In a crucial Green Group match, Casper Ruud survived Andrey Rublev 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 to qualify for the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin. The 22-year-old bounced back from losing his opening round-robin match against Novak Djokovic by defeating Cameron Norrie to set up a do-or-die clash against Rublev. Ruud impressively handled the pressure by imposing his aggressive game on Rublev. In a tightly-fought contest, he came back from a break down in the second and third sets to secure the hard-fought victory in two hours and 24 minutes.
“The court is playing very fast and Andrey plays very fast,” Ruud said in his on-court interview. “He rips the ball harder than anyone on the Tour and serves very well on his first serve. We all want to play under control and with initiative, but it is 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.”
Thanks to the three-set victory, the World No.8 has finished second in the Green Group behind Djokovic. He will now face another Russian player – Daniil Medvedev – in the semifinals on Saturday. In the other draw, the World No.1 will play Alexander Zverev.
“I am just enjoying the moment,” Ruud said. “I am looking forward to tomorrow already. It is 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. I have played against him a couple of times and lost both, but I know a little bit about what I am going to face and it is going to be a fun challenge.”
Making his debut at the season finale, Ruud fired 34 winners and broke Rublev three times. The memorable 2021 season saw the Norwegian capturing tour-level titles in Geneva, Bastad, Gstaad, Kitzbuhel and San Diego. Ruud also reached the semi-finals at ATP Masters 1000 events in Monte Carlo and Madrid. As a result of his consistent performances, he became the first Norwegian to crack the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
In a fast start, Rublev began brighter of the two and quickly found his rhythm from the baseline. He did not face a break point in the first set, as the Russian sealed the opener in 34 minutes. The second set was a much more closely-fought battle. Ruud started to play far more aggressively.
After breaks were exchanged in the middle of the second set, Ruud raised his game at the end of the set, to take take the match into a third set. The decider was another tightly-fought affair. After Rublev broke, Ruud responded immediately to level at 3-3. With the match heading into a tie-break, Ruud held his calm under pressure to seal the win.
“It is tough,” Rublev said. “Hopefully I can go through it to get a good lesson, which will give me a huge improvement. In the moment I got tight, which is normal. Casper played well. He has a great forehand. One of the best on Tour. He dictates with it and hits the ball well. Because I was tight, I was serving too slowly and he returned aggressively on the forehand and I could not do anything.”