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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, May 21, 2023


Daniil Medvedev beat Holger Rune 7-5, 7-5 in the Rome final to capture his ATP-best fifth title of 2023 and regain the world No. 2 ranking.

Photo credit: ​ Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Compulsive truth teller Daniil Medvedev continues popping off—spraying a red clay statement win.

Moments after Medvedev defeated Holger Rune 7-5, 7-5, in a resourceful Rome final to capture his first career clay-court championship, he showered the historic red clay with celebratory champagne.

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Showing superb closing skills, Medvedev broke in the final game of both sets to capture his 20th career title.

"I would like to congratulate Holger... you're an amazing player, you have a long career ahead, it was a pleasure to share the final with you," Medvedev said. "Who would have thought I would be standing here?

"I honestly didn't think so, but it happened. Thanks [to my team] for helping me reach the heights of my career. Lets go for more."

It is Medvedev's ATP-best fifth title of the season as he improves to a Tour-best 39-5 in 2023, and the impact reverberates from Rome all the way to Paris.

This victory not only avenges Medvedev's Monte-Carlo loss to Rune last month, it powers him back to world No. 2 in the rankings, ensuring he will be the second seed at Roland Garros.

Medvedev's maiden clay crown means two-time Roland Garros champion Novak Djokovic, who is playing for a men's record 23rd major in Paris, will be bumped to the third seed. That means Djokovic, who fell to Rune in the Rome quarterfinals, and world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz could collide before the final.

The 2021 US Open champion, who has won 18 of his 20 titles on hard court, had sarcastically branded himself a "hard-court specialist."

Now the owner of titles on three different surfaces across 20 different cities, Medvedev is going to need a new moniker.

"Super happy to win a Masters 1000 on clay; I'm feeling great, it's the best week on clay in my life," Medvedev told Tennis Channel's Prakash Amritraj afterward. "It's always great to come into a Grand Slam with a lot of confidence, but you always have strong opponents there, it's five sets, you need to be 100 percent and that's what I'm going to try to do. I still have not that big expectations but I know that I can do better than I thought so that's good."

Arriving in Rome aiming for his first match win at the Foro Italico, Medvedev won 12 of the 13 sets he played in Rome knocking off two Roland Garros contenders—former French Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rune—in succession. Medvedev joins Novak Djokovic and Andre Agassi as third man to win Miami and Rome in the same season.

The seventh-seeded Rune rode a 13-2 clay-court record and a seven-match winning streak vs. Top 5 opponents into this final. But Medvedev looked stronger in extended exchanges, seemed to wear the 20-year-old Dane down in the latter stages and converted four of six break-point chances.

"I want to say congrats to Daniil, you played amazing this season, winning your first title on clay, very well done so congrats to you and your team," Rune said. "It's been an amazing week for me in Rome. I love the Italian vibe, the food, so everything is amazing."

After a brief shower that delayed the start of the final, Medvedev opened play. 

The Miami Open champion rallied from love-30 down, benefiting from a Rune volley error that would have given him break points, to hold for 2-1.

Creating impression in crosscourt backhand rallies, Rune exploited a backhand error and double fault for two more break points. As Hall of Famer Boris Becker watch the action from his front seat, Medvedev made a Becker-like stand on serve.

The former world No. 1 fired through four points in a row, roping a forehand winner to hold for 3-2.

Across the net, the man clad in the backward Nike baseball cap permitted just five points through his first four service games combined leveling for 4-4.

Contesting his second career clay-court final, Medvedev won eight of the final 10 points of the opening set, breaking in the final game to build a one-set lead.

Rune rallied breaking at love to start the second set.

Confronting triple break point in the fourth game, Rune ripped a 90 mph running forehand strike down the line on the first break point. On the second, a sliding Medvedev flicked a backhand pass down the line breaking back for 2-2.

Piercing a 38-shot rally with a backhand bold winner down the line, Rune waved both arms in the air exhorting Rome fans to make more noise. That strike from Rune rattled Medvedev, who hit a double fault and missed a pair of forehand drive volleys gifting the love break and 4-3 lead to the Dane.

Playing with more patience in rallies, the Paris Masters champion charged through 13 of the last 16 points extending his lead to 5-3.

When Rune served for the set, his forehand failed him twice. The Dane overhit a pair of forehands to face break point then ended a 24-shot rally pasting a backhand into net as Medvedev broke back.

Ninety-five minutes into the match, Medvedev zapped his fifth ace down the middle to erase a break point. Working through a tense hold, Medvedev held firm for 6-5.

A weary Rune bailed out of a couple of points netting a drop shot and falling behind triple championship point.

On his first championship point, Medvedev netted a backhand drop shot. On the second, Rune missed a final forehand long and Medvedev dropped to his knees.

The self-described hard-court specialist rose with red clay on his knees and smile plastered across his face.

Afterward, Medvedev, who has given his share of umpires the business, thanked chair umpire Carlos Bernardes.

  "I have to say thanks to Carlos because I thought the last ball was in and it was out by far and Carlos saw it first so thank you Carlos," Medvedev said.


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