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Rune wins the Scandinavian match-off to reach IBI23 final

The 20 year old took down Casper Ruud turning the semifinal around from a set and a break down.

Holger Rune is the first finalist of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia 2023 after overcoming Casper Ruud in three sets 6-7(2) 6-4 6-2. The Dane, who had never defeated his Norwegian rival in four previous encounters, found himself a set and a break down before turning the match around and reach the final here in Rome.

The first half an hour of the match was blockbuster tennis from both players: in less than 2 games, the counter of winners was already in double digits, and it went on to be better and better. Ruud looked more solid behind his serve, but Rune fought for every point to try and keep close. On his first service game, the Dane was already challenged by the deep returns of the 4th seed, but at the end of a long game he managed to hold with a sensational stop volley.

A few games later, on 3-2, the Montecarlo finalist went down 0-40 but dug himself out of troubles, also with the help of Ruud on the last break point, when he missed the closing backhand with an open court after having built the point perfectly.

The high demand of physical effort that both asked to the start of the set, resulted in a slight less spectacular season half of the set, with both holding their serves more or less comfortably. Once again, Rune was the one who had most troubles, falling 0-30 while serving to stay in the set on 6-5, but he got out of troubles.

The tie-break, however, was rather anticlimactic. Ruud quickly and easily fled in the score with a 5-0 lead, failing to close on the first set point by hitting a forehand from the net exactly on the corner occupied by his opponent, who eventually passed him. The next point was the one to close the set, regardless: 7-2 for the Norwegian.

Everything seemed ready to align for a 5th victory in as many head-to-heads for Ruud, when he finally broke his opponent’s serve to go up 3-2 in the second set. Rune called for the help of the physiotherapist for some shoulder pain and stopped the game.

The small interruption seemed to break the rhythm of the Norwegian, who suddenly started to be more faulty, especially on the backhand, and his ball less penetrating. Rune could not ask for a better moment to turn the momentum of the match: he broke back for 4-4, and after saving two delicate break points in the next games, he was the one to break, to love, to get the match back to square: 6-4 for the Dane.

Ruud tried to find his calm by leaving the court in between sets, but the start of the decider was even more underwhelming for the world number four. Struggling to give pace off his forehand and with a backhand leaking too many errors, the Norwegian lost his serve with a double fault on the fourth game to send Rune 3-1 up. The Dane smartly did not take any unnecessary risks and patiently waited for Ruud to miss and just like expected, the Norwegian closed the match with a backhand flying far out wide on a break point that was also the point worth the final for Rune.

I told myself to play freely and enjoy my last set in this tournament”, explained the Dane after the match: “so I tried play the way I wanted to, very aggressive and it worked out”.

The 20-year-old, who is now sure of being among the top 8 seeds at the Roland Garros, will now wait for the result of the other semifinal, between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev, to know the name of his next opponent.

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