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With “sunshine, smiles and good tennis”, Rune advances to Brisbane semis

5 January 2024, by Vivienne Christie

The timing couldn’t have been better for Holger Rune’s debut appearance at the Brisbane International.

On the opposite side of the world, temperatures are freezing at his home base in Europe.

“It’s great to be in Australia, it’s a nice time of the year to play tennis, to enjoy life,” smiled the No.1 seed, after defeating James Duckworth 6-2 7-6(6) to progress to the semifinals. 

“It’s nice to come here during January because in Europe it’s really cold and dark. Here it’s sunshine, smiles and good tennis.”

Much of that good tennis is coming from world No.8 Rune, who withstood a spirited challenge from Queensland-based Duckworth to complete a third straight match win in Brisbane in an hour and 45 minutes. 

“I thought it was a really good match, especially the first set. I started, I think, very strong, really putting him under pressure with my shots and feeling good,” said Rune, who won five straight games to empathically close out the first set. 

> VIEW: Brisbane International 2024 men’s singles draw

The second set, in which neither man faced a break point, was a far tightest, with Rune relieved to convert a crucial opportunity when Duckworth faltered to provide the Dane with a 5-4 lead in the tiebreak. 

 He soon extended that advantage, with Rune eventually securing victory over Duckworth on his third match point. 

“The second set was definitely harder,” commented the relieved 20-year-old. “He changed the strategy a little bit, so I had to adjust but at the end, I was happy I was able to close it in two sets.”

It sets a semifinal showdown with Roman Safiulllin, a 7-6(4) 6-2 winner over Matteo Arnaldi. 

The world No.39 kicked off his Brisbane campaign with an upset of No.3 seed Ben Shelton, with a three-set win over in-form Australian Alexei Popyrin further underlining the a Safiullin poses on a hard court. 

Firing nine aces among his 20 winners, Safiullin required exactly two hours to record a straight-sets win over the Italian.

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