Rome, Nov 19 (EFE).- Norway’s Casper Ruud was the comeback kid once again at the ATP Finals, rallying from a poor start to defeat hard-hitting Russian Andrey Rublev 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) on Friday and secure the tournament’s final semifinal berth.
The eighth-ranked Ruud, who has joined tennis’ elite after starting the year No. 27, showed his mental strength in coming back from a service break down in both the second and third sets at the Pala Alpitour in Turin, Italy.
Two big keys for the 22-year-old were an improved service game over the final two sets and the ability to capitalize on Rublev’s weak second serve on key points.
Ruud appeared headed for elimination when he lost three of his first five service games to fall down 2-6, 1-2, particularly considering that the Russian had only lost four matches in 2021 after winning the first set.
But the Norwegian then proceeded to get the service break back and win four straight service games to take a 6-5 lead in the second set and put the pressure on his fifth-ranked opponent.
Needing a service hold in the 12th game to force a tiebreaker and put himself on the verge of the semifinals, Rublev instead opened with a double fault and lost the second set four points later on a backhand error.
Ruud then continued to show his resilience by rallying from a service-break deficit midway through the third set and sending the contest to a do-or-die tiebreaker.
Although a lucky net cord got Rublev back on serve in that decider, Ruud went on the attack against a weak second serve to secure another mini-break lead and then clinched the victory with one final big serve out wide in the ad court.
“The court is playing very fast and Andrey plays very fast. He rips the ball harder than anyone on the (ATP) Tour and serves very well on his first serve,” Ruud said in his on-court interview. “We all want to play under control and with initiative, but it’s not easy against Rublev because he makes you run all the time and play defensively all the time. I knew I had to fight fire with fire. On the big points I think I played quite smartly.”
With the win, Ruud finished second in the Green Group behind Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who routed Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-2, 6-1 Friday in his final round-robin match to remain undefeated in Turin.
Earlier this week, Ruud shook off a first-set drubbing to defeat Norrie 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 and notch his first round-robin victory.
Next up for Ruud in Saturday’s semifinals will be Russian world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, who like Djokovic won all three of his group-stage contests.
“It’s going to be another tough battle, Different kind of player from today, but one of the best in the world and he has proven himself as one of the best over the past two or three years,” the Norwegian said of the reigning US Open champion, 2021 Australian Open finalist and 2019 US Open runner-up.
“I’ve played against him a couple of times and lost both, but I know a little bit about what I’m going to face and it’s going to be a fun challenge.”
The other semifinal will be a blockbuster contest pitting Djokovic against world No. 3 Alexander Zverev.
The Serbian great won both of their Grand Slam contests this year – at the Australian Open and the US Open – but lost to the German star in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics. EFE