Novak Djokovic gained revenge against Holger Rune on Friday at the Rolex Paris Masters, where he defeated the 2022 champion 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-4 in a rematch of last year’s final. The World No. 1 now holds a 48-9 record in Paris, having advanced to the semi-finals nine times.
The 20-year-old Rune upset Djokovic in the Paris title match last year to capture his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy. The Serbian ensured he would not suffer the same fate this season, though. In a high-quality match, he won 80 per cent (12/15) of his second-serve points in the first set and fended off a mid-match resurgence from Rune. After saving a match point at 4-5 in the second set, the Dane won nine of 10 points deep in the set to level, opening his shoulders to hit freely.
As he so often does, Djokovic regrouped in the third set. He gained an early break and offered Rune little opportunity on return, committing just one unforced error in the decider to improve to 31-1 on hard courts in 2023.
"It was quite a similar match to last year's final, it was any body's game in every set." Djokovic said. "I played an awful tie-break in the second set, probably the worst one this year. But again credit to him for staying mentally tough and playing solid. We have similar games. Move well, defend well and all-round players."
With his two-hour, 54-minute triumph, Djokovic levelled his Lexus ATP Head2Head series with Rune at 2-2, having also lost to the Dane in Rome this year. Chasing a record-extending seventh Rolex Paris Masters crown, Djokovic will meet Andrey Rublev, who rallied from a set down to defeat Alex de Minaur 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
"He has been playing much better in the past few weeks since working with Boris," said Djokovic on Rune, who started working with Djokovic's former coach Boris Becker last month. "It was strange seeing Boris in the opposing box. I wish Holger and him all the best."
The top seed, who survived a three-set scare against Tallon Griekspoor in the third round, has now won his past 16 matches and 29 of his past 30. His lone defeat came against Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon, with the 36-year-old winning titles at Roland Garros, Cincinnati and the US Open.
The 36-year-old leads Alcaraz — who was upset by Roman Safiullin in his Paris opener — by 850 points in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, which serves as a barometer in the battle for year-end No. 1. Djokovic is chasing an eighth ATP Year-End No. 1 presented by Pepperstone.
Rune leaves Paris eighth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. Of those below him, only Alex de Minaur can overtake the Dane in the final qualification spot for the Nitto ATP Finals. The Australian is currently 720 points behind Rune.
Rublev, who had beaten de Minaur just once in four attempts prior to tonight, improved to 8-4 in quarter-finals this season en route to his third ATP Masters 1000 semi-final of the year. This year’s Monte-Carlo champion, who also reached the Shanghai final last month, is tied with Jannik Sinner on 21 wins for third place for the most ATP Masters 1000 victories this year.
“I just had to keep fighting and trying to be more aggressive,” Rublev said of his path to victory. “He was putting me under a lot of pressure and playing a lot with the legs and it wasn’t working when I wasn’t taking risks. So I knew I had to go for my shots and then it started to work.”
Looking ahead to Djokovic, Rublev joked when asked what he had learned in prior meetings with the World No. 1. He has one win in five Lexus ATP Head2Head meetings but has failed to win a set in their three hard-court meetings. “I didn’t learn… We’ll see tomorrow if I have learned something.”