Andrey Rublev won the battle of the Russians at the ATP Finals as he started his campaign with a 6-7(7) 6-3 7-6(7) win over compatriot Daniil Medvedev. It was the first time in seven years that two players from the same country faced off at the season-ending event as both men suffered patches of poor form before the world No 7 finally won in two hours and 30 minutes.
Medvedev and Rublev were facing off for the sixth time with their record heavily in favour of the 2020 champion who had won four of their five meetings, though the world No 7 won their most recent clash in Cincinnati last year. And Rublev appeared to pick up from where he left off in their last meeting as he looked like the better player in the early stages of the match, breaking for a 3-1 lead.
The world No 5 managed to step up his level a few games later and earned a crucial break as his compatriot served for the first set, with Medvedev getting lucky on a couple of net cords before Rublev threw in a double fault. The higher-ranked Russian then saved two set points on his serve before forcing a tiebreak where Rublev blew four more set points as he went from a 6-2 lead to 6-6.
It was Medvedev who eventually stole the set 7-6(7) in 52 minutes after saving seven match points as the world No 7 began venting his frustrations to chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani after being left unhappy with a couple of calls during the tiebreak after losing his huge lead. Despite suffering a mental collapse at the end of the first set it was Rublev who got the early break again in the second set, taking a 2-1 lead while Medvedev started complaining to his player box.
JUST IN: Nadal tipped to win ATP Finals for two reasons despite Fritz upset
This time the 25-year-old managed to hold onto his lead and broke for a second time to take the set 6-3 as the world No 5 hit his seventh double fault of the set to hand Rublev a second break and force a decider. Medvedev continued to struggle as he was forced to save a break point in his first service game of the third and final set, with his unforced error count creeping up above 20.
The 2020 champion then failed to drop a point in his next four service games as he continued to stay hot on Rublev’s heels at 5-5. While serving to stay in the match at 5-6 he then found himself in a three-deuce game as he held on to force a tiebreak in what was the first three-set singles clash of the tournament.
The breaker started with an epic 38-shot rally won by Rublev, with the younger Russian winning another long 33-shot exchange to take a 3-2 lead on serve before firing a forehand winner to earn the first mini-break but once again the 12-time title winner lost his tiebreak lead to find himself at 6-6 after holding three match points at 6-3. Rublev earned his fifth match point thanks to another Medvedev error and finally closed out a 6-7(7) 6-3 7-6(7) win to mark just his third-ever victory at the ATP Finals.
Andy Murray recalls ‘winding up’ Roger Federer at dinner with Borg
Federer joins Swiss celebrations as Bencic storms to BJK Cup glory
Nadal discusses Fritz loss and casts doubt on year-end world No 1