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Casper Ruud soars into ATP Finals semis, up-ending rival Andrey Rublev in Turin
The Norwegian rallied from a set and a break down to score his first win over Rublev in five attempts and book a semifinal clash with defending champion Daniil Medvedev.
Published Nov 19, 2021
WATCH: Ruud lost nine straight sets to Rublev before rallying in emphatic style on Friday, clinching victory in a final-set tiebreak.
Last but not least, Casper Ruud roared past Andrey Rublev, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5) to reach the semifinals in his Nitto ATP Finals debut, bucking an 0-4 head-to-head against his Russian rival after two hours and 26 minutes on Turin’s Center Court.
"I don’t know really how I did it," Ruud said after the match. "In the end, I can thank my arm that I was able to hit an ace on match point because I was so nervous."
Ruud prevented the guarantee of a Russian finalist by securing a final-four meeting with defending champion Daniil Medvedev, who enjoyed an unbeaten—if often tumultuous—run through his round robin matches.
The winner-take-all round robin match would determine which of Ruud or Rublev would join top seed Novak Djokovic in the final four, a scenario that heavily favored the No. 5-seeded Russian given his eight-set streak against No. 8 Ruud.
Though he won the first set of their rivalry on clay back in 2019 and possesses one of the game’s most explosive forehands, Ruud has often struggled to match Rublev’s raw power off the ground, losing both of their 2021 meetings heading into Friday’s anticipated clash.
Still, the 22-year-old is in the midst of a career-best surge on all surfaces, sweeping to four ATP victories between Roland Garros and the BNP Paribas Open—including a first hard-court title in San Diego—to win five titles in total and reverse his losing record on concrete. After opening with a straight-set defeat to Djokovic, Ruud remained in contention by overcoming alternate and Indian Wells champion Cameron Norrie in three.
By contrast, Rublev, playing his second ATP Finals after qualifying for the first time in 2020, has looked decidedly vulnerable since his clay-swing peak, during which he stunned Rafael Nadal to finish runner-up at the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters, reaching just two finals in the seven months since—though he did partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics in mixed doubles.
The 24-year-old nonetheless looked strong with a decisive opening victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas, and picked up where he left off against Ruud in Monte Carlo. In a seamless opening set, he struck eight winners, four unforced errors and broke Ruud twice to square off the opening set without facing break point on his own serve.
Rublev began the second set in similar fashion—breaking in the third game—only for Ruud to connect with an impeccable forehand, leveling the set at two games apiece.
"I think in the moment I get tight, which is normal," Rublev said after the match. "Casper played well. I didn't make not one first serve. Second, because I was tight, I wasn't serving too well. He returned really aggressive with the forehand couple of times and I couldn't do nothing.
"When I lost my serve, I get a bit down because I was feeling that I'm controlling the match, I'm controlling everything. Now we have to restart again."
The match only got more interesting from there with both men saving break points to pull off tense some service holds. Down 0-30 at 5-5, Ruud serve-and-volleyed his way out of the deficit and reeled off eight of the next nine points to force a shock decider.
A crucial forehand nearly spelled disaster for Ruud as he fell behind an early break, but he landed a big one in the very next game to break straight back and close in on the upset.
Twice two points from defeat, Rublev laid down unreturnable serves as the pair hurtled towards a final-set tiebreak.
Ruud grabbed the momentum in time for the change of ends, overpowering Rublev at net with a backhand pass, and shook off a netcord winner to make it first to match points, converting his second with an ace.