The Russian bided his time after a fast start from Hubert Hurkacz in the semi-finals of the ATP 500 event on Friday, clinching a tense 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) victory over two hours, 23 minutes.
Marseille champion Rublev had already come from a set down to beat both Soonwoo Kwon and Mackenzie McDonald this week, and the Russian was forced to battle once again to reach his first final in Dubai.
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Rublev lost to eventual champion Aslan Karatsev in the semi-finals in 2021, and he looked to be falling at the same stage again as a strong serving performance from Hurkacz had the World No. 7 under pressure early on.
The Pole struck the ball ferociously to force the only break of the first set in the second game of the match, barely giving his opponent a look-in on his own serve as he fired 10 aces and lost just three points behind his first serve on his way to the set.
With Hurkacz in full flow the onus was on Rublev to find a way back into the match. The Russian dug deep to engineer a break point at 30/40 in the fourth game of the second set, but the Hurkacz serve proved up to the task once again, three huge consecutive deliveries emphatically dismissing the threat.
Rublev continued to chip away as Hurkacz’s level marginally dropped, however, the Russian taking his chance at the crucial moment by breaking for 7-5 to level the match with a forehand winner.
The momentum appeared to be with the Rublev in an engrossing final set. The Hurkacz serve was called into action again to fend off four break points in the fourth game, but despite errors from both players creeping in as the tension grew, the match came down to a deciding tie-break.
It was Rublev who held his nerve to secure the narrowest of victories, taking the only point of the tie-break to go against serve after Hurkacz missed a forehand before serving out victory. It marks the first time that World No. 11 Rublev has beaten Hurkacz at tour-level, and the win reduces the Pole’s ATP Head2Head series lead to 2-1.