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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, June 5, 2023


Holger Rune edged Francisco Cerundolo 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(10-7) in a thriller setting up a quarterfinal rematch vs. Casper Ruud.

Photo credit: Getty

Court Lenglen was a  red clay canvas for dizzying drama.

Three points from agonizing defeat, Holger Rune's reflex volley spun a wild win worth framing.

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A resilient Rune fought off Francisco Cerundolo and fatigue prevailing in a pulsating 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(10-7) Roland Garros thriller that spanned four hours, left both men drained and a delighted Court Suzanne Lenglen crowd saluting the pair with an extending ovation.

The 20-year-old Rune raised his 2023 clay record to 16-3 setting up a blockbuster quarterfinal rematch vs. sparring partner Casper Ruud

Down 6-7 in the fifth-set 10-point tiebreaker today, Rune relied on guts and good fortune to turn the tiebreak around.

Attacking net, Rune framed a backhand drop volley that died in the dirt leaving Cerundolo looking shellshocked by the mis-hit magic and the Dane wearing the sly smile of an unarmed man who had dodged a bullet.

A rattled Cerundolo never recovered committing three consecutive errors, including netting a forehand on match point to cap a 17-shot rally and seal Rune's return to the Roland Garros quarterfinals.

Afterward, Rune cited his commitment to a key cause
fun—to surviving this red clay rollercoaster ride.

Haunted by a pair of final-set collapses this season, Rune reflected on his gut-wrenching Australian Open round of 16 loss that saw Andrey Rublev save two match points and rally from love-5 down in the fifth-set tiebreaker with a stirring 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(9) Melbourne victory, before playing today's decisive breaker.

Digging in the dirt, Rune said he committed to relishing the moment and taking the match to Cerundolo.

"To enjoy [was key], at the end I've been in this situation before against Rublev in Australia I had many more chances to win that match than today," Rune told Tennis Channel's Jon Wertheim afterward. "I think my mind set was different today. I enjoyed, I tried to play my tennis, come forward and just relax.

"Obviously, it's tough in these kind of situations but I was able to do it so I'm happy."

The match popped with crackling rallies and controversy, too.

Serving down 1-2 in the third set, Cerundolo shouted to point out a sliding Rune had retrieved the ball on a double bounce. Chair umpire Kader Nouni, typically attentive in the chair, missed the double bounce and instead hit the Argentinean with a hindrance call for yelling while the ball was in play.

Of course, Cerundolo argued it should not have been a hindrance since the point was over after the double-bounce, which was not called.

That argument did not sway Nouni and a frustrated Cerundolo returned to serve issuing a sarcastic thumbs-up gesture to Rune as if signaling "Well played scamming!" while many tennis fans may well have been wondering: Where have you gone, Tim Smyczek?

The No. 23 seed did not recover from that game dropping serve as Rune ran threw to take the third set.

Firing his forehand with menacing intent, Cerundolo sprinted through the fourth set as Rune, apparently combating either cramps or a leg strain, basically capitulated the fourth set to save all his strength for the fifth-set fight to come.

Winless in Grand Slam play prior to this 2023 season, Cerundolo will likely rue several lost opportunities today. 

One of the biggest came with Rune serving down triple break point at 3-4 in the decider. Cerundolo's drive crashed into the tape before crawling back over on his side of the court. Had the ball dribbled over, Cerundolo would have served for his first major quarterfinal.

Instead, that lucky roll recharged Rune, who saved two more break points eventually fighting through to level for 4-4.

Rune served for the match at 5-4 only to miss his signature shot, the backhand, to give back the break.

Forward thinking and the guts to take his chances ultimately won Rune this match. The Dane won 42 of 58 trips to net, and used his front-court skills effectively down the stretch to shorten points when his legs were depleted while denying Cerundolo the rhythm he craves.

Afterward, Rune was reluctant to identify his exact injury or cramping issue.

"I was absolutely exhausted," Rune admitted. "I had some physical problems, but I'm not gonna talk a lot about those. For now, I'm in the tournament just now try to recover and be ready for the next match."

Pulling off the ultimate escape act vaults Rune into a quarterfinal rematch vs. frenemy Casper Ruud.

Earlier, 2022 Roland Garros runner-up Casper Ruud repelled 14 of 17 break points warding off Nicolas Jarry 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-5 to reach his third Grand Slam quarterfinal in his last five majors.

Down 2-4 in the third set, Ruud won five of the final six games to conquer the lanky Jarry.

It was Ruud's 10th win in his last 11 matches and the only pain to beat him in Paris over the last two years—14-time champion Rafael Nadal—is currently recovering from hip surgery.

A year ago, Norway's Ruud defeated Denmark’s Rune in the first all-Scandinavian Grand Slam in Roland-Garros history, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3. Bad blood boiled on the red clay as the pair exchanged words on Court Chatrier.

“I told him, ‘What, do you need to check every mark?’ and he told me to be quiet," Ruud said after that contentious clash. "I asked him, ‘Maybe that’s not the greatest thing to tell your opponent to be quiet when I’m talking to you?’

"And he said it once more. So that was all that happened. And I didn’t exchange any more words with him after this. So that’s what he wants to say and behave? That’s up to him.”

Since then, Rune gained a measure of revenge beating Ruud 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-2 in last month's Rome semifinals for his first win in five meetings vs. the US Open runner-up.

The pair seemed to have settled their differences as Ruud has said they share mutual respect and will share the court with a semifinal spot on the line.

"I don't feel like I have played my best maybe tennis yet, but at the same time, I'm playing many opponents who play very aggressively and they play fast and sort of give me no rhythm," Ruud said. "Today was just about trying to stay there and try to serve well when you could yourself. If there was a chance to break, try to get it. I think I was able to break him many times when I really had to, which was great, and a confidence sort of booster.

"I think my next match is going to be a little more playable from the baseline and I think the game will be a little bit different from this match."


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