Dubai tennis: It's Vesely vs Rublev after two epic semifinal battles

While Rublev beat Hurkacz 3-6 7-5 7-6 (7/5) in the first semifinal, Vesely won 6-7 (9/7) 7-6 (7/2) 7-6 (7/3) against Shapovalov



Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely celebrates after defeating Canada's Denis Shapovalov. (AFP)
Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely celebrates after defeating Canada's Denis Shapovalov. (AFP)
by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sat 26 Feb 2022, 12:46 AM

Last updated: Sat 26 Feb 2022, 1:04 AM

For the third straight match, Andrey Rublev showed the indomitable spirit of a gladiator. Having twice come back from a set down in the second round and the quarterfinal, the young Russian staged another stirring fightback to reach the final of the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Rublev overcame the big-hitting Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 3-6 7-5 7-6 (7/5) in the two-hours and 23 minutes in the first semifinal on Friday.

Moments after letting out a roar to celebrate winning an engrossing battle on the tennis court, the 24-year-old Rublev tugged at the heartstrings.

“No War Please,” Rublev wrote on the TV camera, appealing for peace less than 48 hours after his country had invaded Ukraine.

Rublev’s message may eventually fall on deaf ears, but he made a telling statement on the court.

With his relentless aggression and never-say-die spirit, Rublev proved that he has the talent and the temperament to join Daniil Medvedev, his compatriot and childhood friend, as the torchbearers for the next generation in tennis.

On Saturday, Rublev will aim for his second straight ATP 500 series title when he takes on Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely in the final in Dubai.

Andrey Rublev celebrates a point against Hubert Hurkacz during their semifinal. (AFP)
Andrey Rublev celebrates a point against Hubert Hurkacz during their semifinal. (AFP)

The fifth seeded Hurkacz was on the top of his game in the first set, but Rublev found his range in the second, breaking the Pole in the 12th game to take the match into the third set.

With both players fighting fire with fire in the third set, Rublev earned an upper hand in the fourth game.

But Hurkacz rose to the challenge, saving four break points as both players tightened their serve in the ensuing games.

It was in the thrilling tie-break that Rublev’s superior all-court game made the difference as the Russian clinched the match on his second match point, ending the two-hour-23-minute battle with a big roar.

This will be the second straight final appearance for Rublev, who entered the Dubai tournament on the back of a title-winning campaign at the Open 13 championship in Marseille, France, last week.

Rublev admitted that he was tired after winning his eighth straight match in two weeks.

“I am just very tired now. But somehow I just told myself to keep fighting and I just ended up winning my third straight three-set match,” said Rublev, who reached the semifinals in Dubai last year.

“Today there were moments when it felt I had no chance. And somehow I still managed to win. It’s incredible.”

Heart-stopping action

If the first semifinal was a nail-biting affair, the second was a three-hour slugfest of heart-stopping action and nerve-racking drama.

A feisty battle of two big-hitting left-handers, it was a match that saw all three sets going into tie-breaks.

The gloves were off as Shapovalov, the 22-year-old Canadian, traded blows with giant-killer Vesely.

In the end, it was Vesely, who had stunned Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinal, that won the lung-busting battle 6-7 (9/7) 7-6 (7/2) 7-6 (7/3) in three hours and 12 minutes.

After becoming only the second qualifier to reach the Dubai final, Vesely, 28, echoed the sentiments of Rublev, his opponent in Saturday’s final, by writing ‘No War’ on the TV camera as the Dubai Centre Court roared its approval.

“I think I am having a dream run here. I will just try my best to really enjoy (the final) as much as possible,” said Vesely.

“It was my first ATP 500 semifinal. And the only way to get through this was to fight until the last point. I am just so happy now.”

On Saturday after the final shot flies off a tennis racquet in what is likely to be another riveting battle, you can expect a long embrace from Rublev and Vesely in the net.

And there cannot be a more beautiful end to the 30th edition of this wonderful tournament in Dubai.

Results

Singles semifinals

(2) Andrey Rublev (RUS) beat (5) Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 3-6 7-5 7-6 (7/5)

(Q) Jiri Vesely (CZE) beat Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 6-7 (9/7) 7-6 (7/2) 7-6 (7/3)

Doubles semifinals

(1) Nikola Mektic (CRO) / Mate Pavic (CRO) beat (3) John Peers (AUS) / Filip Polasek (SVK) 6-4 7-5

(4) Tim Puetz (GER) / Michael Venus (NZL) beat Austin Krajicek (USA) / Édouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) 5-7 6-3 10-7

Order of play

Doubles final

4:30pm

(1) Nikola Mektic (CRO) / Mate Pavic (CRO) vs (4) Tim Puetz (GER) / Michael Venus (NZL)

Singles final

7pm

(2) Andrey Rublev (RUS) vs (Q) Jiri Vesely (CZE)


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