Sofia (Bulgaria), Sep 27 (IANS): Denmark's Holger Rune beat Tim van Rijthoven 7-6(2), 7-6(6) in a hard-hitting first-round clash of the Sofia Open, here on Tuesday.
There was little to separate Rune and Van Rijthoven. However, Run's ability to raise his level in a pair of tie-breaks ultimately proved decisive, ensuring his maiden appearance at the ATP 250 indoor hard-court event was a successful one.
"It feels very good. I had just a couple of days of practice here, but I'm really enjoying my time. It's a tough first round, you never know who can play amazing [and he's had] some great results, so I'm super happy to get through," said Rune, who reached his career-high of No 26 in the ATP Rankings in August.
Despite firing only 18 winners to Van Rijthoven's 27, Rune showed his mettle under pressure at key moments in the pair's maiden ATP meeting, most significantly when he saved a set point at 5/6 in the second-set tie-break.
"I didn't want to go to three sets," said Rune, who will meet Metz champion Lorenzo Sonego or Bernabe Zapata Miralles in the next round.
"I had the break and led 5/2 in the (second-set) tie-break. If it (had happened), I was going to fight for sure and try to take it in three, but I'm very happy to finish in two," he added.
The 19-year-old Rune enjoyed a stellar first half of 2022, lifting his first ATP Tour title in Munich and reaching his maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal at Roland Garros.
Despite struggling to back up those results across the grass and North American hard-court seasons, the Dane is currently fourth in the ATP Live Race To Milan as he seeks to qualify for November's Next Gen ATP Finals for the second straight year.
Eighth-seed Oscar Otte joined Rune in the second round in Sofia after he cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 win against Swedish qualifier Dragos Nicolae Madaras. The German converted four from 10 breakpoint chances he had in a 60-minute win to set a second-round meeting with Kamil Majchrzak.