Rublev Fights Into Milan SFs
Facing elimination, top seed Andrey Rublev put together his best match of the Next Gen ATP Finals on Thursday evening to advance to the semi-finals. The Russian edged third-seeded Canadian Denis Shapovalov 4-1, 3-4(8), 4-3(2), 0-4, 4-3(3) in a thrilling contest that was watched in front of packed Fiera Milano crowd.
“It was a really, really tough match,” Rublev said. “I'm really happy that in the end I made it.”
Rublev became the third semi-finalist of the inaugural tournament, and the second from Group A, after group winner Hyeon Chung. Out of Group B, Borna Coric has already qualified and the other representative will be decided when Coric faces Karen Khachanov in the final round-robin match on Thursday evening. Khachanov has to win in three or four sets to advance. If not, his countryman Daniil Medvedev will play on Friday.
Rublev, No. 37 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, hadn't showed his best tennis thus far in Milan. He was forced to play five sets against Italian wild card Gianluigi Quinzi, No. 305 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, and the 20-year-old Rublev had fallen to Group A winner Hyeon Chung in straight sets on Wednesday.
But Rublev impressed against Shapovalov. He seized his lone break point to take the opener, and it was a battle from there, with the #NextGenATP players giving fans a preview of what could be a fascinating rivalry to watch in the years to come.
Rublev was rock solid from the baseline, crushing his forehand and often delivering it to Shapovalov's one-handed backhand. The Canadian, when he had time, tried to be aggressive as always, especially against Rublev's second serve.
Thursday was their first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, but Rublev is looking forward to more encounters. “I hope so. I hope I will be at a good level to fight with all the guys, with Denis, with all the other guys,” Rublev said. “I hope we're going to have a lot of matches in the future.”
Rublev wore a smile as he talked about their future rivalry and the win. But he would rather win his matches in an easier fashion. Asked about playing tie-breaks so often in Milan, he said, “I hate it. It's too much stress, it's too much pressure,” he said.
The pressure will build as he heads into the semi-finals on Friday.