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World No. 81 Moutet upsets Wawrinka to reach first ATP final, in Doha

World No. 81 Moutet upsets Wawrinka to reach first ATP final, in Doha

The 20-year-old Frenchman won two three-set matches on Friday, and will face Andrey Rublev for the title.

DOHA—On Friday, qualifier Corentin Moutet stunned top seed Stan Wawrinka to reach his fist ever ATP Final. He’ll play Andrey Rublev for a shot at the title on Saturday.

"I am coming from qualies, I was thinking match after match and, finally, tomorrow it's the finals," Moutet said. "I didn't think about it. I mean the final, it's a really great thing." 

Both Moutet and Rublev had to get through very busy Fridays after rain postponed the quarterfinals on Thursday. Rublev took out Pierre Hugues-Herbert, 6-4, 6-3, and a red-hot Miomir Kecmanovic, 6-3, 6-1. Moutet would put in a lot more miles. The 20-year-old Frenchman first battled past home favorite Fernando Verdasco, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 and then needed another three sets to get past Wawrinka, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Of the six Frenchmen entered in the main draw, Moutet was the second-lowest ranked at No. 81 and is somehow the last one standing.

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It feels like Moutet has come out of nowhere, but his talent has been on the cusp of blossoming for a few years, and he was nominated for ATP newcomer of the year in 2019. A former Top-10 junior, Moutet made his main draw ATP debut as a reciprocal wild card at the 2018 Australian Open. Later that year, he won his first Grand Slam match at Roland Garros over Ivo Karlovic.

In 2019, he scored notable wins over Grigor Dimitrov, Guido Pella, Reilly Opelka and Dusan Lajovic. He was the youngest player to reach the third round of the French Open and followed it up by winning his fourth ATP Challenger, in Lyon. He ended the year with a tight loss to Novak Djokovic in Bercy. 

"I played against some great guys, so I learned a little bit what is the best level on tour. What it is play Grand Slams, to win my first five-set [match], " Moutet said. "I learned a lot especially in Paris for the last tournament against the [then] No. 1 Djokovic." 

This week, he took out world No. 32 Milos Raonic and veteran Fernando Verdasco. His win over world No. 15 Wawrinka marks his career-best victory.

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While Moutet’s English is a work in progress, his qualities have been nearly flawless this week. He has a talent for craftsmanship, as he mixes in slices, drop-shot volleys and deft topspin lobs.

"I was doing more drop shots before, like so much, like three per game all the time," Moutet said. "I had to find some other way to win matches. I am trying to do less and less, but sometimes it's just me."

He’s quick to pump himself up with a roar and a fist pump, and attacks each point with a dogged persistence to get one more ball back—with something on it. 

"I put all my heart on the court and I'm trying to fight every point until the last one," he said. 

On top of his shot-making abilities and court coverage, he’s left-handed, which is an instant advantage. 

“He feels the game really well,” Wawrinka said. “He has a good touch. He's mixing a lot. I think he's moving really fast. He anticipate well. Today he won because he was more aggressive.”

Unfazed by the occasion, Moutet would capitalize on his first match point with a down-the-line forehand winner.

"I was trying to [not] think too much and just focus on the tactics like to put my first serve in the court and be aggressive," Moutet said. "To [not] be in defense at the beginning of the point, that was my only thing in mind."