'Brave' Rune Saves MP To Beat Bublik In Madrid Debut

Dane stays hot after retaining Munich title
April 28, 2023
Mutua Madrid Open
Holger Rune extends his winning streak to six matches with victory in his Madrid opener. By ATP Staff

Holger Rune fought off a brilliant serving display from Alexander Bublik to continue his impressive start to the clay season on Friday and make a winning debut at the Mutua Madrid Open. The Dane opened his campaign at the ATP Masters 1000 with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(9) victory, converting on his fifth match point to claim his second final-set tie-break in as many matches.

Rune saved a match point at 7/8 in the tie-break and clinched victory with a second-serve ace after Bublik missed when going for a big second serve at 9/9. He also saved four match points against Botic van de Zandschulp in Sunday's Munich final.

"Honestly I'm out of words right now. It was such a tough match," Rune said after the gutsy win in Madrid. "In these kind of conditions, it's altitude, it's very fast compared to what I've played so far.

"Bublik, we all know how he's playing. He's playing super aggressive, taking the ball aggressive and early. So I had to really dig deep and find solutions. I was brave at the end and that's what made the difference."

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The result extended Rune's winning streak to five matches after his successful Munich title defence last week; the 19-year-old (who turns 20 on Saturday) is 8-1 on clay this month dating back to his run to the Monte-Carlo final. His Monte-Carlo success lifted him to a career high of No. 7 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, a position he has maintained since then.

After improving to 9-1 in opening matches this season, he will next face 29th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who beat fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4 earlier on Friday.

After using his all-court game to dominate the opening set, Rune was dragged into a big-serving shootout with the Kazakh. There was just one break point across the final two sets, with Bublik taking it early in second set.

"I just had to focus on myself, try to do everything I can because when he puts those serves in, it's just too good sometimes," Rune said after scoring his first ATP Head2Head win against Bublik.

Short points were the standard for much of the match, but two highlight-reel exchanges came in the final game as Bublik held to force a decisive tie-break. After Rune showcased his touch with a devilish drop shot in reply to a drop shot from his opponent, Bublik won a 23-ball rally on game point, following another drop shot with a volleyed lob to leave the Dane stranded.

Rune nearly wrapped up the tie-break on his second match point at 6/5, but was denied by a brilliant pickup volley. A few points after erasing Bublik's match point with a big serve, forehand and overhead, the Dane used a kick serve out wide on the ad-court to seal the win. He finished with 34 winners and 12 unforced errors in the two-hour, four-minute match.

With his defeat, Bublik drops to 5-15 on the 2023 season – though his performances in two Madrid three-setters will give him belief for the rest of the clay-court season.

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