Novak Djokovic upset by Holger Rune in Italian Open quarterfinal
Novak Djokovic's defense of his 2022 Italian Open title seemed to be going well, but he was stopped cold Wednesday when he faced young Holger Rune. Rune triumphed 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 over the world No. 1 to send last year's champion packing.
Rune, currently ranked No. 7 in the world, came out swinging, getting the drop on Djokovic quickly. He raced ahead in the first set, closing it out in a stunning 38 minutes.
. @holgerrune2003 is on a new level 📈
He takes the first set over Djokovic 6-2 in just 38 minutes!#IBI23 pic.twitter.com/d0riI4Uxsv
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) May 17, 2023
Djokovic, by comparison, looked a little slower than normal and didn't seem to be in top physical shape. But he still battled Rune, 20, hard despite needing treatment from the trainer early in the second set. After the efficient speed of the first set, it felt like Rune could get the edge back at any second and defeat Djokovic in straight sets. When rain forced the suspension of the second set at 5-4 with Djokovic in the lead, it seemed like that's where the match was headed.
But Djokovic, 35, managed to pull it out, scoring the points he needed after the suspension to force a deciding third set. That's when Rune took control once again, winning several games before Djokovic could manage winning even one. Late-match heroics are typical for Djokovic (we've seen him dig out of bigger holes before and go on to win), but this time he simply didn't have it. Rune won, marking the second time in three career matches that he's defeated Djokovic.
Beating Djokovic, who will turn 36 on May 22, is still a big accomplishment, especially for the younger up-and-comers like Rune. He watched Djokovic when he was young, and beating him now, when he's still at or near the top of his game, is meaningful.
Holger Rune on beating Djokovic: “It’s a really big win for me. I did it last year in Paris as well, but every match is a huge challenge for me when I play Novak. He’s 1 of the greatest that ever played the game. I knew I had to be at my best. I said it yesterday & I was today” pic.twitter.com/14GRrdNHOu
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) May 17, 2023
In the semifinals, Rune will face the winner of the match between Casper Ruud and Francisco Cerúndolo.