The No. 6 seed squeaked past the 2020 champion, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 7-6 (7), on Monday in Turin.
Last year at the ATP Finals, Andrey Rublev was primed to reach the semifinals after going a set and a break up on Casper Ruud, a player he had never lost to in four meetings. He instead exited Turin in the round-robin stage with a brutal 7-6 (5) loss in the third to the Norwegian.
On Monday, Rublev returned to the Pala Alpitour with a clean slate for his opening Red Group clash against good friend Daniil Medvedev. More gut-punching agony endured with seven missed set points, but this time, Rublev came out on the winning end of a decisive tiebreaker. On his fifth match point that featured a 37-shot rally, Rublev prevailed, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 7-6 (7), in 2 hours and 29 minutes.
All we need.”
Rublev wrote this on the camera lens afterwards, a similar message he conveyed earlier this year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Perhaps through today’s effort, he’ll have greater peace within himself on the court after finding a way through.
Medvedev, the 2020 champion, erased the first pair of set points at 5-6, 15-40, with successive serve +1 attacks. Though Rublev jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the tiebreak, he couldn’t finish the job at hand. Medvedev managed to assert his game on second serves and cross-court backhands, while Rublev’s shot-making tightened up.
At 6-5, Rublev pushed a backhand up the line wide after the bulk of his groundstrokes landed short. On the seventh set point against him, Medvedev stayed aggressive in directing everything to Rublev’s backhand after nailing an out-wide first serve. It paid off. Rublev, who had the misfortune of a deep first serve being called out on the next point (a call chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani would correctly overrule), completed the tiebreak collapse when Medvedev tied him up behind the baseline.
Rublev’s rally tolerance in the third game of set two was rewarded when his opponent overhit a backhand to drop serve. Down 3-5, Medvedev went off the rails at the service line, donating four double faults in a 12-point game that began with him leading 40-15. On his 10th combined set point of the match, Rublev finally broke through when the No. 4 seed’s second serve landed long.
Just one break point between the pair of competitors was created in the third set. On three occasions at 6-5, Rublev was two points away from clinching the match, before Medvedev stood his ground to reach a winner-take-all tiebreaker. Proceedings began positively for Rublev when he outslugged Medvedev in a 38-shot rally. More gritty discipline followed in capping 33 shots with a forehand winner up the line at 2-2. He eventually moved ahead 6-3 to put the match on his racquet, but would have to fight through a dramatic finish to hang on.
Like the opening tiebreak, Medvedev cut the deficit to 5-6 with clutch serving. Rublev could only smile wryly when Medvedev saved the third match point by ending a rally with a rare charge to the net. At 7-7, a cross-court forehand from Rublev had enough behind it to prevent the outstretched Medvedev from extending their exchange further. The contest finished with one final display, ending with an apt forehand winner from Rublev and celebratory fall to the ground.
“Normally after something like that, I don’t think I would win a match,” Rublev reflected in press afterwards. “Being able to turn around a match and win—win not only like second and third set, but win third set on a tiebreak 9-7, being against 6-3 up, this is something that never happen to me.”
Said Medvedev, “Of course, really disappointed to lose. Pretty much happy with the way the match was in general, and looking forward to next matches, to try to win them, get out of the group.”
On Wednesday, Rublev meets the winner between Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas—both former event winners.