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Moscow: An Event Dominated By Russian Stars

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2020

When the VTB Kremlin Cup held its inaugural edition in 1990, it became the first professional international tennis tournament in Russia.

Alongside the St. Petersburg Open, the ATP 250 is one of two tour-level events held in the country. The tournament would have been held this week if not for the COVID-19 pandemic. looks at five things to know about the event.

1) Regular Russian Success: Russian players have won 16 of the previous 30 singles editions of the VTB Kremlin Cup. Andrei Cherkasov claimed the opening two titles in the Russian capital and is one of nine Russian stars to win the ATP 250. Yevgeny Kafelnikov owns a tournament record five crowns (1997-2001) and Nikolay Davydenko lifted three trophies in Moscow (2004, 2006-07).

Alexander Volkov (1994), Igor Andreev (2005), Igor Kunitsyn (2008), Mikhail Youzhny (2009), Karen Khachanov (2018) and Andrey Rublev (2019) have all emerged victorious at the event. In doubles, Dmitry Tursunov won the trophy on three occasions (2007, ’10, ’15).

Nikolay Davydenko captured the VTB Kremlin Cup trophy on three occasions (2004, '06-'07).

2) Kafelnikov’s Five-Year Reign: No player has dominated the VTB Kremlin Cup quite like Yevgeny Kafelnikov. After falling to Goran Ivanisevic in the 1996 final, the former World No. 1 compiled 28 consecutive victories at the tournament.

Across five consecutive title runs between 1997 and 2001, the Sochi native dropped just four sets. His reign came to an end in the 2002 semi-finals, in which he was beaten by Dutchman Sjeng Schalken in straight sets. Kafelnikov made 12 consecutive appearances in Moscow from 1992 to 2003 and ended his career with a 40-7 tournament record.

3) Dzumhur Completes Russian Double: Four weeks after capturing his maiden ATP Tour trophy at the 2017 St. Petersburg Open, Damir Dzumhur returned to Russia to complete a memorable tournament double. The first player from Bosnia and Herzegovina to win an ATP Tour crown was forced to battle his way to his second trophy, winning four of his five matches in deciding sets.

After improving his 2017 record in Russia to 10-0 with a final victory against Ricardas Berankis, Dzumhur shared his thoughts on why his greatest weeks on the ATP Tour had come in the same country.

“I really don’t know, but there is something special here in Russia. Maybe the crowd,” said Dzumhur during the trophy ceremony, eliciting a roar from the fans.


4) Khachanov Realises Dream: After eight years without a Russian singles titlist, a record at the event, Karen Khachanov claimed the 2018 trophy to become the eighth Russian to win the Moscow event. After beating countryman Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals, Khachanov charged past Adrian Mannarino to win the championship match in just 54 minutes.

“[Winning in Russia] was one of the dreams I had when I was a kid,” said Khachanov. “Coming here [as a kid] I was asking top Russian players for autographs and dreaming one day to become a champion here. Today is the day and I am really happy. These are memories I will always keep in my head.”

5) Rublev’s Moscow Double: At the age of 18, Andrey Rublev joined forces with Tursunov to earn his maiden ATP Tour trophy in doubles at his home event.

They required Match Tie-breaks in each of their three matches, but held their nerves to claim the 2015 title. Rublev and Tursunov became the fourth all-Russian team to capture the trophy, following in the footsteps of Andreev/Davydenko (2004), Marat Safin/Tursunov (2007) and Kunitsyn/Tursunov (2010).

Four years after his doubles triumph alongside Tursunov, Rublev entered the singles event with an 0-6 record across qualifying and main draw matches in Moscow. As the sixth seed, Rublev dropped just four games in the final against Mannarino — as Khachanov had done the previous year — to win his hometown event on his 22nd birthday.

“I can’t find the right words for what it means to me to win here,” said Rublev. “I grew up with this tournament. I spent my whole childhood at the VTB Kremlin Cup. I will remember this tournament and this win for many years.”

