Kecmanovic overcomes Ruud bagel

SERBIAN Miomir Kecmanovic pushed through back problems and getting bagelled in the first set to find a way to win against fifth seed Casper Ruud in Rome overnight. The world number 58 stared down the barrel of a one-sided loss when losing the first set 6-0, but after a medical timeout in the fifth game, worked back into the match and took it out 0-6 6-4 6-4 in two hours and 19 minutes.

The result reversed the clash between the pair a fortnight ago, when Ruud won 6-4 6-1 in the second round at Madrid. In this one though, Ruud looked like a man on a mission against an opponent who was really struggling.

Ruud served five aces to one in the dominant first set, broke three times and saved the only two break points he faced. The Norwegian also won 12 of 13 points off his first serve, and a total of 14 of 21 off his serve. By comparison, Kecmanovic won a measly four points on serve, and 11 in total as Ruud raced to an early lead.

Just before the end of the first set, Kecmanovic called for a medical timeout and had a doctor see to his back in order to help his mobility on-court.

“I had some back problems [recently]. I asked the doctor for as many pills as he could give me to numb the pain,” Kecmanovic said post-match. “When it kicked in I started moving and feeling much better. I guess I just tried to forget about the score and just play and hit, and see what happens. Luckily it went my way this time.”

It was Kecmanovic’s third ATP Tour win against Ruud, and the first since the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals, leading the head-to-head 3-2 now. In the match, Kecmanovic finished with 23 winners to Ruud’s 29, a far better performance than what it looked like after the first set.

After the first set, Kecmanovic broke four times to two in order to stay one break ahead in the final two sets and record the win. Both players won 63 per cent of their first serve for the match, but in the last two sets, that went the way of Kecmanovic a massive 69 to 53 per cent.

“It means a lot, especially on clay, where he is one of the best players today,” said Kecmanovic. “I’m happy that I was able [after the first set] to come back and win.”

Kecmanovic will set his sights on clay court standout Thiago Monteiro in the third round, after the qualifier defeated Jordan Thompson in straight sets. Portugal’s Nuno Borges defeated Alexander Bublik in straight sets, while Novak Djokovic cruised past French lucky loser Corentin Moutet but was struck by an accidental stray water bottle on court.

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