It is a big week for Holger Rune, who is trying to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time.
Instead of wilting under the pressure against former World No. 3 Dominic Thiem on Wednesday evening, the defending champion rose to the occasion with a 6-4, 6-2 victory to reach the third round of the Rolex Paris Masters.
The 20-year-old is eighth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, the last qualifying spot for the season finale, which begins on 12 November. He is doing everything in his power to hold onto his position, with ninth-placed Hubert Hurkacz 215 points behind.
It has not been the easiest second half of the year for Rune, who has won just four matches since Wimbledon. But with former World No. 1 Boris Becker now his coach, the Dane found form last week in Basel, where he advanced to the semi-finals. And now he is back at the location of his maiden ATP Masters 1000 triumph.
Rune faced an opponent in Thiem who won two qualifying matches and then saved a match point en route to defeating fellow former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in the first round of the main draw. That late-evening encounter ended at 2:22 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The hours on court showed in the game of Thiem, who hit an uncharacteristic number of errors, allowing Rune to escape tight moments in the match. The Austrian battled throughout at Accor Arena, but was unable to overcome letting slip all five break points he earned.
Rune will next play German Daniel Altmaier, who advanced to the third round via walkover when Taylor Fritz withdrew due to injury. It will be the pair's first Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting, but Rune defeated Altmaier in a final-set tie-break two years ago at an ATP Challenger Tour event played on clay in Italy.