Holger Rune has impressed so far in his young career on the ATP Tour, but the 18-year-old took things to another level on Wednesday in Munich.
The #NextGenATP Dane produced a high-class all-court performance against top seed Alexander Zverev at the BMW Open by American Express, breaking the big-serving German four times on his way to a stunning 6-3, 6-2 victory at the ATP 250 event.
“It was a difficult match from the beginning,” said Rune in his on-court interview. “He’s in the top three in the world and has been playing some unbelievable tennis, especially in the past year winning so many big titles. I have a lot of respect for him, and I obviously didn’t expect to win in two sets, and with a score like this. But it was a really hard match, we played a lot of rallies and I’m really happy about my performance today.”
Rune has shown glimpses of his talent in 2022, winning his opening match in four of his past five tour-level events before arriving in Munich. He had yet to win consecutive ATP Tour matches this year, however he changed that in style in Germany by completing straight-sets wins over Jiri Lehecka and top-seeded Zverev.
“I love this tournament,” added Rune. “It’s a bit at altitude, it’s similar conditions to Denmark, so I’m really happy to be here.”
The win over the German is the biggest of Rune’s career and his first over a Top 10 opponent at the fourth attempt. Prior to Wednesday’s loss, home favourite Zverev had not failed to reach the quarter-finals in Munich in his past five appearances, a streak that included lifting back-to-back trophies in the Bavarian city in 2017 and 2018.
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Rune was dialled in from the start at the Iphitos Tennis Club, surging to a 4-2 lead in the opening set as he measured a series of drop shots from deep to perfection, pulling his opponent around the court. Although Zverev found his feet after a slow start, Rune fended off two break points before converting his sixth set point in a marathon ninth game to take the set.
An early break in the second set piled the pressure on Zverev and Rune appeared unaffected by the prospect of taking out the top seed. The Dane continued to draw Zverev forward to great effect with his drop shot and struck the ball cleanly off both wings from deep as the German struggled to find his rythym, with Rune breaking again before serving out for a one-hour, 40-minute victory.
“I enjoyed it,” said Rune as he addressed the crowd. “Obviously it was tough, especially the first set when we played lots of long rallies. It was really exhausting but I tried to give the audience a great match because Zverev is an unbelievable player, so thank you very much for the support.”
Rune’s success was based on his ability to counter his opponent’s serve, one of the most feared on the ATP Tour. The Dane won 47 per cent (17/36) of return points against the Zverev first delivery in the match, according to Infosys ATP Stats.
Rune’s next opponent will be Emil Ruusuvuori, after the unseeded Finn defeated Maxime Cressy, 6-3, 6-3. World No. 63 Ruusuvuori broke the American four times in a 76-minute victory to reach a first tour-level quarter-final since his run to the championship match in Pune in February.
Miomir Kecmanovic earlier made it to a sixth consecutive ATP Tour quarter-final with a 6-2, 6-4 win over home favourite Daniel Altmaier. Kecmanovic’s strong form has included runs to the last eight at the ATP Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami, and the Serb held his nerve in a topsy-turvy second set featuring five breaks of serve to record his 21st win of the season against the No. 67-ranked German.
Kecmanovic’s next opponent will be a player who is unbeaten on the Munich clay, defending champion Nikoloz Basilashvili. The World No. 20 has struggled for form in 2022 and was taken the distance by Ilya Ivashka on Wednesday, but the Georgian claimed a crucial break in the opening game of the deciding set that was enough to set up the win and extend his winning record at the event to 6-0.
The first-round action was also completed on Wednesday, with Alejandro Tabilo prevailing in an all-Chilean battle with 2019 champion Cristian Garin. Tabilo’s 6-3, 6-4 victory gives him a 2-1 ATP Head2Head lead over his countryman, with the World No. 91 also prevailing in the pair’s previous meeting at their home tournament in Santiago in February.
Eighth seed Botic van de Zandschulp booked his second-round spot with a 7-6(3), 6-3 win over #NextGenATP American Brandon Nakashima. Both players were making their debut in Munich, but it was World No. 40 Van de Zandschulp who prevailed in a hard-fought 94-minute clash. He next faces qualifier Egor Gerasimov, who beat Australian John Millman, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.