Rune Advances Past Sinner Into Sofia Final
Holger Rune advanced to his second ATP Tour final of 2022 on Saturday at the Sofia Open after his fellow #NextGenATP star Jannik Sinner retired from the pair’s semi-final clash due to an ankle injury.
Rune was leading 5-7, 6-4, 5-2 in a hard-hitting encounter against Sinner at the ATP 250 event in Bulgaria when the top seed was forced to stop. The Italian, who was chasing his third consecutive title in Sofia, had twisted his ankle in a heavy fall when Rune led 3-2, 0/15 in the third set.
“It’s obviously never the way you want to win and it was such a great match,” said Rune in his on-court interview. “It’s the worst possible way it could end and I just want to wish Jannik all the best. He’s an amazing player and what he has shown this year has been unbelievable. I wish him a speedy recovery.”
Before the stoppage, Rune had fought hard to turn the match around, rallying after dropping the opening set to take charge of his maiden tour-level clash against the Italian.
“I think it was a great match up until the end, and I think I was obviously feeling a little bit tired after yesterday, but I really pushed hard and ran for everything,” said Rune. “So I’m happy with the way I fought and happy with my level.”
Having lifted his maiden ATP Tour title on the clay in Munich in April, Rune will next face the unseeded Swiss Marc-Andrea Huesler as he pushes for his second tour-level crown. The 19-year-old Rune is more than aware of the weapons that Huesler possesses, having fallen to the World No. 95 in straight sets in the pair’s only previous ATP Head2Head meeting in Bastad in July.
“He’s been playing amazing and serving so well, especially here he is getting a lot of free points on the serve," said Rune, who confirmed his qualification for November's Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals with his quarter-final win against Ilya Ivashka in Sofia on Friday. "So it’s going to be another tough match and I really have to be there on my returns and serve at the same time, so it’s going to be an interesting match for sure.”
Huesler had earlier engineered a stunning comeback in a crucial tie-break for the second consecutive day to upset fourth seed Lorenzo Musetti 7-6(5), 7-5 and reach his maiden ATP Tour final at the indoor hard-court event.
The Swiss lefty reeled off six points in a row from 1/5 to claim the first-set tie-break against Musetti and produced plenty of high-powered serving and decisive volleying en route to a 96-minute semi-final victory. The 26-year-old had saved two match points in the second-set tie-break against Kamil Majchrzak in Friday's quarter-finals.
“For sure,” said Huesler, when asked if it was one of the biggest moments of his career. “I mean I’ve never been in the final before of an ATP event. I’m obviously a bit speechless. I can’t quite believe that I’m able to win today and make it to the finals, but I played a really great match today and I’m just really happy.”
Despite Huesler firing only 24 winners to Musetti’s 29 in the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting, the Swiss was clinical at key moments to notch his ninth tour-level win of the season.
“In those moments, it is not looking good,” said Huesler of his 1/5 deficit in the first-set tie-break. “You just try to play point-by-point. Everyone knows that in tennis it is never over until the last point is played. Obviously if he keeps his level high there, I’m probably going to lose that set, but then again you just try to stay in. I played a couple of good points at 5/5, went for my shots, and then it can go fast.
“On the whole I feel really good here. I feel like we were both serving really, really well, not many rallies, and then it’s hard once you get the rally, to actually be in it, but I’m very happy with the way I handled it today.”
Huesler's exploits this week in Sofia have lifted him 21 spots to No. 74 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.