Qualifier Vesely continues giant-killing run with Shapovalov upset to reach Dubai final

One day after upsetting Novak Djokovic, Jiri Vesely continued his giant-killing run to reach the first ATP 500 final of his career

Jiri Vesely US Open 2023 Image Credit: AI / Reuters / Panoramic

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Jiri Vesely came into the Dubai Open main draw as a qualifier, ranked No 123 in the world. On Friday, the 28-year-old Czech stormed into the biggest final of his career, beating sixth seed Denis Shapovalov in three tiebreak sets, one day after he shocked world No 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

Vesely started the match with a bang, winning the first eight points in a row en route to building a 3-0 lead. However, Shapovalov broke back soon to to level the set at 3-3 and saved two break points at 3-4 to take the set to a tiebreaker. Both players were neck-and-neck in the tiebreak where Shapovalov saved a set point before winning it on his second opportunity.

Vesely comes from a break down in the third set to win

Vesely fought back to take the second set in a tiebreaker but it looked like his run would come to an end when Shapovalov broke in the ninth game of the third set and served for the match.

But a crucial missed driving volley from the Canadian at 30-30 in the 10th game helped Vesely break back and then force the match into a deciding tiebreaker.

The Czech, a former junior world No 1 and former top 40 player on the ATP Tour, built an early 4-1 lead in the deciding tiebreaker and held on to win 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in three hours and 12 minutes to continue the best week of his career.

Sometimes I’m my biggest opponent.

Speaking to the press after his win, Norrie reflected on his incredible week and said it is a reflection of his career – where he has scored big wins over some top players but struggled at times to win matches when he is the fvaourite against lower ranked players.

“I think it’s a bit of my signature, I would say. I’m able to beat amazing players also in the past. Unfortunately also able to lose guys 200, 300. Sometimes I’m my biggest opponent. Of course with age it’s a little bit tougher, as well, because you feel what should already have been accomplished and hasn’t been yet.”

“Last 12 months were really very hard, health-wise especially. I think last three months I was playing pretty well. I had some results. I didn’t start the season well in Australia. Sometimes one week can change everything. Now I think I’ll be back to top 75, top 70, close to get into main draws of the big tournaments again. I think the season now is actually amazing started. I’m still not done yet here, so I hope to win tomorrow and make another improvement. The week is just fantastic. Really enjoying it. Really enjoying here in Dubai. Coming here many times during the year as well. Yeah, just try to keep going.”

Vesely will meet second seed Andrey Rublev in the final, with the Russian also needing a third set tiebreaker to beat Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in the first semi-final. Saturday’s final will be the first career meeting between the two players. While Rublev will be aiming to win his 10th singles title, Vesely will be hoping to win his third – but first in two years.

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