De Minaur Saves 4 MPs In All-#NextGenATP Thriller
De Minaur saved four consecutive match points from 2/6 in the second-set tie-break before ousting the Russian 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-4 on Saturday evening to advance to the Citi Open final.
"I'm incredibly proud of myself. I dug deep," De Minaur. "I just couldn't see myself going any further. But I kept pushing myself, kept trying every single point and managed to turn that around. That's probably the best win of my career."
The Aussie is into his first ATP World Tour 500-level final, after also reaching the championship match in Sydney in January. The teenager will try to clinch his maiden triumph on Sunday against top seed Alexander Zverev.
It has been an incredible climb for De Minaur in 2018, as the 5’11” right-hander began the campaign at No. 208 in the ATP Rankings. With his two-hour, 52-minute victory against Rublev, the Aussie is projected to crack the Top 50 for the first time. If he beats Zverev, he will soar to No. 33. If not, he will still make a 27-spot rise to No. 45. After this week, he has no points to defend until the end of October.
De Minaur showed shades of his mentor former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt throughout the match. For much of the first two sets, Rublev was hammering away at hard-hit forehands, with his slowest shot being his second serve. But the Aussie hung in there with a relentless motor, scratching back ball after ball, biding his time until he could step in and, from time to time, rush the net.
The 19-year-old made especially good use of his backhand down the line in the second half of the match, as the effects of Rublev playing in his second match of the day slowly began to show. And while the Russian broke twice in the decider, it was De Minaur who came out on top, converting his fourth match point when his opponent double faulted.
"I really owe it all the crowd. I'm not from here, but I honestly felt like this was my home crowd," De Minaur said. "It was amazing. Every single corner I was in, they were in my ear encouraging me and firing me up. I really thank them."
Ironically, the only Australian to triumph in Washington, D.C. since 1972 (Tony Roche) was Hewitt in 2004. Earning his maiden title in Washington, D.C., would be even more special for De Minaur because of that.
"It would mean a lot. At least I could say I'm on the same page in one tournament with Lleyton," De Minaur said. "But tomorrow's going to be a very tough match against a very high-quality opponent and I'm just going to try and recover and leave it all out there again."
Although Rublev fell just short of reaching his first final at this level, he showed that despite competing in just his third tournament since a three-month hiatus due to a stress fracture in his lower back, his form has not gone away. Rublev was seeking his second ATP World Tour title, after claiming victory last year in Umag as a lucky loser.
Did You Know?
De Minaur playing Zverev will be the youngest final on the ATP World Tour since 2007 Indian Wells (Nadal vs. Djokovic) and the youngest final at the Citi Open since 1982 (Lendl vs. Arias).