A year and a half after training with Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo at 17, the young gun Holger Rune did the same with Rafael Nadal in Cincinnati last year. Nadal entered the Cincinnati draw for the first time in five years, testing his body following an abdominal injury that forced him to withdraw from Wimbledon ahead of the semi-final.
Holger was thrilled to share the court with a 22-time Major champion, despite Nadal being miles behind his best. Rafa faced Borna Coric in the second round and experienced his second loss against rivals outside the top-150!
World no. 152 prevailed 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 51 minutes, gaining a boost and heading all the way to lift the trophy! The Spaniard missed his chances in the opener and suffered a break in the decider to hit the exit door and experience his earliest loss in almost six years!
There were only three break chances in the entire encounter, and the rivals grabbed one return game in sets two and three.
Rafael Nadal practiced with Holger Rune in Cincinnati last year.
Borna missed the only break chance in the opener at 3-3, and the set went into a tie break after a rain delay.
Rafa came back from 4-2 down and grabbed three straight points. He earned the first set point at 6-5 but failed to convert it on his serve. Borna saved the second at 6-7 and created his first at 8-7. Nadal denied it with a forced error and erased the second to lock the result at 9-9.
Rafa hit an expensive double fault at 9-10 to lose the opener after an hour and 14 minutes! The Spaniard served well in the second set and grabbed a break at 3-3 after Coric's loose forehand. Nadal moved 5-3 up with a winner at the net and closed the set with another at 5-4 to force a decider.
Both players served under 50% in the final set and still lost only 11 points in service games. Coric produced five comfortable holds and kept the pressure on the other side. The Croat forced Nadal's forehand mistake at 3-2 for two break chances.
Rafa played a loose forehand to get broken and fall 4-2 behind. Borna served for the victory in game nine and held with a forehand crosscourt forehand to seal the deal and celebrate a notable triumph. Like Rafa, Holger Rune lost in the first match in Cincinnati, falling to Cameron Norrie in two and a half hours.
The young Dane took charge in the season's closing stages, reaching four consecutive finals and lifting his first Masters 1000 crown over Novak Djokovic in Paris.