Novak Djokovic’s preparations for the French Open suffered another blow on Wednesday when the world No. 1 was defeated by Holger Rune in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open.
The 20-year-old Rune triumphed in wet conditions as rain continues to affect play in Rome. He won 6-2 4-6 6-2 to earn his second straight victory over Djokovic after his win in the final of the Paris Masters in November.
According to the ATP, it will be the first time since 2004 that neither Djokovic nor Rafael Nadal have reached the final of the Italian Open.
“It’s a really big win for me,” World No. 7 Rune told the ATP Tour. “Of course I did it last year in Paris, but every game is a huge challenge for me when I play against Novak. He is one of the greatest to ever play the game.
“I knew I had to be at my best…and I was today. I’m super proud of myself and loved every moment out there. Of course I remain humble. I have a lot to achieve. I think you should always be humble. I think so, I hope so and I hope people see me that way.
“I’m a huge fighter on the pitch and I leave everything behind when I play my matches. I’m super proud to have been able to take the win today. I had to fight hard and play my best tennis. Huge credit to Novak, I’m a big fan of his. He is a huge inspiration and I wish him all the best.”
The defeat marks another disappointing clay-court tournament for Djokovic, who has now failed to progress past the quarterfinals in his three red-surface events ahead of the French Open, which opens May 28.
The Serb, six-time champion in Rome, also appeared to be struggling physically during the match and required a medical time-out before winning the second set after a rain delay.
Djokovic made his return to the field after being absent from the recent Madrid Open with an elbow injury and the 22-time Grand Slam champion still looked well below his best.
However, the credit goes to Rune for a brilliant performance that will solidify his place among the title contenders at Roland Garros.
Entering his first Italian Open, the Dane will face either Casper Ruud or Francisco Cerundolo in the semifinals as the 20-year-old goes in search of a second Masters 1000 title of his career.