Karatsev Ends Rublev’s ATP 500 Streak In Style
Aslan Karatsev ended Andrey Rublev’s 23-match ATP 500 winning streak on Friday, when he overpowered the second seed 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final.
The Australian Open semi-finalist beat Rublev at his own game, striking early in rallies to keep his countryman behind the baseline. Karatsev landed 41 winners and created 16 break points in the two-hour, 12-minute clash to become the first wild card to reach the Dubai final since Thomas Muster in 1997.
“It was a really tight match [against a] tough opponent,” Karatsev said in an on-court interview. “It was an unbelievable performance [from Andrey]. He didn’t lose a match at an ATP 500 in [one year]. Everything was decided in one or two points, I feel happy.”
Karatsev, who owns an 11-2 record this year, will meet another first-time ATP 500 finalist in the championship match: Lloyd Harris. The South African qualifier won his seventh match in as many days on Friday to defeat Denis Shapovalov 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(6).
“I will prepare myself mentally and physically, and then we will see what happens tomorrow,” said Karatsev. “I know [Lloyd] is a good player with experience.”
Karatsev or Harris will become the fourth first-time winner on the ATP Tour this season. Daniel Evans (Murray River Open), Alexei Popyrin (Singapore) and Juan Manuel Cerundolo (Cordoba) have already completed maiden title runs this year.
Karatsev played with consistent aggression and struck 11 winners in the first set, but the wild card was punished for his failure to convert five break points in the second set. Rublev earned his first break point of the match at 5-4 and pounced to force a decider.
Karatsev played with all-out aggression behind his first and second-serve returns to earn six break points at 1-1 in the third set. The pressure eventually affected Rublev, who committed a double fault to drop serve. Karatsev converted his second match point with a powerful ace down the T to reach his maiden ATP Tour final.
“In the second set, I got tight a bit. He took the opportunity, he broke me and took the set,” said Karatsev. “In the third set, I broke him back. I was leading with two breaks and then again, at 5-4 [it was a] tight game.”
From last year’s Hamburg European Open to this event, Rublev’s 23-match winning streak at ATP 500 events was the second-longest in the history of the tournament level (since 2009). Roger Federer is the only man to have recorded more consecutive victories in the category (28).
Did You Know?
At last week’s Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, Rublev and Karatsev claimed their first doubles trophy as a team. The pair owns a 4-1 team record, with its only loss coming on its team debut against Maximo Gonzalez and Horacio Zeballos at the ATP Cup.