Rublev wins Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi

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Andrey Rublev of Russia poses with the trophy. (AFP)
Andrey Rublev of Russia poses with the trophy. (AFP)

Rublev initially struggled with his groundstrokes, but the Russian soon found his rhythm in the final against Andy Murray


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Sat 18 Dec 2021, 11:56 PM

World number five Andrey Rublev defeated two-time winner Andy Murray 6-4, 7-6 in the final of the 13th Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Saturday.

Chasing his maiden title, the 24-year-old Russian aced the encounter with terrific energy and baseline play against a much-experienced competitor at the International Tennis Centre in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City.

Rublev and Murray were presented with the new ‘pearling season’ – the new trophies that pays tribute to the UAE’s pearl-diving heritage.

In a competitive encounter, Murray, playing his third game in as many days, showed intent and served an ace to score the first point of the evening.

Rublev initially struggled with his groundstrokes, but the Russian soon found his rhythm. Unlike at the start, he was able to clear the net with his groundstrokes and score points. The youngster bagged the first set 6-4 in under 45 minutes.

Rublev carried the momentum into the second set and took an early lead. After an hour, he led 3-2 but against an improving Murray, who refused to go down without a fight.

Murray smashed sensational backhand shots and converted from the net to make it 4-all. It was an even set, with Rublev firing on all cylinders. Murray served with great intensity and scored from cross-court shots to make it 6-6.

In the tie-breaker, Rublev, 10 years younger than Murray, was able to win long rallies and took a 5-1 lead and eventually the championship.

Rublev was delighted to win the championship on his third appearance.

“First time I played here was in 2017. Then my body was still not ready to be at the top level. With time, your body keeps growing, you are becoming stronger, much more physically better. After 3-4 years, my body changed a lot, I have become stronger and my game has improved on the tennis court,” he said.

When told that top players like Rafael Nadal and Murray talk about him in high regard and aim to defeat him, Rublev played down his better rankings and saw the lighter side.

“No. They know what the real situation is. They are the top players. They are not playing for some time and their rankings have dropped but they still are the top ones,” he said.

Rublev pointed out that top players taking the young guns seriously was always encouraging.

“They are taking players like me and other ones seriously because we are improving and getting better and better. But they know who is the leader, who is the father,” Rublev added.

Former World No. 1 Murray, who is striving to be fit for the major tournaments, said he had a good week on the court.

“I played three matches against those with completely different styles. I learnt quite a lot across the three matches. There are some things that have improved as the week went on and there are few things that didn’t work out. But overall, it was good,” Murray said.

Murray, currently ranked No. 134, said he is training well and knows the amount of dedication and work needed to get back to the top.

“The game has changed a little bit in the last few years. But you survive. I can improve for sure. At the end of the day, I am not expecting it to be as it was in 2016. But I know what it takes in terms of dedication and work to get there,” Murray added.

In the third-place play-off, Denis Shapovalov defeated Spanish legend Rafael Nadal 6-7, 6-3, 10-6 as the curtain fell on yet another international sports event in Abu Dhabi.

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