Rublev Stalls The Thiem Comeback
The Gijón Open ATP 250 has its first finalist as Rublev moves past Thiem into his ninth final of the year.
On paper the two players seemed worlds apart. Thiem, on the verge of turning 30, ranked at #165, playing his second semifinal of 2022. Rublev, 24 years young, world number 9 and winner of three titles so far this year.
On the court though, it all came down to the equivalent of a break of serve in each set for Rublev. Converting 2 of his 6 break point opportunities, the former world #1 junior took the match 6-4 6-4 against his good friend.
In the first set, 5-3 with a break, Rublev’s full range of emotion was laid bare, displaying his usual mix of flair, peppered with that good old Rublev temper for not closing out the set on serve. Thiem gave himself a glimmer of hope, breaking back for 4-5 but was immediately broken again by Rublev who brought the show to intermission, taking the set 6-4.
In the second there was more back-and-forth and constant self-chastising from both players. They stayed on served until the game where any player fears getting broken: serving at 4-5 down. That was the case for Thiem.
With the crowd firmly in the Austrian’s pocket, the roars almost lifted the roof off the stadium when Thiem saved a second match point with an unreturnable backhand down-the-line.
This was just delaying the inevitable, however. Thiem rushed the net on the next match point down and Rublev sent a beaming passing shot past the Austrian. It was called out, but a challenge requested by Rublev saw the Hawk-Eye replay confirm the ball was in. The friends shared a warm embrace at the net.
“Thiem is getting better and better every week,” exulted Rublev in his post-match press conference. "Compared to two months ago when I was practising with him, there is now a huge, huge difference."
With the victory, Rublev storms into his ninth final of 2022 and extends his head-to-head record to 4-2 over Thiem. He will now face the winner of the second semifinal match between Sebastian Korda and Arthur Rinderknech.
The player from Moscow is happy with his form, “this week I have been playing really well and I’ll try to show my best tennis of the week tomorrow.”
By: Yannis Blackburn
Photo: Gijón Open