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Djere Soars Up FedEx ATP Rankings, Mover Of Week

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2020

No. 53 Laslo Djere, +21
The Serbian is close to breaking back into the Top 50 for the first time since 17 February 2020 after he captured his second ATP Tour title on Sunday with a 7-6(3), 7-5 victory over Marco Cecchinato in the Forte Village Sardegna Open final. The 25-year-old has risen 21 places to No. 53 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, 26 positions off his career-high of No. 27 on 10 October 2019. Read Sardinia Final Report

No. 8 Andrey Rublev, +2 (Career High)
The Russian continues his rise up the FedEx ATP Rankings and with his fourth ATP Tour crown of the year, he has moved firmly into contention for a Nitto ATP Finals spot. The 22-year-old jumped two spots to a career-high No. 8 after he defeated Borna Coric 7-6(5), 6-4 in the St. Petersburg Open final on Sunday. Rublev is the fifth Russian player to capture the St. Petersburg crown, following in the footsteps of Yevgeny Kafelnikov (1995), Marat Safin (2000-’01), Mikhail Youzhny (2004) and Daniil Medvedev (2019). Read St. Petersburg Final Report & Watch Highlights

Other Notable Top 100 Movers
No. 19 Milos Raonic, +2
No. 24 Borna Coric +3
No. 64 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, +7 (Career High)
No. 77 Marco Cecchinato, +26
No. 92 Pedro Martinez, +5 (Career High)

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Krawietz/Mies & Granollers/Zeballos Secure Nitto ATP Finals Qualification

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2020

Kevin Krawietz/Andreas Mies and Marcel Granollers/Horacio Zeballos have qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals. They are the third and fourth teams to clinch their spot at the season finale, to be held at The O2 in London from 15-22 November.

Krawietz and Mies retained their Roland Garros crown with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares in their second Grand Slam championship final in Paris. This will be their second consecutive appearance in the Nitto ATP Finals.

The Germans are only the fourth team in the Open Era (since April 1968) to secure back-to-back Roland Garros trophies. The four-time tour-level titlists are the first pair to achieve the feat since Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor in 2012.

Marcel Granollers, Horacio Zeballos

Granollers and Zeballos have excelled in their first full season as a team, leading the ATP Tour with three titles as a tandem (Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Rome). Granollers, the 2012 Nitto ATP Finals champion (w/Lopez), will be competing in the season finale with his third partner (also Dodig). This will be Zeballos’ debut in the prestigious event.

The Spanish-Argentine duo is 22-6 on the season. They made a splash on their team debut last August in Montreal, capturing the title. In addition to their three triumphs in 2020, they also made the Kitzbühel final.

Australian Open champions Joe Salisbury/Rajeev Ram and US Open titlists Pavic/Soares have also clinched their spots in London. Four doubles spots remain in the Nitto ATP Finals doubles field, with US Open finalists Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic next in line to qualify.

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Pep Talk From Rafa Carries Munar To Lisbon Crown

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2020

One week after clinching his 20th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal was back at home in Spain, spending his Sunday morning watching a final on the ATP Challenger Tour.

Nadal’s countryman and fellow Mallorca native Jaume Munar was competing in his first Challenger championship in nearly a year, in Lisbon, Portugal. Understanding the magnitude of the moment, the World No. 2 was ready to provide any words of wisdom that his young compatriot needed, ahead of the final.

“Rafa is someone I trust a lot and who helps me a lot,” said Munar. “Even today, before the final, I spoke to him. He told me to try to be calm, to follow my path and to continue my work like I’ve been doing all week.”

The advice paid off. Munar took a big step in his quest to return to the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, as the 23-year-old completed a dominant week at the Lisboa Belem Open. After dropping a combined seven games in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, Munar overcame home hope Pedro Sousa 7-6(3), 6-2 in the championship. The top seed defeated the second seed in one hour and 19 minutes to lift the trophy.

