The first semifinal at the 2024 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships between Alexander Bublik and Andrey Rublev came to a shocking conclusion on Friday when Rublev was defaulted for unsportsmanlike conduct, trailing, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 5-6.

Bublik, the No. 7 seed who himself had smashed a racquet following a disagreement with umpire Miri Bley, had nonetheless rallied from 4-2 and break points down in the final set and held for 6-5. Upon holding serve after a protracted rally, the No. 2-seeded Rublev screamed in the face of a linesman at the change of ends—seemingly upset that a Bublik shot on the baseline had not been called out.

A Russian-speaking official alerted Bley and tournament supervisor Roland Herfel that Rublev had yelled an obscenity in Russian at the linesman. Herfel and the official then confronted Rublev, who not only denied the accusation but also insisted he hadn’t been speaking Russian when the incident occurred. At least one viewer, who also speaks Russian, has disputed Rublev's assertion on social media.


Rublev was immediately defaulted, and a stunned Bublik, who is also a Russian-speaker playing for Kazakhstan, was denied his request that the match continue despite having earned the victory.

The Dubai crowd was similarly aghast, booing the result as a dejected Rublev left Center Court.

Champion in Dubai back in 2022, Rublev was looking to reach a third straight final at this tournament after finishing runner up to Medvedev last February. After receiving a walkover into the semis, the 10-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist appeared poised to return to the championship match when he twice rallied from break deficits in the first two sets, winning the first in a tiebreaker and leading 5-3 in the second Sudden Death.

Bublik turned things around from there, winning the final four points of the second-set 'breaker and recovered from 2-4 down in the decider, saving three break points that would have let Rublev serve for the match.

Both Rublev and Bublik appeared keen to review the footage after the match, equally frustrated they could not continue playing.

"It's our passion,"Bublik said after the match. "We play for this. We live for this. We grew up dreaming to be playing these stadiums. Then some guy who is working for three years as a line judge, staying there deciding something. He could be late. Late calls happens all the time, especially on clay court.

"Then you come up to the situation like this. Is it fault of Andrey? Maybe. Is it fault of the umpire? Maybe. If we take the umpire out, we cannot take off Andrey. That is the thing. We cannot take off players. Players will be there. It's tennis because of the players, because we are playing this sport, not the opposite way around."

Bublik will now face the winner of the second semifinal, Ugo Humbert, who ended Daniil Medvedev's title defense in straight sets.