ATP St. Petersburg: Rublev Edges Out Fellow London Contender Shapovalov, Faces Returning Runner-Up Coric in Final
By Max Gao
(October 17, 2020) ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA (VIRTUALLY) — No. 3 seed Andrey Rublev took one step closer to qualifying for his first ATP Finals, defeating No. 2 seed and fellow contender Denis Shapovalov, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, at the St. Petersburg Open. The 22-year-old Russian, who broke into the top 10 earlier this week, will now meet No. 7 seed Borna Coric, who also battled from a set down to knock out No. 6 seed Milos Raonic, 1-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Rublev Battles Past Shapovalov, Improves to 33-7 in 2020
In an exciting battle of two rising talents on the ATP Tour, it was the younger of the two, 21-year-old Shapovalov, who would get off to the stronger start, clinching a decisive break in the seventh game that he would ultimately consolidate to win the first set, 6-4. Dropping just six points on his serve in the opening set, Shapovalov seemed to be in control early against one of his fiercest rivals.
However, Rublev would quickly flip the script, taking advantage of a major lapse in concentration from Shapovalov early in the second set. After saving a break point to hold for 2-1, Rublev recovered from 40-0 down and broke serve in the following game, as Shapovalov hit a total of four double faults and a series of errors to gift the No. 3 seed his first break of the match. With only one break separating them in the set, Rublev dropped just three points on his own serve for the rest of the set before leveling at one-set-all.
In a titanic final set, both men would exchange quality holds until the fifth game, where Rublev secured another decisive break. On his first break point of the set at 2-all, the Russian would hit a quality return to force an error from Shapovalov and never really looked back from there. With a two-hour, seven-minute win over the Canadian, Rublev recorded his 33rd win of the season, putting him closer to tying Novak Djokovic (who has a 37-2 record). In addition, the 22-year-old now has 3229 points and has overtaken Diego Schwartzman (3180) for the eighth spot in the ATP Race.
“The match was unreal, in my opinion,” Rublev said in a post-match interview. “The level was high from both sides. Both of us deserved to win. Shapovalov was leading and he had break point in the second set, so everything could [have] been in two sets for him… One or two points decided the match and today it was for me.”
“I think it was a good tournament. I have played three good matches and losses sometimes happen,” Shapovalov said in Russian during his press conference. “I started the match well and Andrey is in good shape and he deserved to win. It was an awesome fight. I like to come and play in St. Petersburg. I’d like to come back here next year.”
Coric Rallies Past Raonic, Makes Second St. Petersburg Final
In the second semifinal of the day, Coric was looking to make his second final in as many years at the Sibur Arena, but he quickly found himself with his back against the wall after dropping the first set in 37 minutes. Raonic, who claimed an early break in a marathon second game and never really looked back for the rest of the set, served seven aces and dropped just five points on his own serve to take control of the match.
Coric, however, was not prepared to back down without a fight. In a stunning turnaround, the seventh-seeded Croat broke twice, maintained a stunning 89% first-serve percentage and dropped just two points on his own serve to take the second set, 6-1. In addition to his stellar serving, the World No. 27 was also able to extend the rallies, eventually forcing errors out of his Canadian counterpart.
In a high-quality final set, it was Coric that was able to make the most of his opportunities while Raonic was unable to make a breakthrough in his return games. After saving three break points early in the decider, Coric earned a crucial break in the fifth game, which would make all the difference despite a spirited effort from the Canadian. With a victory in an hour and 56 minutes, the 23-year-old will now look to go one better in St. Petersburg, having lost to Daniil Medvedev last year.
“I am just very happy that I won the match. It was a really, really tough match. In the first set, I don’t remember playing that bad ever and also Milos was just serving huge. I didn’t have any response, but luckily in the second set I did find my rhythm and I started to play much better,” Coric assessed in his post-match interview.
“It is going to be a very difficult match [against Rublev], for sure. The last time I played him was in 2019 in Shanghai and I lost [6-4, 7-6(4)]. Obviously, he is playing some of the best tennis of his whole life. I was watching many of his matches and he was playing absolutely great. I am just happy to be in the final and, hopefully, tomorrow I can play my best match.”
Sunday’s showpiece will feature Rublev and Coric’s fourth meeting, with the Croat looking for his first win against the Russian.
In the doubles final, Marcelo Demoliner and Matwe Middelkoop will meet No. 2 seeds Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Demoliner and Middelkoop ended the night in St. Petersburg with a tough 6-4, 3-6, 10-6 victory over Alexander Bublik and Reilly Opelka and will be looking to win their third ATP Tour title together.
Max Gao is a freelance Canadian sports and entertainment journalist that is covering this year’s St. Petersburg Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow all of his reports throughout the week here and follow him on Twitter for live updates and exclusive, behind-the-scenes content from this year’s event: @MaxJGao.