Holger Rune stunned defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia 2023. At the end of an emotional match that included a rain delay, medical time-outs and some heated discussions with the umpire, the 20-year-old Dane came on top 6-2 4-6 6-2.
“It was a great match,” explained the Danish player while analyzing the match: “I think I started extremely strong, put him under some pressure. Second set I think he stepped up and put me under more pressure. Obviously, the rain delay came. It was a bit tricky. But I managed to come out and find the tennis that I played in the first set in the beginning of the third, just kept going. That’s what mattered today”.
Rune was very happy about his performance, not only about the result, as he loves putting himself in front of a challenge and Djokovic is a major one: “It’s a good battle every time we play. I like to battle with him. He’s a great player to play because he makes it so challenging for me, which I find that nice because I can really see where I have to improve, what is working. If it’s working against Novak, it works against almost anybody. So, I’m super happy with the win”.
Despite the loss and the problems showed on court, Djokovic did not want to take anything away from his opponent, even though he found the heavy court a better fit for Rune than for himself: “I think this is probably the coldest and wettest tournament I’ve ever played here in Rome. Obviously in this kind of conditions (slow courts, ed.), it’s very difficult to get the ball past him. He’s very, very fast, very quick. Great anticipation. Just a very talented, dynamic player, all-around player”.
“He was just better. He played too good for me for most part of the match”, he said honestly: “I did have a bad start of the third set. I think that’s where match kind of shifted to his side. He kept his nerves and deserved to win”.
During the match, Rune had a little mental break in the second set, when he started arguing with the umpire over a call.
“I never stop a mark unless I’m 100% sure and I was 100% sure,” commented the Dane on the incident: “Apparently I was right because I saw the Hawk-Eye after the match and it was out”.
Despite his nice off-court attitude, Rune is often described as a bad boy, but he does not agree with this picture of him that it is often perpetrated: “I don’t see myself as the bad boy at all. I mean, I play with a lot of passion and energy when I’m on the court. I think many players does that. I don’t know why that should be a bad boy thing, to play with energy on the court. A bad boy thing is to break racquets and stuff like this. If I remember well, I don’t break a racquet when I play. I don’t see myself like that. There’s obviously a few things here and there. The umpire today. But again, I see the ball out, he saw it in. I saw on the Hawk-Eye after that the ball was out, so I don’t know”.