“What you see on the court is the result of a lot of hard work and Rafa knows that. I train at his academy [the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar] and my coach [Tomeu Salva] is his best friend, so I spend a lot of time with him on and off the court. It is a privilege.”

Photo Credit: Beatriz Ruivo

It marked the fourth straight year that Munar has emerged victorious on the ATP Challenger Tour, securing his fifth title in total. Nearly one year ago, the Spaniard prevailed on the clay of Montevideo, Uruguay, and his return to the winners’ circle in Lisbon was well worth the wait.

Munar, who ascended to a career-high No. 52 in the FeEx ATP Rankings in May 2019, is pushing towards a Top 100 return. He rises to No. 108 with his victory in the Portuguese capital.

“It was a very good week,” said Munar. “I’ve been playing well for a long time and I showed that when I’m feeling loose I play at a high level. This week I had good experiences and feelings and I will try to maintain this going forward.

“I have played several tournaments here, in Portugal. I try to come here as much as I can, because I love the country, the people and the way they treat me. The climate is similar to that of Mallorca and many people speak Spanish, so I feel a very nice connection.”

Munar is the third consecutive Spanish champion in Lisbon, after Tommy Robredo prevailed in 2018 and Roberto Carballes Baena triumphed a year ago.

Sousa, meanwhile, was competing in his second Challenger final in three weeks. Also the runner-up in Split, Croatia, the 32-year-old rises to No. 110 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

“When you reach a final, it’s always a positive week,” said Sousa. “That gives me confidence, because I won a lot of matches. It was a good week for me. I’m playing well. I went to Roland Garros feeling good and then I made a final [in Split] and this week another final. It feels like my level is high at the moment.”

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Larry Turville, Co-founder Of Influential 1970s Satellite Circuit, Dies Aged 71

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2020

Larry Turville, co-founder of the WATCH (World Association of Tennis Champions) satellite tennis circuit, the first to award FedEx ATP Rankings points in the 1970s, has passed away due to cancer at the age of 71.

Turville, who graduated from Georgia Tech in Atlanta as a two-time All American in 1971, found breaking onto the main professional circuit difficult — like many others — so he decided to establish the WATCH circuit with his good friend, Armistead Neely.

When the FedEx ATP Rankings were first established in August 1973, Turville and Neely arranged for the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) to award ranking points for the WATCH circuit. Every satellite tournament that has followed globally harks back to Turville and Neely’s grand vision.

Tournaments on the WATCH circuit — one of five satellite circuits across the United States — ran each summer for between five and 10 weeks, offering total prize money of $5,000 per event, with the winner taking home $3,000-4,000.

“There were a group of up-and-coming young players who didn’t have any tournaments to play in the winter,” Turville told The Washington Post in 1977. “So we decided to start our own circuit… We’re a training ground for inexperienced players. Most of the players we get have played local tournaments and college matches, but they haven’t had the experience of real tournament competition. Sometimes they’ll have to play two matches a day for three days in a row. It’s like the gladiator thing: throw ’em in the ring and see how they do. It’s good competition.”

Around 800 players from 40 different countries competed on the WATCH circuit that ran between 1971 and 1978, attracting the likes of Howard Schoenfield, Tim Gullikson and 1963 US Championships finalist Frank Froehling. There was a one-time fee of $25 to play on the circuit, a springboard to the main Grand Prix tour, and a $15 fee for each qualifying tournament. 

Turville, who stood at 6’7”, grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, where his lawyer father, Edward, became the first President of the Florida Lawn Tennis Association in 1949 and was later a non-playing captain of the United States Davis Cup team. His brother, Ed Turville, was a member of the US junior Davis Cup team. Turville was the top junior in Florida, and he played at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open as a pro.

He attained a career-high ranking of No. 210 on 14 June 1976 and started coaching the men’s team at Rice University for more than 20 years from 1979, the year he handed over the running of the WATCH circuit to the USTA.

Turville’s passion and commitment to the sport for more than 50 years, extended to the development of the Florida Super Senior Grand Prix for players aged 55 and over. The format was reminiscent of the WATCH circuit, offering points and prize money.

