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Rune credits Federer mindset for five-set French Open win

Roger Federer may not win any more matches on the ATP Tour, but he apparently helped a member of the next generation win one at the French Open.

Holger Rune admittedly channeled his inner Federer during an epic 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 3-6, 7-6(10-7) second-round victory over Flavio Cobolli that lasted three hours and 50 minutes on Thursday night. Rune squandered a two-set advantage, but in the fifth set it was his turn to mount a comeback. The 22-year-old trailed 5-0 in the super-tiebreaker but reeled off 10 of the last 12 points to triumph over an impressive Cobolli.

Afterward, Rune explained his mindset.

“I just switched my brain off a little bit and just tried to go for my shots,” he said. “Then I got great contact on one return at 5-0–gained some confidence. And then actually, all of a sudden it came into my mind a match when Roger (Federer) played Tennys Sandgren at the (2020) Australian Open when he won in five-set match tiebreak, as well, and Sandgren had many chances. It was kind of in my mind. I don’t know how it appeared; it just did.

“Roger is always very relaxed when he’s playing. I told myself, ‘okay, let’s try to relax.’ Then I started to hit my shots better, more freedom, got back on track. [Cobolli] hit a crazy passing shot down the line on a crucial moment. (I’m) just happy that I kept fighting.”

In reality, Rune confused Federer’s five-set defeat Sandgren in the quarterfinals (which didn’t go to tiebreaker) with the Swiss’ win over John Millman at the same event (in which Federer trailed 8-4 in the ‘breaker before winning the last six points). Even though the world No. 13’s thinking may not have been exact, it worked!

There were six five-setters in total on what was a busy day at Roland Garros following all kinds of rain earlier in the week. Also advancing in five were Casper Ruud, Tomas Machac, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Sebastian Ofner, and Josef Kovalik.

Among the favorites at what is perceived to be a wide-open tournament, Ruud almost bowed out on Thursday night but ended up defeating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. The seventh-ranked Norwegian and two-time Roland Garros runner-up prevailed after four hours and eight minutes.

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