Novak Djokovic got revenge over Holger Rune at the Rolex Paris Masters after losing to the youngster in last year’s final. Meeting on the same court in the quarter-final stage this time around, the pair contested a thrilling match that saw the world No 1 booed when he argued a call with the umpire. Djokovic was still able to come through 7-5 6-7(3) 6-4, ending the 20-year-old’s unbeaten streak at the tournament.
Rune stepped onto the court with a winning 2-1 record against Djokovic, also beating him in the Rome Masters quarter-final earlier this year on top of his triumph in the Paris final 12 months ago. The sixth seed had also never lost a match in Bercy, going 8-0 so far, and was yet to have his serve broken at the tournament this year.
That record looked as though it would remain intact in the first set as nothing could separate the two. Neither man was able to set up any break point chances as they neared the business end of the opener until Rune stepped up to serve to stay in it at 5-6. Djokovic brought the heat as he pounced at a crucial moment, setting up the first break point of the match – also a set point.
And he only needed the one, finishing off the job at the net to take the opening set in just under an hour. The 36-year-old waved his arms in the air as he soaked in the atmosphere inside the Accor Arena. But it didn’t take long for Rune to get his first break point opportunities either as he responded at the start of the second, breaking Djokovic to love and taking a 2-1 lead.
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The top seed proved relentless, however, breaking straight back. Clearly fired up, the 24-time Grand Slam champion sensed an opportunity with Rune serving to stay in the match. But the match turned when Rune was 15-30 down. He challenged one of Djokovic’s shots after hitting the return and the top seed marched straight to the umpire’s chair, arguing that the sixth seed challenged too late.
Renaud Lichtenstein said Rune challenged after hitting the ball but before his own shot landed out, meaning he allowed it. But Djokovic said it was “bull****” and called for the supervisor – a request that was not granted. It meant that, for the second night in a row, Djokovic was booed by the crowd as they responded to his decision to approach the chair official. The umpire claimed that Rune challenged before his own return landed out, meaning he did it in time, and instead of two match points to Djokovic it was 30-30.
But in trademark Djokovic fashion, the adversity only spurred him on and he set up a match point. He wasn’t in the clear though as Rune saved it to level at 5-5 with the fans on their feet. The rollercoaster second set went to a tiebreak where Rune pounced, taking a double mini-break lead just minutes after staring down the barrel of defeat.
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He took the dramatic set 7-6(3) after 68 minutes to force a decider. And the crowd still weren’t happy with Djokovic, booing him as he left the court for a bathroom break. The six-time Paris Masters champion still wasn’t deterred and responded by taking an early break lead in the third and final set.
There was a brief pause when Rune’s finger started bleeding as the physio was called to patch it up, with rules stating that play cannot continue when a player is actively bleeding. The Dane wasn’t able to get back in the match, despite calls from his coach Boris Becker, who told his charge that he was still right there.
With his match point in the second set now a distant memory, Djokovic stepped up to serve for the victory and the chance to get revenge for last year’s final. Despite his earlier run-in with the crowd, the world No 1 managed to get them cheering again when he put his finger to his ear.
Rune was on the floor after an epic exchange that gave Djokovic two more match points. And with the clock closing in on three hours, he managed to serve out a three-set victory to advance to the semi-final. The victory allowed him to level his record against Rune at 2-2. It was also a significant win for Djokovic as it marked the first time he was playing against his old coach Becker. The German recently started working with Rune and – ahead of this week’s tournament, before knowing he would face Rune – Djokovic admitted it wouldn’t be “that nice and comfortable” to face his old mentor.
The top seed will now face either fifth seed Andrey Rublev or Alex de Minaur in Saturday’s semi-final. Djokovic has a 4-1 lifetime record against Rublev and won his only match against De Minaur at this year’s Australian Open.
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