Rublev grabs morale-boosting win over Thiem

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Andrey Rublev signed off 2020 with a smile as he beat the already-qualified Dominic Thiem to exit the Nitto ATP Finals with a win on the board

ATP Finals, Group London 2020
Rublev (7) d. Thiem (3) 6-2, 7-5

  • Key info: Rublev lost just three points on serve in the first set and held on for victory
  • You will also learn: Thiem had already secured top spot and will play either Novak Djokovic or Alexander Zverev in the semis
  • Why you should read this story: Rublev has now won their past three meetings, having lost the first two.

With Dominic Thiem already qualified for Saturday’s semi-finals and Andrey Rublev unable to qualify for the last four, there was nothing really at stake for either man but it was the Russian who ensured he ended 2020 with a smile on his face as he clinched a 6-2, 7-5 victory.

Having stunned Rafael Nadal in his second match, Thiem looked a little flat in the early stages and with his place in the semis already assured, the first set was all Rublev. An early break put him on track and he romped through the opening set, winning 11 out of 11 points on his first serve and dropping just three points on his own service.

Thiem fights back

Rublev broke in the third game of the second set and at 4-3, 40-15, he looked home and dried. But suddenly, a few errors crept in and Thiem broke back, winning eight straight points to lead 5-4.

But the Russian righted the ship immediately, holding to love for 5-5. He broke serve in the following game and then served out for a morale-boosting victory, giving him plenty to look forward to as he prepares for 2021.

“I started really well, since the first point, the first return,” Rublev said. “Dominic didn’t start well and I took advantage. It gave me confidence and helped me to be better and better. In the end, it was not easy for Domi, but I think he (was) already focused for the semis. He deserves to be where he is and he deserves to win the title, we’ll see what’s going to happen.”

Dominic Thiem - Vienne 2020

At the start of the week, Rublev said he was not sure he belonged at this level yet, in his first ATP Finals. But after double-faulting on match point against Stefanos Tsitsipas in his second match, getting a win will leave him in good stead.

“I feel actually fine,” he said. “I feel happy to be here. I was so close second match, had match point, was serving, so it could be a completely different story, maybe I’d have chance to be in the semis. I was close, I didn’t make it but it’s part of our sport, we just need to keep working. We’ll see what’s going to happen next.”

Thiem admitted it had been hard to give everything, but said he was outplayed by Rublev.

“It was difficult to keep that amazing intensity like I had in the first two matches,” he said. “Obviously I wanted to win the match, 100 percent, but still, I mean, the first matches were pretty tough or pretty long. I had a great, great intensity in almost every single rally there. So of course with the fact that I was already qualified in the back of my mind, it was maybe difficult today to keep that intensity alive.

“Whenever I’m not on 110 percent here at this tournament, I mean, there is no chance against any player. That was today. I mean, he had a great start to the match, and then I was all the time running behind in the score. Well, that’s why he deserved to win.”

Thiem will face either world No 1 Novak Djokovic or Alexander Zverev of Germany in the semi-finals.

World No 2 Nadal takes on Stefanos Tsitsipas in Thursday’s evening match in a winner-takes-all contest to decide who joins Thiem in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Here are the updated standings (at time of writing: 

Player | Record | Sets | Games 

Thiem | 2-1 | 4-3 | 38-40 (qualified for semis)

Tsitsipas | 1-1 | 3-3 | 24-21

Nadal | 1-1 | 2-2 | 32-30

Rublev | 1-2 | 3-4 | 33-36 (eliminated)

Nitto ATP Finals competition format

  • Each players plays every other player in their group once.
  • The top player in Group Tokyo 1970 will play the runner-up from Group London 2020 in the semi-final, and vice versa.
  • The standings in the table are decided first by greatest number of wins.
  • Then it takes into account the greatest number of matches played (a 2-1 win-loss record beats a 2-0 win-loss record).
  • After that it comes down to head-to-head results if two players are tied.
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