From the age of 35, Turville also won 46 USTA age-group National singles and doubles championships and was once ranked No. 1 in the 60-and-over ITF World Rankings. In 2010, Turville beat Jorge Camina Borda of Spain to win the 60-and-over World Championships title held in Antalya, Turkey, and lost to France’s Bruno Renaulf in the 2017 World Championships in Orlando, Florida.

He was a member of T.C. Wolfsburg in Pforzheim, Germany for the past 10 years, helping them win nine titles.

Turville, a resident of Dunnellon, Florida, passed away with his wife, Kelli, by his side.

Larry Turville, tennis player, tournament director and coach, born 4 June 1949, died 10 October 2020.

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Rublev On Rafa: 'He Is The Best Athlete In History'

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2020

After Andrey Rublev won his fourth title of the season on Sunday at the St. Petersburg Open, the Russian spoke about how he wants to continue improving. The 22-year-old, who turns 23 on Tuesday, knows there are always parts of his game he can enhance.

The Russian has been motivated by Rafael Nadal, who one week ago won his 13th Roland Garros title.

“I cannot imagine how — I’m not even talking about [just at] the Grand Slams — it is possible what he is doing,” Rublev said. “To be mentally that strong all your life and all your career, I don’t know how it is possible.”

Rublev is in awe of Nadal’s focus and discipline. The Spaniard had plenty going against him in Paris, from difficult conditions — it was cool and wet throughout the fortnight — to tough opponents, led by World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who entered their championship clash with a 37-1 record on the year. Nadal still captured the Coupe des Mousquetaires without losing a set.

“Every player, even Roger [Federer] or even Novak [Djokovic], they had one moment in their career when they were mentally a little bit down or they could get a little bit emotionally down during the match and, if something happens, they could lose or something,” Rublev said. “Rafa is the only one player in history that it doesn’t matter how he feels, bad or good. In the end he always finds a way to win.

“If he is not winning, he is losing in three sets after three hours if it is not [at] a Grand Slam. If it is [at] a Grand Slam, it is going to be five hours and [against] the players that are really good… I don’t know how it is possible to be this strong mentally during all his career.”

Something Rublev has learned from following Nadal is how important it is to push through bad days and find a way to win.

“Even if you take other sportsmen or athletes, they can have bad days. But because maybe the team is good, they are still winning,” Rublev said. “In tennis, if you are having a really bad day… it is really tough to find a way [to win] and compete like nothing happened. He has done this during all his career. For me he is the best athlete, not even in tennis, the best athlete in history.”

Rublev is having the best season of his career, climbing to a career-high No. 8 in the FedEx ATP Rankings thanks to his triumph in St. Petersburg. The Russian has won four tour-level titles this season, matched only by Djokovic, who also has four. No other player has more than two.

But even though he is flying higher than ever, Rublev will continue pushing for more. 

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Scouting Report: 10 Things To Watch In Antwerp & Cologne

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2020

The ATP Tour will be fully indoors this week, with ATP 250 events in Antwerp and Cologne.

The European Open will feature home favourite David Goffin trying to become the tournament’s first Belgian champion. Former World No. 3s Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic, second seed Pablo Carreno Busta and third seed Karen Khachanov also seek glory in Antwerp.

Alexander Zverev will try to win his second Cologne title in as many weeks as the top seed at the bett1HULKS Championships. Last week’s finalist at the same venue, Felix Auger-Aliassime, is in the field. Second seed Diego Schwartzman and third seed Denis Shapovalov will try to make their mark in Germany.

View Draws: Antwerp | Cologne

Listen To The Latest ATP Tennis Radio Podcast:

1) Goffin In Belgium:
Longtime Belgian No. 1 David Goffin reached the semi-finals in the first edition of the European Open in 2016, but he has not achieved better in his two appearances since. Will this be the year that Goffin triumphs on home soil? The four-time ATP Tour champion seeks his first title since 2017 Tokyo. He will begin his run against Italian wild card Luca Nardi or a qualifier.

