Back in action at an ATP Masters 1000 event for the first time since he beat five Top 10 opponents to win the Rolex Paris Masters last November, Holger Rune picked up where he left off with a convincing Saturday win against American Mackenzie McDonald in Indian Wells.
The 19-year-old Dane opened his BNP Paribas Open campaign with a 7-5, 6-3 win against McDonald, not surrendering a break point in the match. Rune broke at love in the final game of the opening set, converting on his first break chance to close out a difficult set, then cruised to the win behind an early break in set two as his game improved.
“It was very difficult. Super windy and actually the first time in my life that I even stepped out on this court,” Rune said after the win on Stadium 2. “Everything was tricky and Mackenzie is a tricky player as well, so I had to be there from the beginning. As I found my rhythm, I started feeling better, taking control of the points, which was part of the plan.
“In the second set I just felt like I was playing better and better, so I’m super happy.”
The seventh-seeded Rune is making his third appearance at Indian Wells and his first as a seeded player. This time last year, he lost a three-setter to Matteo Berrettini as the World No. 86. He enters this year’s event at a career-high of No. 8 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, and is already up to No. 7 this week in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
While he enjoyed the benefit of a first-round bye this week, his mentality has not changed.
“Honestly I always put some pressure on myself when I play matches, whether I’m No. 86 or No. 8 in the world, or whatever,” he said. “I played Berrettini last year and even though I was No. 86, I put pressure on myself to win and I was very close. For sure a lot has changed throughout the year and I’m super happy with where I am. But there is a race to improve still.”
Next up for Rune is Stan Wawrinka, who beat 28th seed Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6(8), 6-4 earlier on Saturday. It will be the pair’s second ATP Head2Head meeting, with Rune scoring a comeback win in their first meeting last November in the Paris opening round.
“He’s a great player, has had a great career,” Rune said of his next opponent. “I’m just going to try to focus on myself and do everything I can to beat him.”
Rune used his Paris victory against Wawrinka spark his dream run to the biggest title of his career. He broke into the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time behind that triumph, and could crack the Top 5 by winning his fourth tour-level title in Indian Wells next Sunday.