INTERVIEW: Rublev reacts to semifinal performance in Halle

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When Andrey Rublev lifted his first ATP trophy as a teenager in 2017, the milestone came on clay. His breakout season in 2020 included four hard-court trophies, two outdoors and two indoors. Earlier this year, Rublev increased his win streak at ATP 500-level events to 23 when he triumphed in Rotterdam and advanced to the semifinals in Dubai.

Now, back on the 500 stage this week, Rublev is a win away from adding grass-court champion to his growing list of accomplishments. On Saturday, the world No. 7 fended off Nikoloz Basilasvili, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, to reach his first final on the surface at the Noventi Open in Halle.

“It’s really good for me. I did finals on all the surfaces,” Rublev said afterwards. “It looks like I can play on grass as well, so we’ll see what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

Basilashvili was seeking his 20th main-draw win of the season.

Basilashvili was seeking his 20th main-draw win of the season.

Entering the match, Rublev had been nearly untouchable on serve all week, holding in 30 of 31 service games. That trend continued early against Basilashvili, despite making just 52 percent of his first serves in the opening set. At 1-5, Basilashvili took an injury timeout to receive treatment on his right leg, before the Russian finalized his one-set lead.

The 30th-ranked Basilashvili, who had to come through qualifying as a result of not entering the tournament by the deadline, dialed up the pressure in the second set, and Rublev felt it. The fourth seed’s frustration intensified with outbursts, and when he dropped serve at 2-3, Rublev slammed his racquet into the ground. Basilashvili finished with 12 winners to just two unforced errors in leveling the contest.

“I had good chances. I had quite easy forehands and I didn’t make it,” said Rublev. “I stressed a bit and I showed emotions. Then, I managed to come back and be more calm.”

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Rublev is through to his third title match of 2021.

Rublev is through to his third title match of 2021.

Resetting in their decider, Rublev confidently returning to holding without much resistance and waited for his window of opportunity. With Basilashvili stepping to the line at 2-3, 40-15, Rublev worked his way back into the game, and a deep backhand return handcuffed the Georgian to secure the break advantage. Though Basilashvili recovered from 0-40 down in the eighth game to force his opponent to serve it out, his tournament came to an end after one hour and 51 minutes.

Rublev finished with 24 winners and 15 unforced errors to notch his third consecutive win in the pair’s head-to-head series. The 23-year-old awaits Ugo Humbert in Sunday’s final. The Frenchman avenged last week's Stuttgart quarterfinal defeat to Felix Auger-Aliassime by battling past the 20-year-old, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (5). Like Rublev, Humbert booked his maiden trip a championship match on grass and has welcomed the change in playing environments after a rough 1-6 stretch on clay.