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Tsitsipas edges Rublev to send Thiem through to semis at ATP Finals

Stefanos Tsitsipas saved a match point to edge Andrey Rublev in a thriller at the ATP Finals. The victory sends Dominic Thiem through to the semi-finals and sets a blockbuster clash on Thursday in London between Tsitsipas and Nadal.

Tsitsipas ATP Finals 2020 Stefanos Tsitsipas against Andrey Rublev during the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals.

Nitto ATP Finals, Group London 2020

Result: Tsitsipas d. Rublev 6-1, 4-6 7-6(6)

  • Key info: Stefanos Tsitsipas eliminated Andrey Rublev from semi-final contention in London and kept his own hopes alive.
  • You will also learn: Tsitsipas’ victory means that Dominic Thiem has qualified for the semi-finals.
  • Why you should read this story: Tsitsipas’ victory sets up a mouthwatering showdown for the final semi-final spot in the group with Rafael Nadal.

Tsitsipas stays alive

Stefanos Tsitsipas avoided becoming the first defending ATP Finals champion to drop his first two matches since David Nalbandian in 2006 by battling past Andrey Rublev 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(6) on Tuesday night at the 02 Arena.

It was a streamlined performance from Tsitsipas in the early going, and he scratched and clawed to stay with an on-fire Rublev down the stretch, eventually saving a match point on a Rublev double-fault before claiming the hard-earned victory.

Thiem is into the semis 

Tsitsipas’ victory means that Dominic Thiem is the first singles player to qualify for the semi-finals in London. Thiem, who defeated Rafael Nadal 7-6(7), 7-6(4) on Tuesday to improve to 7-2 against the top 10 in 2020, reaches the semi-finals for the second consecutive year, while Tsitsipas sets a showdown with Nadal for the other semi-final spot in the London 2020 group.

Here are the updated standings: 

Player | Record | Sets | Games 

Thiem | 2-0 | 4-1 | 31-27 (qualified for semis)

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

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

Rublev | 0-2 | 1-4 | 20-19 (eliminated)

Rublev joins the party late again

It was a slow start that killed Andrey Rublev in his opening round robin match against Rafael Nadal, and it was a slow start that may have cost him the match again on Tuesday.

Rublev made just 40 percent of his first serves in his first three service games and was down 5-1 and a double-break in just 18 minutes. Like Nadal did on Sunday, Tsitsipas gladly accepted the Russian’s charity and ripped through the opening set in 20 blink-and-you-missed-them minutes. The Greek served four aces, made 74 percent of his first-serves and dropped just three points on serve to lock up the set.

But credit Rublev, who did finally manage to locate his game at the start of the second set. Serving first, Rublev cruised through his first three service games while only dropping two points. But he ran into trouble when he sprayed two errant backhands at 3-3 to give Tsitsipas a pair of break points.

Andrey Rublev ATP Finals 2020

The first turning point 

Facing the two critical break points at 3-3 in set two, Rublev steeled his nerve and made his next four first serves to reel off the final four points of the game to hold for 4-3. It was a massive moment for Rublev’s confidence. The 23-year-old kept serving hot throughout the set, and in the end the scoreboard pressure he applied paid off as Tsitsipas was broken at love in a regrettable final game of the second set.

Rublev won 17 of 18 first-serve points in the set and cracked ten winners, including seven from the forehand side.

The second turning point 

Rublev’s good fortunes continued in the third set as he saved a break point at 1-1, 30-40 with a big first serve. Remarkably, Rublev saved four more in the game, each time making the first serve to further frustrate Tsitsipas. The Greek had to be second-guessing his return game at that point, as Rublev’s faith in his ability to win the match continued to grow.

A tiebreak decides it, and one final turning point

The third-set tiebreaker was a fitting way to decide this roller coaster of a contest. And it was dramatic as well. Rublev missed a regulation forehand at 2-all and the tiny bit of breathing room seemed to lift Tsitsipas’ spirits. He won his next two points on serve, angling a backhand volley into the open court to lead 5-2.

Rublev found two more big serves, including his sixth ace of the match to narrow the lead to 5-4, and on the next point Tsitsipas netted a nervous forehand to bring it to 5-all.

Rublev claimed a 25-stroke rally on the next point to earn his first match point at 6-5, but he could not see himself over the finish line. Suddenly the nerves became too much as the Russian dumped a double-fault into the net. Sensing his opportunity Tsitsipas ripped a forehand to force a Rublev error, and he converted his only match point shortly thereafter to lock up victory in one hour and 56 minutes.

Nitto ATP Finals competition format

  • Everyone 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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