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Teenager Rune surprises Djokovic to win Paris Masters

Denmark’s Holger Rune performs a backhand return during the men’s singles tennis final against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic on day 7 of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 – Paris Masters at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris on November 6, 2022 (AFP)

PARIS — Danish teenager Holger Rune shocked six-time champion Novak Djokovic to clinch his first Masters title in Paris on Sunday after coming back from a set down to win 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Rune, 19, became the youngest Paris tournament winner since 18-year-old Boris Becker in 1986 after beating five top-10 players in as many days – the first to do so in the same tournament.

He is the fifth first-time Masters winner this season and will be the first Dane to break into the top 10 on Monday.

“It’s probably the best feeling of my life, of my entire career,” Rune said.

“It’s kind of a small dream come true, although I have bigger dreams.”

After claiming the title in Stockholm on either side of runners-up in Sofia and Basel, Rune began his run to a fourth consecutive final by saving three match points in the first round to beat Stan Wawrinka.

He then beat Hubert Hurkacz followed by Andrey Rublev before seeing off Carlos Alcaraz as the world number one retired through injury while trailing by a set in the quarter-finals.

Rune ended Felix Auger-Aliassime’s 16-game winning streak to prepare for the clash with Djokovic, who hadn’t lost at Bercy since losing to Karen Khachanov in the 2018 final.

“It was also really important for me to beat Felix and Alcaraz and those guys,” Rune said.

“But still, to be able to beat Novak on such an occasion, and he’s probably one of the greatest we’ve ever had in this sport, it’s a crazy feeling to be able to beat him in this final.”

Serbian Djokovic entered the final on Sunday having won 21 of 22 matches since the start of Wimbledon, which he won for the seventh time in July against Pete Sampras.

“For someone who is so young to show that composure and maturity in a big game like this is very impressive. He had a week of his life,” Djokovic said.

He took a 3-1 lead as Rune fouled back-to-back in the biggest final of his career to date.

Djokovic comfortably held on to pocket the first set and appeared to have Rune on the ropes when he surged 40-0 on his opponent’s serve in the first game of the second set.

Turning

But Rune fought back superbly to thwart Djokovic, then tipped the momentum in his favor by breaking straight away to go 2-0 the following game, which proved enough to force a decider.

The 16-year age gap between the two was the widest in a Masters final since Rafael Nadal, then 19, beat 35-year-old Andre Agassi in Montreal in 2005.

Rune’s inexperience surfaced again when he double faulted while attempting a big second serve to give Djokovic a 3-1 advantage, but the Dane showed his remarkable character to immediately come back.

Instead, it was Djokovic who cracked when the pressure was highest, throwing a forehand wide to give Rune the chance to serve for the trophy.

Rune held off six break points in a marathon final match before claiming the title after two hours and 34 minutes to cap off an incredible week in the French capital.

“It was the most stressful match of my life,” Rune said of the gripping finale. “My heart was almost in my head. I was already starting to think about the tie-break. I am very proud to have been able to finish it.

Rune qualifies for next week’s Next Gen Finals in Milan, but with his victory over Djokovic he also becomes the first substitute for the ATP Finals in Turin from November 13-20.

Djokovic will focus on winning the season-ending final for a record sixth time, to equal Roger Federer.

“Of course I’m disappointed with today’s loss, but I was very close,” Djokovic said.

“It was only a few points that decided a winner. But the level of tennis I play is high and I like my chances (in Turin).

“Every game is like a final there. There are no easy games.”

gsg

France Media Agency

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