Rublev Ousts Shapovalov, Reaches Fourth ATP Final Of Year

WASHINGTON, October 17, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 10 Andrey Rublev has shown a level of consistency that’s been nothing short of amazing. Before the coronavirus shutdown the ATP Tour for five months, the 22-year-old Russian won 15 matches. Since the tour’s restart, he’s strung together 18 additional victories.

On Saturday, in the semifinals of the St. Petersburg Open, the steadier Rublev reached his second straight ATP 500 series final and fourth title match overall this year, prevailing with a solid 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over World No. 12 Denis Shapovalov in two hours and nine minutes. He will meet No. 7 seed Borna Coric in Sunday afternoon’s final after the Croatian stopped No. 6 seed Milos Raonic of Canada, 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, to reach his first ATP final of the year and seventh in his career.

The first semifinal match of this ATP 500 event featured two of the ATP’s young stars in Rublev and the 21-year-old Shapovalov, who were meeting for the fourth time. With both in contention for one of the last two remaining places in the year-end Nitto ATP Finals, there was plenty at stake during this Center Court slugfest inside Sibur Arena. After it was over, Rublev added 120 FedEx ATP Rankings points to his ledger in the Battle for London and moved into eighth place with 3,229 points, ahead of Diego Schwartzman. Shapovalov remains in 12th place with 2,830 points. He’s 350 points behind ninth-place Schwartzman.

“The match was unreal, in my opinion,” Rublev said. “The level was high from both sides. Both of us deserved to win. Shapovalov was leading and he had break point in the second set. So, everything could [have] been in two sets for him. … One or two points decided the match and today it was for me.”

On serve at 3-all in the opening set, the No. 2 seed Shapovalov broke through in the seventh game against No. 3 seed Rublev and consolidated the break for a 5-3 lead. A game later, Shapovalov closed out the 44-minute set, 6-4, with a service winner. Both players looked sharp – not to mention they were wearing identical neon-colored Nike Challenge Court kits.

Rublev leveled the match after breaking Shapovalov in the fourth game of the second set – thanks to four straight double faults by the Canadian leftie. His sixth ace closed out the 39-minute set, 6-3, and it was on to the decider.

In the final set, at 2-all, Rublev broke Shapovalov and consolidated the break for a 4-2 lead. Then, he served out the set, 6-4, for his 33rd win of the season. It was the second time this year that the Moscow native has come back to win a match after losing the first set.

“I started well, but then my opponent managed to raise his game,” Shapovalov said. “It happens sometimes. … If you give him a chance, as I gave today, he will take advantage of it. … I think it was a great match and we both played great.”

Rublev finished with eight service aces, won 79 percent (46 of 58) of his first-serve points, saved five of six break points and outpointed Shapovalov 95-87. Shapovalov was broken twice – once in each of the second and third sets – and it proved the difference between winning and losing. So did the eight double faults committed by Shapovalov.

Since the beginning of last month’s Hamburg Open, Rublev has won 13 of his last 14 matches with his only loss coming against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals of the French Open.

Coric rallies to beat Raonic

In the second semifinal, Coric came from a set down and saved three break points in the final set to beat Raonic in one hour and 56 minutes. The victory advanced him to his second straight St. Petersburg Open final.

Raonic, the 2015 St. Petersburg Open champion, won their only previous meeting three years ago in Delray Beach, Fla. However, Coric did what no others had been able to do – namely, break Raonic’s service. After holding serve in 33 consecutive service games this week, Raonic was finally broken – twice in the second set and once more in the third by Coric.

The first two sets were blowouts. Raonic dominated the first set 6-1 and Coric responded by doing the same in the second. So, it came down to a winner-take-all one set match. Coric broke Raonic to go ahead 3-2 and consolidated the break for a 4-2 advantage. Throughout, Coric weathered Raonic’s storm of service aces – the Canadian finished with 18 – and managed damage control quite well. After being broken twice in the first set, Coric never lost his serve the rest of the match.

Coric finished with four service aces and won 76 percent (37 of 49) of his first-serve points and backed it by winning 52 percent (14 of 27) of his second serves. He saved six of the eight break points he faced from Raonic. Coric outpointed his opponent 74-68.

Around the St. Petersburg Open

• Saturday’s doubles semifinal matched a pair of unseeded teams, Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan and Reilly Opelka of the United States against Marcelo Demoliner of Brazil and Matwe Midddelkoop of the Netherlands. Demoliner and Middelkoop railed for a 6-4, 3-6, 10-6 win to advance to Sunday’s final against No. 2 seeds Jurgen Melzer of Austria and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France.

• Prior to Sunday afternoon’s singles final, there will be a Russia-Croatia exhibition doubles match pitting former World No. 1 Dinara Safina and the captain of Zenith FC Artem Dzyuba, representing Russia, against 1997 French Open champion Iva Majoli and Zenith FC defender Dean Lovren, representing Croatia.