2) Carreno Busta Shining: Pablo Carreno Busta is playing some of his best tennis, recently reaching the semi-finals at the US Open and the quarter-finals at Roland Garros. The Spaniard, who is making his Antwerp debut, will face Ugo Humbert or Kimmer Coppejans in the second round.

3) Grigor’s Debut: Former World No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov, the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion, is competing in Antwerp for the first time. The fourth seed will play former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori or Spaniard Pablo Andujar in his opening match. Dimitrov is pursuing his first ATP Tour title since 2017.

4) Ugo Back For More: Last year in Antwerp, Humbert reached his third ATP Tour semi-final. The French lefty pushed eventual champion Andy Murray to the brink in an exciting three-setter. Humbert was World No. 70 at the time. Now, the 22-year-old is at a career-high World No. 38 and seeking his second tour-level title after lifting the trophy in Auckland this January.

5) Doubles Teams Vying For London: Two teams in the hunt for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals lead the way in the European Open doubles draw. Second seeds John Peers/Michael Venus and fourth seeds Jamie Murray/Neal Skupski are pursuing their first appearances at The O2 as a team.

1) Will Zverev Repeat?
Alexander Zverev won his third title on home soil on Sunday and he will go for the Cologne double this week. The German, who beat Felix Auger-Aliassime in the bett1HULKS Indoors final, will play Fernando Verdasco or John Millman in his opener. Last week, he defeated Verdasco in straight sets in the second round.

2) Top 10 Diego: Argentine Diego Schwartzman will be playing his first tournament as a member of the world’s Top 10. The second seed, who reached his first ATP Masters 1000 final in Rome and his maiden Grand Slam semi-final at Roland Garros, will play qualifier Dennis Novak or Serbian Danilo Petrovic in the second round.

3) Charging Canadians: Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, both of whom had big weeks last week, will try to make their mark in Germany. Auger-Aliassime has already enjoyed success in Cologne, reaching his sixth ATP Tour final at the ATP 250. Shapovalov, who made his first major quarter-final at the US Open, reached the semi-finals at last week’s St. Petersburg Open.

4) Sinner’s Surge: Reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner will try to continue his rise in Cologne. The Italian is appearing for the first time since making his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros. Sinner faces a tough test in the first round against sixth seed Hubert Hurkacz.

5) Three Major-Winning Teams: Three doubles teams set to compete in Cologne have won Grand Slam titles together: top seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, second seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, and two-time Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies. Marach and Pavic are no longer partners — Marach competes with Raven Klaasen and Pavic plays with Bruno Soares — but they are reuniting for this event. Fourth seeds Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin are fresh off their victory at the St. Petersburg Open.

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Herbert Does Double Duty In Cologne, Wins Doubles Title With Mahut

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2020

Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut captured their 17th tour-level title as a team on Sunday, defeating top seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 6-4, 6-4 to win the bett1HULKS Indoors in Cologne.

It was a busy day for Herbert, who won his final-round qualifying match for the bett1HULKS Championships — held at the same venue — earlier in the day.

“I’ve had a busy weekend I would say and I’m really happy,” Herbert said. “We started again after six months at Roland Garros and being able to share the court with him here, it’s just nice. It’s always a pleasure.

“Being able to play together, enjoy on court and win a tournament, it’s just amazing.”

Herbert and Mahut have now won multiple titles together in six consecutive seasons. Earlier this year, they triumphed in Rotterdam.

This was their fifth ATP Head2Head team clash against Kubot and Melo, whom they lead 3-2. It was the first time the two veteran duos met in a final, with the Frenchmen saving all four break points they faced.

“When we were one set up I think we were starting not to be more confident, but more relaxed,” Mahut said. “I think we played a high-level game at the end of the match.”

It was a difficult match against a team that has competed together in the Nitto ATP Finals in each of the past three years. But the second seeds managed to secure one break per set to lift the trophy.

