Aug 31, 2021; Flushing, NY, USA; NovakDjokovic of Serbia, right, after beating Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune of Denmark on day two of the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The cramps stopped “our” Holger Rune who imposed a tie-break on Novak Djokovic this morning, but then saw his chances of going to the second round fade. Despite the improbable undertaking, the winner of the Verona Internationals remained in the race with character and determination, overturning the result of the first in the second set and impacting the race with the number 1 in the world. For ATP, it wasn’t a perfect start for Djokovic’s run-up to the Grand Slam. After a “hiccup” in the second set, Nole beat #NextGenATP star Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-1 in two hours and 15 minutes in front of a crowd noisy Arthur Ashe Stadium. The Danish teenager has suffered from cramps in the last two sets.

«It’s difficult to talk about the third and fourth sets because he barely moved. [For] my part, I got off to a great start. He played a really, really good first set. After that, I don’t know, I was 4-3 serving in the second set. Everything worked fine, but then I lost my first serve – said Djokovic -. I deserve him for fighting. He had the crowd behind him. It was difficult to play in my first game, even though I had tons of experience playing on this court, for him it was the first. Obviously I’m happy with how I finished the game. Once again, it wasn’t a fair battle on the pitch with his unfortunate injury and his cramps ».

Djokovic is now six wins from becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to claim all four major titles in one season. The three-time US Open champion will face Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor.

Entering the match, 18-year-old Rune told “I had a lot of confidence in myself even though I was comparing myself to the number 1 in the world.” The winner of Biella, San Marino and Verona demonstrated this by playing bravely in the second set and taking a tense tie-break, during which he brought all New York spectators to his side. But in the end, he was unable to sustain his aggressive play long enough to further disturb Djokovic. Rune has been visited by the coach on multiple occasions in the last two sets to receive treatment on his upper legs. Djokovic took advantage of this by hitting 55 winners to just 30 unforced errors.

“Unfortunately, my fitness has let me down. I started having cramps already at the beginning of the third set. From then on, it was tough, ”Rune said. I knew that if I wanted to win, I really had to fight for every point. With my body at this point, it was impossible”.

After the match point, the 20-time Major winner, who can outrun Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for most of the Grand Slams with a trophy at the end of those two weeks, had a long exchange with Rune at the net to give him encouragement.

“I told him he did very well. He didn’t want to stop,” said Djokovic. “I thought he would stop at the end of the third. He kept going with dignity, he finished the game. He definitely deserved my respect, the respect of many people. He is still very, very young, 18. He has a lot of time ahead of him. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of him in the future. “

Despite the defeat, Rune will never forget the game. The crowd even sang “Rune!” in support of the adolescent. “I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was an incredible feeling to be there. I tried to give something to the crowd, fight for every point, get pumped and all,” Rune said. “The crowd was incredible. I couldn’t have asked for more. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”