Holger Rune topples Novak Djokovic in rainy Rome

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Denmark’s Holger Rune ousted No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in rainy Rome on Wednesday to reach the Internazionali BNL d’Italia semifinals.

The 20-year-old Dane, seeded seventh, completed the upset of the six-time tournament champion in two hours and 19 minutes.

Rune’s opponent in the semifinals will be No. 4 seed Casper Ruud of Norway, a straight-sets winner over No. 24 Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina.

Djokovic clinched the second set following a rain delay of nearly an hour, but Rune regained momentum with back-to-back service breaks to open the deciding set.

It was the second straight ATP Masters 1000 win for Rune against the World No. 1, as he also defeated Djokovic in the Paris Masters final in November 2022.

“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.”

Rune converted five of his 10 break chances and finished with 27 winners and just four unforced errors, compared to 25 winners and 18 errors by the defending champion.

“I stay humble of course. I have a lot to achieve,” Rune said. “I think you should always be humble. I think I am, I hope so and I hope people see me this way. I’m a huge fighter on the court and I leave everything when I play my matches. I’m super proud I was able to get the victory today. I had to fight hard and play my best tennis.

“Huge credit to Novak, I’m a big fan of his. He’s a huge inspiration and I wish him all the best.”

The wet weather suspended play with Djokovic leading 5-4 and 30-love in the second set. After the break, Djokovic immediately collected the two points he needed to force the third set.

Djokovic, 35, received treatment for an unspecified injury during the second set.

Ruud defeated Cerundolo 7-6 (5), 6-4 in 2 hours and 5 minutes to set up the all-Scandinavian semifinal vs. Rune.

Ruud won 78 percent of his first serves and took advantage of six double faults by Cerundolo, who finished with 23 unforced errors with 33 winners. Ruud had 19 winners against 11 unforced errors.

Ruud snapped a two-match losing skid vs. Cerundolo, who got the better of the Norwegian recently at Barcelona.

Ruud owns a 4-0 mark vs. Rune.

“I think we both respect each other,” Ruud said about Rune. “I didn’t send him a Christmas postcard and neither did him to me, so I’m not sure if we can. … but it’s great to see … Scandinavian success. I think it’s really good for Nordic countries … to have a group of guys that are good, and we get along good enough.”

–Field Level Media

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