(Rome) 20-year-old Dane Holger Rune scored his second win over Novak Djokovic in just over six months on Wednesday, beating the Serbian 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 to advance to the semi-finals at the ‘Italian Open.

Rune also defeated the 22-time major champion in the Paris Masters final in November.

The 35-year-old Djokovic didn’t look his best early in the game, seeking help from a therapist as he trailed 2-1 in the second set. The nature of the discomfort was unclear, but Djokovic appeared to swallow a pill.

Djokovic recently returned to action after three weeks out with a nagging problem in his right elbow, which required surgery.

Rune is increasingly appearing as a contender for a major title. On clay, he was the big winner in Munich and made it to the final in Monte Carlo.

Rune also called in a therapist in the second round, for treatments on his right leg.

Then the score was 5-4 in favor of the Serb when the rain stopped the game for more than an hour.

In the third set, Rune quickly obtained two breaks to walk towards victory.

“Of all my appearances at this tournament, this year has had the coldest and most rainy weather,” Djokovic said. In these conditions, it is very hard to send the ball out of his reach. He is very very fast. He anticipates the game very well. He has a lot of talent. He is a dynamic player with several strings to his bow. »

The Roman tournament is part of the preparation for Roland-Garros, which kicks off in 11 days.

“I know I can always improve,” Djokovic said. In a Grand Slam where you have to win three sets, I remain confident against anyone, regardless of the surface. »

Djokovic will cede world number one to Carlos Alcaraz. This despite the fact that on Monday the 20-year-old Spaniard was beaten by Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan, 135th in the world.

Djokovic has won the tournament on six occasions, including last year.

Rafael Nadal, record holder with 10 consecrations in Rome, is still on the sidelines with a hip injury. It is not known if he will be able to play at Roland-Garros.

Rune will face in half Casper Ruud or Francisco Cerundolo, who will play later Wednesday. Ruud is the fourth seed.

In a women’s quarterfinal, 20th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko edged Paula Badosa 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

Roland-Garros champion in 2017, Ostapenko had the advantage 7-4 for breakage.

Her next rival will be world number 1 Iga Swiatek or reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.

Swiatek is trying to win the tournament for the third year in a row.