In a hotly anticipated Monday matchup of two of the ATP Tour’s newest young stars, fourth seed Holger Rune edged Ben Shelton in the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting.
In a 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-2 victory at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC, the Dane won eight of the final 10 games to close out a match that hung on a knife edge until late.
“I managed to find solutions when it mattered,” Rune said post-match. “I had to dig really deep for that break in the second set. In the third set I felt like I was more up. I think I played good overall and it was super tricky match.”
Shelton saved two set points in a thrilling opening-set tie-break before winning it, then erased another two at 4-5 in the second set, including one with a 120-mph second serve. But Rune took his third chance in set two after battling back from 40/0 in the return game.
It remained tight in the final set until Rune rattled off the final four games from 2-2, sparked by the point of the match in which he outdid a Shelton tweener with a feathered half volley. The pair slapped hands after the thrilling exchange, and they met again at the net soon after when Rune won the final four games without being pushed to deuce.
The 19-year-old Dane did not face a break point in sets two and three, losing just one point on his first serve across both sets. Shelton won 80 per cent of his first serve points in the match, with Rune singling out that shot for praise.
“He has a huge serve. For me it’s one of the biggest serves I ever played, ” Rune said of the American. “He has a lot of weapons. Most of all I’m super happy with how I handled everything mentally.”
After spending two hours, 20 minutes as rivals, Rune and Shelton are set to team up in doubles next week at Indian Wells. Shelton, six months Rune’s senior at 20, is also in the doubles draw this week alongside Mackenzie McDonald in Acapulco.
Before Rune’s victory on centre court, third seed Taylor Fritz opened play in the stadium with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win against fellow American John Isner. It was the 25-year-old’s first match as a Top 5 player, after he rose up to the No. 5 spot in this week’s Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
Fritz will next meet Denis Shapovalov, a 6-7(4), 6-0, 7-5 winner against Miomir Kecmanovic.
In other action, second seed Casper Ruud survived a scare against Guido Andreozzi, rallying past the Argentine qualifier 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2) to reach the second round.
The Norwegian was competing for the first time since he lost to Jenson Brooksby in the second round at the Australian Open last month and he showed signs of rustiness at the ATP 500 hard-court event.
“Confidence wise I have felt better because it is my first match in five, six weeks,” Ruud said. “You are kind of wondering where your level is at. Today it was a little bit up and down. I played some good tennis but I think Guido made it difficult for me. When you are playing a player like him, it can be sort of easier for him to play without pressure. He can feel free, let loose.”
Ruud struggled to hit with consistency from the baseline, but found a way, battling from a break down in the third set to triumph after two hours and 51 minutes. The World No. 4, who reached the quarter-finals in Acapulco last season, will next play Taro Daniel after the Japanese qualifier defeated American J.J. Wolf 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 47 minutes.
Sixth-seeded American Frances Tiafoe also advanced, 7-6(6), 6-4 against Yoshihito Nishioka. Tiafoe will play 41-year-old Feliciano Lopez in the second round. Spain’s Lopez earned his first win at an ATP Tour event since July 2021 with a 7-6(3), 6-4 result against Chris Eubanks.