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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, November 19, 2021

Casper Ruud

Casper Ruud ripped his 14th ace sealing a spirited 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) upset of Andrey Rublev to set up a Turin semifinal vs. defending-champion Daniil Medvedev.

Photo credit: Julian Finney/Getty

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A driven Casper Ruud continues to turn Turin into a comeback capital.

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Ruud ripped his 14th ace sealing a spirited 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) upset of Andrey Rublev to secure his spot in tomorrow’s semifinals of the ATP Finals.

The first Norwegian man to contest the season-ending event edged Rublev for the first time in five meetings to set up a semifinal showdown vs. defending champion Daniil Medvedev.

The second-ranked Russian has won both prior meetings vs. Ruud. The pair will face off in the day semifinal followed by world No. 1 Novak Djokovic meeting third-ranked Alexander Zverev in the Saturday night semifinal.

“Of course it makes your self-belief and confidence grow matches like this and weeks like this to be among the best players in the world and to be able to beat some of them is a great feeling,” Ruud told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj afterward. “The three other guys in the semis are number 1, 2 and 3 in the world so I think you can face no greater challenge, but I will enjoy it.

“I know Daniil quite well, we have a good relationship, we played a couple of times and he’s beaten me twice.So if I want to have any chance to also turn that head to head around I have to play my best ever I think.”

Down a set and a break to Rublev today, Ruud refused to roll over after dropping his ninth straight set to the Russian.

Instead, the eighth seed amped up his aggression, served with more ambition and took nearly very opportunity to pound Rublev’s second serve with his rocket forehand. Rublev won just 13 second-serve points in the match, including only three in the final set.

Confronting pressure with calm clarity, Ruud raised his 2021 record to 55-16, including a 14-3 mark in decisive sets.

“It looked quite bad for a set and a half,” Ruud told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj afterward. “I lost the first set too easy and I was down a break. Here on the indoor court the points go by fast—it’s not easy to play rallies for the points and build the points maybe the way I like to play. That’s what I have to accept.”

It was Ruud’s second straight rally from a blow-out first set following his 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 comeback conquest of British alternate Cameron Norrie on Wednesday.

Outclassed in the opening set today, Ruud played his most dynamic tennis when it mattered most. Ruud cracked three of his 14 aces in the tiebreaker and hit winners on five of his seven points in the breaker.

“I think he was for sure the better player for a set and half; like the first round it was a tough match again,” Ruud said. “The most crucial points we all tend to tighten up a little and on the big points I was fortunate to play some of my better tennis.”

At the outset, trading forehands with the explosive Rublev proved perilous to the eighth seed.

The Olympic mixed doubles gold-medal champion sped through a 77-second hold backing up the break in the fourth game.

Cracking his drives with precision, Rublev backed Ruud in his backhand corner and coaxed a floating error scoring his second straight break for 4-1.

Powering through his service games, Rublev rolled through his fifth consecutive game going up 5-1 after 24 minutes.

The Norwegian wasn’t gaining too much traction on first or second serve. Still, Ruud showed resolve repelling two set points in a six-minute hold—his first since the opening game of the match.

A sharp Rublev served out the 34-minute opening set on his third set point. Rublev won 12 of 13 first-serve points in the set.

The 22-year-old Ruud rallied from a 1-6 deficit to defeat alternate Cameron Norrie in his last round-robin match. But with an oppressive Rublev on a nine-set winning streak vs. the Norwegian, Ruud needed to act fast. A botched low volley, double fault and errant drive donated the break and a 2-1 lead to the Russian.

Tennis Express

Forty-nine minutes into the match, Ruud earned his first break point when Rublev skimmed a shot off the net that landed long. Ruud began to wrench momentum by punishing the Russian’s second serve. A deep return handcuffed Rublev, who responded to dropping serve by slamming his Head racquet to the court to punctuate the fourth game.

"I think in the moment I get tight, which is normal," Rublev said. "Casper played well. I didn't make not one first serve. Second, because I was tight, I wasn't serving too well. He returned really aggressive with the forehand couple of times and I couldn't do nothing.

"When I lost my serve, I get a bit down because I was feeling that I'm controlling the match, I'm controlling everything. Now we have to restart again. Anyway, I mean, I dropped mentally a bit for two games, but then I start to play good again."

Rublev saved a break point holding for 3-all then deadened a full stretch drop volley to open the important seventh game. Ruud erased a pair of break points and touched the sideline with a serve holding for 4-3.

Deadlocked at 5-all, Ruud missed a forehand down the line falling into a 0-30 hole. Ruud, who won just 55 percent of first-serve points in the opening set, escaped the pressure pounding down some first serves and holding for 6-5 with his first serve-and-volley of the match.

A delicate drop volley from Ruud followed by a wild Rublev error gave the eighth seed triple set point. Attacking a 74 mph second serve, Ruud drew the netted error snatching the second set. It was the first set Ruud took from Rublev since the opening set of their first clash at the 2019 Hamburg.

One set would decide the semifinalist.

Rublev cleaned up his act considerably in the decider—and got help from his opponent to score the first break. Ruud put a backhand into net for break point and Rublev rapped a forehand down the line drawing an errant answer to break for 3-2 after one hour, 44 minutes of play.

The Russian connected on 11 consecutive first serves in the final set but Ruud made him pay winning a second-serve point for break point. Dancing around his backhand, Ruud ripped a diagonal return winner off a timid 71 mph second serve breaking back in the sixth game.

A forehand pass put Ruud two points from the semifinals on Rublev’s serve in the 10th game, but the red-haired Russian showed guts crunching a couple of forehands to level.

Tightening up, Ruud coughed up his fourth double fault to face break point. He drilled a diagonal forehand to save it and swept a forehand swing volley down the line holding for 6-5.

The tiebreaker offered superb shotmaking and high drama. Ruud hammered his 12th ace then lashed a low pass down the line to handcuff Rublev for the mini break and a 4-2 lead. Ruud pumped his 13th ace down the T for 5-3.

On the next point, Ruud was running the Russian side to side when Rublev’s forehand crashed into the tape and crawled over as he regained the mini break with that fortunate roll.

Shrugging it off, Ruud played a perfect offensive point thumping a smash for double match point.

On his second match point, Ruud rocked his 14th ace finishing a two hour, 23-minute triumph in style and sharing a respectful embrace with Rublev.


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