Before this year, Daniil Medvedev had never won a match at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, but on this very rainy edition he found his best tennis to come out as the champion of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. The 7-5 7-5 victory over Holger Rune was worth the first ATP title on clay in his career and a return to the world number two in the ATP rankins. It was a physical as well as mental battle though, as he needed to take down one of the biggest fights on the tour and he did it in straight sets.
The first set felt like a chess game: both players seemed to focus on reading the opponent’s game, trying to not give away too many points with errors. Service games from both went more or less smoothly, apart from the fifth game, when Medvedev hit two very unusual double faults to find himself in trouble. The world number three saved two consecutive break points and went on to hold comfortably for the rest of the set.
Down 6-5, Rune served to stay in the set for the second time, but he felt a little tight for the first time in the match. The serve was not as accurate and Medvedev immediately took advantage. 0-40 down, the Dane played a poor dropshot which became an assist that the third seed could not miss. The set was suddenly over, 7-5 for Medvedev.
Rune, however, was not to give in: the 20-year-old came out on court with renovated aggression behind his game and it must have surprised his opponent. The third break point of the match was the first the Dane could convert and for the first time he found himself leading.
The momentum was to shift once again soon: from 2-0 down, the world number three adapted to the new strategy of his younger rival and started executing some majestic passing shots. He won 15 of the next 18 points to win three consecutive games and break back.
The rollercoaster was not over: Rune blocked the leak of points and managed to hold after a tight and tough game, opening the seventh with a 38-shots rally, which he closed with a stunning backhand down the line. Medvedev did not notice the tired looks on the face of the Dane and went on to miss an easy drive, hit a double fault and with another error surrendered the serve once again.
Rune held and forced Medvedev to chase: behind his own serve, the world number 3 rose to the task, but on 5-4 the Dane could serve to reach the decider. A nervous game saw errors from both, but Medvedev became a wall on his first chance to break back and eventually Rune missed. All back to squared one more time.
A big hold from Medvedev, including a break point saved with an amazing serve, put Rune back against the wall as the Dane was once again down 6-5. The ghosts of the first set returned and Rune had 3 match points to face. The second was the good one and as the final shot of the tournament landed out long, Medvedev lifted his arms to the sky for the first big clay court title of his career.