Novak Djokovic made a comparison between Holger Rune and himself as the pair are set to do battle in Rome. The 20-year-old famously upset the world No 1 in the Paris Masters final last year and warned Djokovic that he had the confidence to defeat him again. But he also had some kind words for the Serb, calling him one of the greatest of all time.
Djokovic advanced to his 17th quarter-final at the Italian Open on Tuesday, keeping up his remarkable record of never losing before the last-eight since making his main draw debut at the tournament back in 2006. He was rewarded with a rematch against Rune – who defeated him at the end of last season.
The Dane went on an incredible run in Paris-Bercy as he became the first man to beat five top 10 players in one week outside of the ATP Finals, capping it off by defeating Djokovic to lift the title. He has since gone on to reach another Masters final in Monte Carlo and reached a career-high of No 7 in the world.
Ahead of their meeting in Rome, Djokovic has compared the 20-year-old’s game to his own while talking up their next clash. “He kind of reminds me a little bit, the way he plays,” the top seed said after defeating Cameron Norrie 6-3 6-4.
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“Really fit physically, great defence, but also great counter-puncher. He can hurt you from both forehand and backhand side. Really solid serve. Aggressive returns. Just all-around player on all surfaces.”
And Djokovic knew that things would be even tougher in their third meeting – having won their first clash at the 2021 US Open – as it marked their first on the clay. He added: “Particularly on clay I think he finds himself really comfortable playing. He played finals of Monaco, was really close to win the title there.
“He’s in very good form and I look forward to a challenge. I think it’s going to be a very physical match.” The six-time former champion in Rome was also full of praise for his young rival after lamenting their Paris clash as a “really close match, tough match”.
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“Even though he’s really young, I know his game quite well,” he explained. “He’s been on the tour now for last few years playing some great tennis, particularly in the last I would say six to eight months. He’s been really establishing himself as a top player. He’s a top-10 player, deservedly so. He’s been playing some really high-quality tennis.
“He’s one of the hardest workers out there. Nice guy. I get along well with him. On the court obviously we certainly want to win against each other.” And Rune himself has already shown his desire to get the victory, as he warned Djokovic that he felt he could beat anyone.
“I believe that I can beat many players on the tour,” the four-time title winner said after winning his own last-16 match against Alexei Popyrin. “I’ve shown that I can beat many guys in the top and winning against Novak helped me a lot because obviously he’s one of the greatest of all time and it’s going to be tough but I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
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