Irresistible Rublev Races Past Vesely To Dubai Title

Russian claims fifth ATP 500 crown

Even by his own high standards, Andrey Rublev is enjoying the month of his life.

The Russian produced one of the performances of the season to surge to the title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, ending Jiri Vesely’s dream run in the desert with a 6-3, 6-4 win in Saturday’s championship match.

The 80-minute victory made it 13 matches won in a row for Rublev across singles and doubles, after the Russian won both titles in Marseille before his run in Dubai.

Rublev was delighted to cap a busy month with another title. “I feel super happy even though I am tired," he said at the trophy presentation. "I was lucky today, and that’s why I am happy to be the champion."

Speaking at his post-match press-conference, the Russian admitted he felt like he was playing without pressure coming into the tournament. “I came here without any expectation. I was thinking, even if I'm going to win at least one round, it's going to be something like a miracle. I was a bit in this kind of mood. I was not thinking [about] if there is a player that I don't want to face.”

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The World No. 7 also acknowledged that he wasn't the only one to come through a tough schedule to the final.

"I think it is likely Jiri was also tired, he had really tough matches since qualies," Rublev said. "He beat top players starting from the first round. [Marin] Cilic, he beat Roberto [Bautista Agut], then he beat Novak [Djokovic], yesterday he beat Shapo [Denis Shapovalov] 7-6 in the third. Trust me, when you beat these kinds of players, it’s almost impossible to stand up and walk, and he was able to play. Good job to him, good job for the week.”

The No. 123-ranked Vesely was bidding to become the first qualifier to win the Dubai title, but he was unable to recreate the heroics from his stirring victories over Doha champion Roberto Bautista Agut, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Denis Shapovalov that earned him a spot in the final.

“I want to congratulate Andrey," said Vesely after the match. "I don’t understand how he could play two weeks in a row, back-to-back finals, win all the tournaments. It’s crazy.

“It’s been a crazy week for me, starting in qualies and then I saw the main draw, all the matches were amazing players. I was going out there to try my best, play a close match and suddenly I was winning. It was crazy.”

Having battled through tough three-setters in his previous three matches, Rublev looked to have no intention of working overtime again in the final. He raced out the blocks, breaking Vesely in the fourth game, and did not drop a point behind his first serve as he charged to the first set.

There appeared to be little Vesely could do as the World No. 7 continued to produce a stunning level in the second set. Rublev broke in the opening game, but the Czech showed real fight to reclaim it for 3-3, pumping up the delighted crowd as he tried to get back into the match.

Rublev responded by knocking the wind out of the Vesely resistance, immediately breaking again and going on to seal a comfortable victory as two-time ATP Tour title-winner Vesely struggled to cope with the Russian's combination of power and consistency. Rublev ended the match with 28 winners to Vesely’s 21, and only struck eight unforced errors as he dominated from the baseline.

The win means Rublev’s semi-final defeat to Felix Auger-Aliassime in Rotterdam was his only singles loss across three tournaments in February. The Dubai title is the Russian’s 10th on the ATP Tour and extends his match record in 2022 to 10-2.

Despite his strong run the Rublev admitted he still has work to do, particularly with the mental side of his game as he looks to transfer his excellent record at ATP 500 events to the ATP Masters 1000 series and Grand Slams in 2022.

"I think it will come, I will have chances to go deep in Masters or Grand Slams. Even last year I [made] two [Masters] finals, I had quarter-finals at Grand Slams, [but] I didn't manage it mentally and that's why I couldn't win those matches.

“There is no secret about the mental part and how to improve," said Rublev. "Everybody has said these things a thousand times. All the best athletes in history, all the best philosophers, all of them, they've said many times..it's about you.”