Griekspoor Guts Out Breakthrough Win Over Rune In Madrid

Tallon Griekspoor (photo: Angel Martinez/MMO)

MADRID/WASHINGTON, April 28, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

As men’s third round action at the Mutua Madrid Open commenced at Caja Magica on Sunday, featuring the bottom half of the draw, it didn’t take long for the upsets to begin to mount.

First, No. 11 seed Holger Rune of Denmark, who survived his opening match against Argentina’s Mariano Navone, faced off against No. 24 seed Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands. While Rune looked to achieve his first fourth-round appearance in Madrid, Griekspoor aimed to garner first Top-20 win on clay.

By the end of their two-hour, 13-minute tussle on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium, Griekspoor beat Rune, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, to reach the fourth round in Madrid for the first time and just the second time he had gone this deep in an ATP Masters 1000 tournament.

Griekspoor hit three of his 27 winners in the final game of the match, closing out victory on his first match point with a ninth-shot backhand winner that Rune was unable to get a racquet on. Griekspoor outpointed his opponent 103-86 to advance against No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia.

“I think I served unbelievably well throughout the whole match,” Griekspoor said in his post-match news conference. “I had a lot of chances on his serve. I didn’t take any of the break points in the second but kept doing my thing. Broke him early in the third, served really well after. I am really happy with the performance today.”

When one considers that Griekspoor came into the match with Rune just 10-23 lifetime versus Top-20 players and was 0-3 against them on clay, it’s a pretty significant breakthrough for the 27-year-old from Haarlem. Add to it, Sunday’s triumph against the World No. 12 Rune was Griekspoor’s first Top-20 win on an ATP Masters 1000 or Grand Slam level after going 0-12.

The loss stymied Rune from advancing to the fourth round at Madrid for the first time and put on hold his reaching the finals at all three clay ATP Masters 1000 events, adding to his 2023 successes at Monte-Carlo and Rome. It was also his second loss on clay in his last three clay-court matches, following his loss to Jan-Lennard Struff in the final at Munich a week ago, and dropped his 2024 win-loss record to 18-10.

Meanwhile, the 23rd seed Struff upset No. 13 seed Ugo Humbert of France, 7-5, 6-4, to continue his good run of form on European clay. The 24th-ranked German from Warstein outpointed Humbert 69-62 to improve to 10-4 lifetime in Madrid.

Struff, who turned 34 on Thursday, has put together a nifty six-match winning streak, including his run to his first ATP Tour title in Munich and an earlier win over Jaume Munar of Spain on Friday. His defeat of Humbert secured his 50th career ATP Masters 1000 triumph.

Rublev on the comeback trail

No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev recorded his first win since Indian Wells when he defeated Facundo Bagnis of Argentina in Friday’s second round. It advanced him to face No. 27 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, a favorite of Spanish fans, who was hoping to gain his first Top-10 win on clay since defeating then-No. 6 Holger Rune on Manolo Santana Stadium in the third round of Madrid last year.

After enduring a lengthy first-set tie-break, in which he saved five set points and won 12-10, the World No. 8 Rublev went onto to earn a 7-6 (10), 6-4 victory over No. 28 Davidovich Fokina in two hours and four minutes to advance against No. 24 seed Tallon Griekspoor.

Rublev closed out the tense match with a satisfying love hold that included four consecutive forehand winners. It gave the Russian 33 winners for the third-round match against 29 unforced errors. He outpointed Davidovich Fokina 86-75.

“Alejandro was making really great points, so I didn’t have many chances,” Rublev said in his on-court interview afterward. “I was mentally down. The first couple of points I was down [in the tie-break], I played like I don’t care and managed to win them. Then on my serve I was thinking at least to keep your serve and it might be 4-5 and then you don’t know what will happen.

“Then it was 4-5 and the score became tighter and I managed to come back. I started to feel more confidence in the second set and started to feel the game better.”

Alcaraz extends Madrid winning streak to 13

Two-time defending Mutua Madrid Open champion Carlos Alcaraz moved a step closer to successfully defending his Masters 1000 title after defeating No. 63 Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil, 6-3, 6-3, in 75 minutes on Manolo Santana Stadium.

The second-seeded Spaniard, who won back-to-back Madrid titles in 2022 and 2023, is looking to become the first player to ever win three consecutive titles in the Spanish capital city. With wins over Seyboth Wild and Alexander Shevchenko a round earlier, Alcaraz is through to the fourth round.

“I think I played at a really good level,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “Coming into this match I was nervous a little bit because I didn’t know how my forearm was going to be. Thiago has big shots. He is really strong. I am really happy with the performance. It was difficult a little bit at the end, at 5-0 and then serving at 5-3. I am really happy to get it at the end.”

As Alcaraz chases after his sixth career ATP Masters 1000 title – and second of the 2024 season after winning at Indian Wells last month – his next opponent will be No. 23 seed Jan-Lennard Struff, who lost to the World No. 3 in last year’s Madrid final.

“Hopefully the result is going to be like the final last year,” Alcaraz said. “I know his level. I know his game and I know that I have to play at my best if I am going to have to beat him. Be really focused on return, putting as many balls in and being in the rallies.”

Fritz remains undefeated against Baez

American 12th seed Taylor Fritz defeated No. 18 seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina, 6-2, 6-3, in 64 minutes to improve his career head-to-head against the Argentine to 5-0. Fritz won 85 percent of his first-serve points and did not face any break points. He converted three of seven break points against No. 19 Baez, who leads the ATP Tour in clay-court wins this season with 15.

It was the first Top-20 win on clay this season for the World No. 13 Fritz, who improved to 5-3 against Top 20 competition this season.

“I think there’s more variety in my game in general,” Fritz said of his success on clay this month, which has included reaching last week’s final in Munich and an earlier win over Luciano Darderi of Italy. “In my last match in the second round, that was really on display. I was drop-shotting, I was moon-balling, I was doing a bit of everything. I feel like I’ve had that, I just never really used it as much.

“On hard court I feel like I have better shots I can hit on those situations, but on clay it works quite a bit.”

Next, Fritz will face No. 8 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who advanced with 6-4, 7-6 (2) win over No. 61 Daniel Altmaier of Germany in an hour and 44 minutes.

Around the Caja Magica

Sunday’s Mutua Madrid Open results

Monday’s Mutua Madrid Open order of play

By the numbers 

Among active players, Alexander Zverev owns the fourth-most wins (23) at the Mutua Madrid Open. He trails Rafael Nadal (58), Novak Djokovic (30), and Andy Murray (29).

“Quotable …”

“Tennis every week, we have a big opportunity, a new opportunity, so I was trying to focus on that, trying to every day push a little bit harder and practice a little bit better, because after the Rio Open, I didn’t keep the consistence on tournaments, and this week I was feeling really good. I like the conditions. I had two good matches on the qualifying and really good first round.

“So today it was already a different mindset in the game. I knew I had a big challenge ahead against a top player, but I was feeling good. I was just trying to enjoy also, and I just believed that I could create opportunities and believed in my game that I was back to feeling good again.”

— Qualifier Thiago Monteiro of Brazil, during his post-match news conference following his second-round upset of World No. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas on Saturday.