Rune v Cerundolo: Things we learned

Danish No.6 seed comes through four-hour thriller to set up Ruud quarter-final rematch

Holger Rune, Roland-Garros 2023, fourth round©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Simon Cambers

Denmark’s Holger Rune edged out Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(10/7) on Monday to reach the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros for the second year in a row.

After three hours, 59 minutes of battle, here’s what we learned...

Rune has the heart of a lion

We already knew the Dane had a big game; on Monday we learned, not for the first time, that the No.6 seed has a heart to match.

Outplayed in the fourth set, Rune was broken when serving for the match at 5-4 in the fifth, seemingly exhausted from the battle. Suddenly down 5-6 and serving to stay in the tournament, the 20-year-old held to love to force a deciding tiebreak. He came from a mini-break down to win it 10-7 and clinch victory.

Perhaps the best thing of all is that Rune was smiling during the deciding tiebreak, embracing the occasion as much as the enthralled crowd on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

“I had a heartbreaking loss like this at the Australian Open (to Andrey Rublev in the fourth round),” he said. “I told myself just to enjoy the moment, these are the moments that stay with you for your life.”

Net play crucial for Rune

Rune’s serve and groundstrokes are the bedrock of his game, of course, but the Dane is also more than handy at the net, as he showed throughout the match and more and more as the tension and fatigue grew in the final set.

He got lucky with one backhand volley that he fluked with two hands, but in general his volleying was clean and smart, while he chose his times to come forward nicely.

In total, Rune won 42 of 58 points at the net, while Cerundolo, for the record, was just as good, winning 26 of 39. Rune also hit 18 drop shots in the match.   

Cerundolo has a big future

Cerundolo had already shown his quality when he beat Taylor Fritz in the previous round and the 24-year-old has a game tailor-made for clay, with a big weapon in his forehand.

He has the most top-10 wins (four) this season by a player ranked outside the top 20 and is 5-3 on clay against top-10 opposition.

His compatriot and Argentina legend, Gabriela Sabatini, knows him well and says he can still improve.

“He has weapons,” she told on Monday. “He has a great forehand. He has improved on his serve, his backhand is very good. He's getting better mentally also because he can get frustrated many times on the court but in the last few tournaments, I saw him more stable. He's a great guy, too.”

Holger Rune, fourth round, Roland-Garros 2023© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Ruud-Rune should be another cracker

Just like last year, Rune will take on Casper Ruud in the quarter-finals.

A year ago, it was Ruud who came out on top, winning in four sets and the Norwegian, who went on to reach the final, leads their head-to-head record 4-1. But Rune won their most recent encounter, in the semi-finals in Rome, and has the superior clay-court record in 2023, having won the title in Munich and reached finals in Monte-Carlo and Rome.

The fourth-seeded Ruud has been improving with every match, though, and with some tension between the two after last year’s clash, this promises to be a popcorn match, if Rune can recover in time to be at 100 per cent to face his fellow Scandinavian.

Holger Rune & Casper Ruud / Roland-Garros 2022©Cédric Lecocq / FFT