“It’s always tough against them. We’ve played them many times,” Mahut said. “It’s always difficult. We know each other pretty well. This time [the match] was on our side. We’re really happy with the way we played.”

Herbert and Mahut earned a share of €8,840 and 250 FedEx ATP Doubles Ranking points, while Kubot and Melo pocketed a split of €6,450 and 150 points each.

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Rublev Reigns In Russia

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2020

Andrey Rublev added another chapter to his 2020 success story on Sunday, overcoming Borna Coric 7-6(5), 6-4 to win the St. Petersburg Open, lifting his fourth ATP Tour trophy of the year.

The Russian won 80 per cent of his service points (49/61) in a dominant one-hour, 39-minute serving performance. Rublev extended his winning streak to 10 matches on home soil, having lifted the VTB Kremlin Cup trophy in Moscow last year.

“I feel happy. This one is really special for me,” Rublev said. “I think this one is the most special for me, for the moment, and will always be special.”

The 22-year-old became the fifth Russian player to capture the St. Petersburg crown, following in the footsteps of Yevgeny Kafelnikov (1995), Marat Safin (2000-’01), Mikhail Youzhny (2004) and Daniil Medvedev (2019).

With his fourth ATP Head2Head win against Coric (4-0), Rublev increased his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time. The six-time tour-level champion adds 500 points to his FedEx ATP Battle For London total and is now in pole position to become the seventh man to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals.

The Russian is 249 points ahead of ninth-placed Diego Schwartzman, who occupies the final qualification position, and 354 points clear of 10th-placed Matteo Berrettini. Berrettini will drop 200 points from his total on 9 November due to his round-robin win at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals.

“I know I have a really good chance to qualify, but still it is not 100 per cent yet,” Rublev said. “This year, I didn’t expect that I would have a chance, so in the end nothing is going to change for me. Even if I don’t make it, the season was really good for me anyway. If I make it, it is really good news. [It is] one chance to compete against the best players, to do my best.”

FedEx ATP Battle For London

Ranking Player Points
8 Andrey Rublev 3,429
9 Diego Schwartzman 3,180
10 Matteo Berrettini 3,075
11 Gael Monfils 2,860
12 Denis Shapovalov 2,830

Rublev has found consistent success in 2020. The World No. 10 opened the season by becoming the first man since Dominik Hrbaty in 2004 to win consecutive trophies in the first two weeks of the year (Doha, Adelaide). Since the return of the ATP Tour, Rublev has compiled a 19-4 record and clinched ATP 500 crowns in Hamburg and St. Petersburg.

“I am proud and I am happy with the way I am performing,” Rublev said. “I try not to think about it. I try to focus on the things I still need to improve, because there are so many things I can improve and I have to improve if I want to be at the same level or even better.”

Rublev is now level with fellow four-time 2020 titlist Novak Djokovic atop of the 2020 ATP Tour trophies leaderboard. The 6’2” right-hander is also in second place on the ATP Tour wins list this year with a 34-7 mark, trailing leader Djokovic by only three wins (37-2).

“On Friday, I lost my grandmother so… it was really tough,” Rublev said. “I am happy that this is the way I finished the tournament and it is a really special tournament for me.”

Coric was attempting to lift his first ATP Tour trophy since the 2018 NOVENTI OPEN in Halle. The Croatian finished as runner-up in St. Petersburg for the second straight year after falling to Medvedev in last year’s final.

“When I go back home I can train even more, I can train harder,” Coric said. “Next year I will come back for sure and hopefully I can win [the title].”

In a set that featured just one break point, Rublev rallied from 2/5 down in the tie-break to snatch the first set. The Russian covered his baseline well and focussed his attack on Coric’s forehand to extract six errors and move one set from the title.

Rublev switched his focus to Coric’s backhand to earn the first break of the match and continued to dominate his service games to maintain his advantage. The Moscow native, who did not face a break point throughout the championship match, charged to the net to claim the title with a forehand drive volley.

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