Final Preview: Will Rune Stop Medvedev's Clay Breakthrough For Rome Title?
Third seed Daniil Medvedev and seventh seed Holger Rune have taken contrasting paths to Sunday’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia final (4:30pm CET/10:30am ET).
A self-proclaimed “hard court specialist”, Medvedev has often spoken tongue-in-cheek about his game on clay. He arrived in Rome without having won a match in three previous appearances in the Italian capital.
Now Medvedev finds himself one victory from his sixth ATP Masters 1000 crown and first on clay. A win on Sunday will lift him past Novak Djokovic to World No. 2 in Monday’s Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
Rune, who is competing in the Rome main draw for the first time, has enjoyed a rapid breakthrough into the Top 10. The Dane, a four-time tour-level champion, reached the final on the Monte-Carlo red clay last month before capturing the Munich title.
Can the heavy-hitting Rune go one step further to capture his second ATP Masters 1000 crown? He looks to improve upon his stunning 7-1 record against Top-5 opponents, which includes wins this week over World No. 1 Djokovic in the quarter-finals and World No. 4 Casper Ruud in the semi-finals.
“I play some of my best tennis when I play the top guys of the world. I mean, it's a good time to play your best tennis because you need it against those players. I've managed to do it many times now,” Rune said. “I think it's obviously some of the toughest challenges to face guys in top five because they're obviously some of the best guys in the world. But, yeah, I play well when I play them.”
The 19-time tour-level titlist Medvedev stands in his way and has brought his wide variety to the Eternal City. His deep return position, deft drop shorts, and sublime court coverage have all been at the forefront during his clay-court breakthrough. Medvedev, who will try to claim his fifth title of the season, will look to keep Rune guessing in just their second ATP Head2Head encounter.
The seventh seed Rune defeated the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals champion 6-3, 6-4 at the recent Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
“I said after I lost to him in Monte-Carlo, I think he's one of top players on clay,” Medvedev said. “I think that's the surface that suits him the most. We know he can play on other surfaces, also. He won Bercy. I think that's, let's say, his favourite surface. I'm feeling much better than I felt in Monte-Carlo. I had [many] more matches and much more practice. I'm going to try to play my best.”
Medvedev, 27, boasts a 38-5 record this season and enjoyed a 19-match winning streak spanning from February to March. His biggest title of this year came at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Miami.
Attempting to win his maiden clay-court crown, Medvedev has dropped just one set en route to his second final on the surface (2019 Barcelona). He has ousted two rivals along the way: Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, whom he beat 7-5, 7-5 in Saturday’s semi-final.
Can Medvedev earn a second consecutive Top-10 victory Sunday against Rune?
“[Holger] showed today that even in the toughest moments he can play amazing, beat anyone,” Medvedev said. “I'm sure it could be a great match and I'm going to try to show my best.”
Rune’s shot-making ability and squeaky clean baseline performances have troubled opponents this tournament. Rune will aim to recreate some of the magic he produced during last year’s title run at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Paris, where he downed five Top-10 players en route to the trophy, including Djokovic in the final.
Semi-final turnaround 🎾— Tennis Insights (@tennis_insights) May 20, 2023
From 7-6 4-2 down, @holgerrune2003's #ShotQuality went ⬆️📈‼️
Some seriously impressive #ShotQuality 🔢's for the last 12 games👏#TennisInsights | @atptour | @InteBNLdItalia pic.twitter.com/lGrnUSv3CF
The Dane is No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings and would tie Tsitsipas at No. 5 by winning the title. But because Tsitsipas will win the tie-break, he will remain No. 5 and Rune No. 6.
The 20-year-old Rune will be focused on the task at hand, though. He has quickly gained support from the Italian fans and will rely on the crowd once again in hopes of claiming glory in Rome.
“I enjoy playing in Italy and Rome. It's a great atmosphere. There's a great energy on the court, super support. It's a very passionate crowd. I really like it. It brings some of my best tennis,” Rune said. “I'm having a good time, so I'm super happy, excited for tomorrow.”
Did You Know?
Since the start of the 2022 Rolex Paris Masters, Rune has won 18 of 22 matches during his past ATP Masters 1000 tournaments. He went 3-6 at his first six events at that level.