World No.105 Matteo Arnaldi scored the biggest victory of his career by knocking out Norwegian No.3 seed Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-4 to move into the Mutua Madrid Open third round on Friday.
The 22-year-old qualifier, who saved a match point in his first-round triumph over Benoit Paire, entered the contest against Ruud with a 2-10 career win-loss record against top-100 opponents, and was 0-4 against players ranked in the top-50.
That didn’t stop Arnaldi from putting together a calm and collected performance on Estadio Arantxa Sanchez to dispatch the Roland-Garros and US Open finalist in one hour and 33 minutes, hitting 35 winners and 13 unforced errors en route.
“I don’t know what to say really,” said an elated Arnaldi after the match.
“In Barcelona I was playing very good, but when I came here it was different, the ball bounces so high, totally different conditions. I struggled a bit in the first round with Paire, third set against Arthur Fils in the last round of qualies.
“But then maybe the stadium, maybe a bit more pressure on him, I tried to go on court free and today I played the best match of my life for sure.”
Ruud dropped serve in game four but immediately retaliated to get back on level terms.
An 11-minute marathon game saw Arnaldi get a decisive break – on his fourth opportunity – to carve out a 5-3 lead and the Italian faced no trouble closing out the set on the 50-minute mark. He dished out 19 winners in that frame.
Arnaldi opened the second set with a break of serve and ended up winning 17 points in a row before Ruud finally stopped the bleeding and held for 1-2.
Ruud had a chance to break back in the eighth game but Arnaldi charged the net and found a smooth volley to save the break point and he marched on towards victory in commanding fashion.
His next opponent will be home favourite Jaume Munar, whom Arnaldi beat last week in Barcelona to notch the first ATP main draw victory of his career.
The Italian is expected to make his top-100 debut when the new rankings are released after the tournament.