Rublev Keeps Fighting, Keeps Winning, Now It’s On To Turin Semifinals

Andrey Rublev (photo: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour)

TURIN/WASHINGTON, November 19, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Andrey Rublev didn’t give up against familiar foe Stefanos Tsitsipas in their winner-takes-all match at the Nitto ATP Finals to determine the second-place finisher in the Red Group Friday night in Turin, Italy.

With a semifinal berth looming, it’s worth noting this rivalry that dates back to their junior days in 2014, continued on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2017 and began on the ATP Tour with a fifth-set tie-break at the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals. So, it should come as no surprise that things got a little heated at times.

“I kept fighting and playing,” Rublev would admit after the sixth-seeded Russian from Moscow clinched a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 comeback victory over the No. 2 seed Tsitsipas from Greece behind 10 aces and 36 winners. He converted three of five break points and outpointed his opponent 80-75 during the one-hour, 42-minute victory that was high on quality as well as filled with emotional moments.

Indeed, after getting pounded in the early going, Rublev settled down and found his form. Things started to improve with a chance to reach the biggest semifinal of his career riding on the outcome of the match.

“I lost my emotions a bit when I lost a stupid game at 40-0 in the first set,” Rublev recalled. “I let my emotions go. But then, I just kept fighting and playing and you will have chances. I thought I would have chances if I just gave my best. I managed to turn the match around and I am happy to be in the semis.”

With Rublev’s victory at the Pala Alpitour, his 51st of the 2022 season, it leveled his career head-to-head against Tsitsipas at 7-all. It was especially gratifying for Rublev, a champion this year at Marseille, Dubai, Belgrade and Gijón, because he had lost two prior meetings with Tsitsipas earlier this season.

Afterward, during his press conference, Tsitsipas showed his disappointment. “It’s a shame,” he said. “I felt like the better player. I felt like I could do more with the ball today. I felt like I could just be much more creative. I don’t even have to say that. I think it’s quite obvious.

“But, yeah, [Andrey] prevailed with the few tools he has. He was able to really take advantage of them and win today.”

Later, when Rublev was asked in his press conference to respond to what Tsitsipas said about him, he replied: “I don’t know if I’m short on tools or not. Honestly, I don’t think he has any better shots than me.”

One thing there’s no denying is this: the 25-year-old Rublev has extended his season for at least one more match. After not making it out of the group stage in his two previous Nitto ATP Finals, Rublev will play World No. 4 and third-seeded Casper Ruud of Norway in the second semifinal match Saturday. (No. 7 seed Novak Djokovic and No. 8 seed Taylor Fritz will play in the first semifinal.)

“I am really looking forward [to the match] because Casper is such a nice person on and off the court,” Rublev said. “He is a great player, great fighter. He has achieved so many good things this season, so it is going to be a really good challenge for me. I hope I will do my best and I will see what happens.”

Mektic and Pavic remain perfect, win Green Group doubles

Croatia’s Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic already knew they had secured a doubles semifinal berth when they played their final round-robin match Friday at the Nitto ATP Finals.

However, by winning the Green Group with a perfect 3-0 mark, following their 90-minute 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4) victory over Australians Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, it assured that top seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Great Britain, who finished 2-1, would also advance to the last four.

Seeded fourth, Mektic and Pavic overcame 17 aces by Krygios and Kokkinakis (1-2) to gain their 50th tour-level victory of the season. On Saturday evening, they will face No. 6 seeds Lloyd Glasspool of Great Britain and Harri Heliovaara of Finland for a berth in Sunday’s title match. In the afternoon, Koolhof and Skupski will oppose No. 2 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain.

Meanwhile, the Croatian duo are chasing after their sixth ATP Tour title this season following earlier triumphs in Rome, Geneva, Queen’s Club in London, Eastbourne and Astana.

Eleven stars who retired this year honored by ATP Tour in Turin

The ATP Tour took the opportunity during Friday’s evening session at the Pala Alpitour to recognize 11 players who retired earlier this season with a special ceremony.

The players included former Top 10 French stars Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon as well as former Top 10 Spanish player Tommy Robredo and eight-time tour champ Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany. Also honored were: Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine, Robert Lindstedt of Sweden, Horia Tecau of Romania, Bruno Soares of Brazil, David Marrero of Spain, Frederick Nielsen of Denmark and Ken Skupski of Great Britain.

Friday’s Nitto ATP Finals results

Saturday’s Nitto ATP Finals order of play

By the numbers

After beating third-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas Friday night, Andrey Rublev has now won seven of his last nine matches against Top 3 players. Among the Top 3 players he has beaten the last few years include: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

“Quotable …”

“My first thought was I don’t want to have to do anything with tennis this year, but I said it is a great honor to be here with the best players in our sport and also to be in such a big stadium and with this special atmosphere, to be part of the celebration. Also, to say thank you and goodbye, I think it’s just a great honor and I’m very happy that I am here today.”

Philipp Kohlschreiber, quoted by the ATP Tour website, on being part of a group of 11 former players who were honored in an on-court ceremony at the Nitto ATP Final Friday evening.