Rune extends Italian Open run, advances to final

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ROME — Holger Rune’s run at the Italian Open has already been extraordinary. And it’s not done yet.

The 20-year-old Dane recorded his second victory over Novak Djokovic in little more than six months in the quarterfinals. Then he rallied past Casper Ruud 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals on Saturday.

On Sunday, Rune will be looking to top it all off with a third consecutive victory over a top-five player at the Foro Italico when he faces Daniil Medvedev for the trophy.

Rune improved to 7-1 in his career against players ranked in the top five.

“I play some of my best tennis when I play the top guys of the world,” Rune said. “You need it against those players.”

Medvedev beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 7-5 in a match that was suspended for a total of nearly 4 ½ hours due to rain over two separate stoppages late in the first set.

Up next on Campo Centrale, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina was scheduled to play Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine in the women’s final, which was supposed to have started hours earlier.

Making the final marked quite a turnaround for Medvedev, who lost his opening match in Rome in his three previous appearances. If he beats Rune, Medvedev will return to No. 2 in the rankings and thus be seeded second for the French Open, which starts next weekend.

It will be just the second clay-court final for Medvedev, and first since 2019.

He celebrated with a little dance after converting his first match point more than six hours after the match started.

“It’s like being in the club completely drunk. When you are dancing – and I have a lot of friends like this – you feel like you are the god of the dance floor. But then when they show you the video it was not the thing,” Medvedev said. “So I don’t know how did it go but I was just happy to be in my first clay Masters final.”

Medvedev embraced the challenge of the delays: “Sometimes it can throw you off, you can be a little bit angry. Today, I don’t know why, I was just kind of laughing.”

The seventh-ranked Rune was down a set and a break before he overcame Ruud, who had won all four of their previous meetings.

“It’s crazy. I really played some of my best tennis, especially the last two matches, first against Novak and then against Casper,” Rune said. “Two so difficult players to play, so I had to find my best tennis. And I actually didn’t find it today, only at the end.”

It will be Rune’s third clay-court final this season after losing to Andrey Rublev in Monte Carlo and beating Botic van de Zandschulp in Munich.

“He plays very fearless, takes the ball early, which is really impressive to do on clay,” Ruud said. “It’s not very typical to sort of do too well on clay because you have some wrong bounces. … A couple times I played heavy, he just went on the rise, hit the clean winner back.”

The fourth-ranked Ruud, who is from Norway, reached the final last year at Roland Garros, losing to Rafael Nadal, who announced on Thursday that he won’t be competing in Paris because of a hip injury that has sidelined him since January.

The semifinal was filled with memorable points, starting when Ruud ran down a drop shot and replied with a delicate but sharply angled winner in the second game.

Rune was ready the next time Ruud attempted the same shot and ran down a seemingly impossible ball outside the doubles alley, sending Ruud back toward the baseline before eventually finishing off the point with a volley winner. Rune waved his hands to urge on roars from the crowd.

After dropping his serve midway through the second set, Rune took a medical timeout to have his right shoulder treated. When play resumed, Rune took control, producing an 83 mph (134 kph) forehand return winner off a first serve as he broke to take the second set.

At the start of the third, Rune whipped another forehand cross-court after he was pulled off the court.

“There were some great rallies. It was a fun match to play,” Ruud said. “Also, I think the crowd enjoyed it.”

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