundolo never recovered committing three consecutive errors, including netting a forehand on match point to cap a 17-shot rally and seal Rune’s return to the Roland Garros quarterfinals.

Afterward, Rune cited his commitment to a key cause—fun—to surviving this red clay rollercoaster ride.

Haunted by a pair of final-set collapses this season, Rune reflected on his gut-wrenching Australian Open round of 16 loss that saw Andrey Rublev save two match points and rally from love-5 down in the fifth-set tiebreaker with a stirring 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(9) Melbourne victory, before playing today’s decisive breaker.

Digging in the dirt, Rune said he committed to relishing the moment and taking the match to Cerundolo.

“To enjoy [was key], at the end I’ve been in this situation before against Rublev in Australia I had many more chances to win that match than today,” Rune told Tennis Channel’s Jon Wertheim afterward. “I think my mind set was different today. I enjoyed, I tried to play my tennis, come forward and just relax.

“Obviously, it’s tough in these kind of situations but I was able to do it so I’m happy.”

The match popped with crackling rallies and controversy, too.

Serving down 1-2 in the third set, Cerundolo shouted to point out a sliding Rune had retrieved the ball on a double bounce. Chair umpire Kader Nouni, typically attentive in the chair, missed the double bounce and instead hit the Argentinean with a hindrance call for yelling while the ball was in play.

Of course, Cerundolo argued it should not have been a hindrance since the point was over after the double-bounce, which was not called.

That argument did not sway Nouni and a frustrated Cerundolo returned to serve issuing a sarcastic thumbs-up gesture to Rune as if signaling “Well played scamming!” while many tennis fans may well have been wondering: Where have you gone, Tim Smyczek?

The No. 23 seed did not recover from that game dropping serve as Rune ran threw to take the third set.

Firing his forehand with menacing intent, Cerundolo sprinted through the fourth set as Rune, apparently combating either cramps or a leg strain, basically capitulated the fourth set to save all his strength for the fifth-set fight to come.

Winless in Grand Slam play prior to this 2023 season, Cerundolo will likely rue several lost opportunities today. 

One of the biggest came with Rune serving down triple break point at 3-4 in the decider. Cerundolo’s drive crashed into the tape before crawling back over on his side of the court. Had the ball dribbled over, Cerundolo would have served for his first major quarterfinal.

Instead, that lucky roll recharged Rune, who saved two more break points eventually fighting through to level for 4-4.

Rune served for the match at 5-4 only to miss his signature shot, the backhand, to give back the break.

Forward thinking and the guts to take his chances ultimately won Rune this match. The Dane won 42 of 58 trips to net, and used his front-court skills effectively down the stretch to shorten points when his legs were depleted while denying Cerundolo the rhythm he craves.

Afterward, Rune was reluctant to identify his exact injury or cramping issue.

“I was absolutely exhausted,” Rune admitted. “I had some physical problems, but I’m not gonna talk a lot about those. For now, I’m in the tournament just now try to recover and be ready for the next match.”

Pulling off the ultimate escape act vaults Rune into a quarterfinal rematch vs. frenemy Casper Ruud.