It is a big week for Holger Rune, who is trying to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time.
Instead of wilting under the pressure against former World No. 3 Dominic Thiem on Wednesday evening, the defending champion rose to the occasion with a 6-4, 6-2 victory to reach the third round of the Rolex Paris Masters.
The 20-year-old is eighth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, the last qualifying spot for the season finale, which begins on 12 November. He is doing everything in his power to hold onto his position, with ninth-placed Hubert Hurkacz 215 points behind.
It has not been the easiest second half of the year for Rune, who has won just four matches since Wimbledon. But with former World No. 1 Boris Becker now his coach, the Dane found form last week in Basel, where he advanced to the semi-finals. And now he is back at the location of his maiden ATP Masters 1000 triumph.
Rune faced an opponent in Thiem who won two qualifying matches and then saved a match point en route to defeating fellow former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in the first round of the main draw. That late-evening encounter ended at 2:22 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The Rise Of Holger Rune
The hours on court showed in the game of Thiem, who hit an uncharacteristic number of errors, allowing Rune to escape tight moments in the match. The Austrian battled throughout at Accor Arena, but was unable to overcome letting slip all five break points he earned.
Rune will next play German Daniel Altmaier, who advanced to the third round via walkover when Taylor Fritz withdrew due to injury. It will be the pair’s first Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting, but Rune defeated Altmaier in a final-set tie-break two years ago at an ATP Challenger Tour event played on clay in Italy.
Jannik Sinner began his quest for a second ATP Masters 1000 title of the season after a resilient win over American Mackenzie McDonald in the early hours of Thursday morning. The victory line seemed a great distance away for the Italian when he butchered a backhand volley on top of the net to hand the American the first-set tie-break at 1:17 a.m.
But the World No. 4 worked his way back into the match in a competitive second set before he pulled away in the third, finishing a 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-1 winner at 2:37 a.m. The 22-year-old is due back on court later Thursday against Australian Alex de Minaur in the fourth match of the Thursday day session.
Sinner hit 29 winners to 35 unforced errors to McDonald’s 19 to 39 ratio. His first serve, which has increasingly become a weapon this year, returned an 85 per cent winning clip.
“I lost the first set in a bad way and I’m still getting used to the conditions, but I’m happy about the win and to be in the next round,” Sinner said of his first career win at the final Masters 1000 of the year. “It was tough going on court after midnight, but it was nice to still have some crowd watching.”