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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, October 15, 2022


Andrey Rublev broke in the last game of both sets beating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-4 to reach his fourth final of the season at the Gijon Open.

Photo credit: Gijon Open 

A curtain of smoke shrouded the court and the AC/DC classic "Back in Black" blasted over the sound system as Andrey Rublev walked on court.

Then top-seeded Rublev transformed this Gijon semifinal vs. Dominic Thiem into true headbanger's ball.

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Smacking himself in the face in frustration at one point, Rublev blistered forehands breaking in the last game of both sets pounding past Thiem 6-4, 6-4 into the Gijon Open final.

On match point, Thiem scraped out a terrific low backhand volley off his shoelaces. Rublev clubbed a forehand pass the pierced the sideline sealing a spot in his fourth final of the season.

The ninth-ranked Rublev took a major step toward sewing up a spot in the year-end ATP Finals in Turin next month. Rublev is currently in sixth place in the race for Turin. Eight men qualify for the season-ending event.

"This week I'm playing really well; we'll see what's gonna happen tomorrow," said Rublev, who improved to 4-2 vs. Thiem. "I'll try to show my best tennis of the week some more.

"I'm feeling excited. One more final and we'll see what's gonna happen next and then it's gonna be important tournaments the end of the year and then we'll see if I will qualify for the finals or not. Because still there's so many players and only two spots left. So we'll see. Everything can change in one week."

Power player Rublev will play American Sebastian Korda in tomorrow's final.

World No. 47 Korda defeated lanky Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech 7-6(2), 6-3 in today's second semifinal to reach his first final of 2022. Korda cracked eight aces and saved all three break points he faced backing up his quarterfinal victory over former world No. 1 Andy Murray with confidence.

It is Korda's first final since Delray Beach in January of 2021 when he lost to Hubert Hurkacz. This semifinal victory vaults Korda back inside the Top 40 at No. 36 in the ATP Live Rankings.

Thiem and Rublev are friends and practice partners who know each other's tendencies.

Swinging with the ferocity of a an intent on turning the yellow ball black and blue with each bruising strike, Rublev let his forehand fly from the outset.

Attacking behind a forehand drive volley Thiem made the mistake of challenging the Rublev forehand. Holding his ground, Rublev ripped a forehand pass crosscourt creating the first break for 3-1.

Tennis Express

Unloading a forehand strike down the line and whipping an ace out wide, Rublev confirmed the break at love for 4-1.

Thiem was trying to hang tight in rallies, but when Rublev set his feet and turned his hips and shoulders into his ferocious forehand, he was doing damage.

Firing his fourth ace and thumping a smash, Rublev stamped his second straight love hold for 5-2. By then, the Russian was 11 for 11 on first-serve points.

Serving for a one-set lead, Rublev stumbled.

The Russian opened with his first double fault, fell into a triple break point hole then sent a backhand long gift-wrapping the break to the former Australian Open finalist.

Dropping serve sent Rublev raging. A frustrated Rublev erupted in a primal scream, bounced a ball high off the court and slammed his racquet off the bottom of the foot in self-flogging anger.

An inability to keep his head together under stress and indulge that volcanic temper has plagued the Russian in the past, but not today.

Resetting, Rublev pounced all over a slice and lasered a lightning forehand winner crosscourt. Thiem sent a backhand long to face double set point.

When Thiem floated a double fault deep, Rublev broke for a one-set lead.

What a difference one game can make. Rublev, who looked like he was on the verge of decapitating his Head racquet minutes earlier, sat on his court-side seat happily munching on a banana with a one set lead after 46 minutes.

"You have break points for 5-1 and it looks like the match is going my way and then suddenly [it's] 5-4 and he is serving and the match is equal and it's like okay we start again," Rublev said of the opening-set swing. "And it's not easy to accept that way, but I was lucky.

"I played a really good game at 5-4 and Dominic he didn't play that well. He helped me a bit and I was able in the end to finish the set 6-4 and then I start to feel a bit more confidence. At the end I was able to win in two sets, which is the most important thing and yeah we'll see what's gonna happen next." 

Serving to extend the match at 4-5, Thiem's pass clipped the tape, Rublev blocked a backhand volley for 15-30.

The 2020 US Open champion missed one his favorite shots, the inside-out forehand, and winced at double match point down.

Thiem didn't flinch. The Austrian zapped an ace out wide to save the first match point, hit a leaping one-hander to extend the point then lashed a one-handed backhand down the line to erase the second match point in style.

After all that good work, Thiem coughed up his fourth double fault to face match point number three.

Moving forward, Thiem dug out a fine backhand volley off his shoe tops. Rublev was waiting.

The top seed lanced the sideline with a diagonal forehand to secure his spot in his fourth final of the season.

Unbeaten in three finals in 2022, Rublev will try to sustain that undefeated streak against Korda. Rublev edged Korda 7-5, 7-6(7) in their lone meeting at the 2021 Miami Open quarterfinals.


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