Turin: Carlos Alcaraz feels like he is coming back to his best form after strolling to Wednesday's 7-5, 6-2 win over an emotionally fraught Andrey Rublev and keeping alive his hopes of reaching the last four of the ATP Finals.
World No 2 Alcaraz has had problems with his form and fitness over the past few months and was staring at possible early elimination after losing his first Red Group match with Alexander Zverev.
But he looked in much better condition on Wednesday and comfortably claimed his first ever win in the season-ending tournament, snapping a three-match losing streak to boot.
"You could see I've been struggling with my level the last few months, few tournaments. Playing this match in this quality, at this level, it's really helpful for me," Alcaraz told reporters.
'Happy with my level'
"I'm really happy to show this level and realise that my level is still there, giving myself a chance in this tournament... After this win, everything has changed in my mind."
The 20-year-old easily dealt with Russian Rublev who once again failed to make his mark in a big match with one of tennis' leading lights, a problem which has dogged his career.
Fifth seed Rublev, the reigning Monte Carlo Masters champion, was on the verge of tears after losing his opener with Daniil Medvedev and lost control again after giving away a service game at the start of the second set.
Being one set and a break down was too much for the 26-year-old who started smashing his racket into his left knee, drawing blood as he sat down.
Troubled Rublev was still bleeding down his leg after the change of ends and, just as against Medvedev, gave into his anger and promptly collapsed.
After throwing away his serve to love in game seven to give Alcaraz the chance to serve for the match, Rublev sat with his towel over his head, clearly trying to hold back the tears before Alcaraz sealed a straight-sets victory.
Afterwards Rublev brushed off the assault on his own limb as "nothing" but admitted that he is struggling to deal with what has been a hard end to the season.
"It's not easy because you always want to finish in a good way. Sometimes, yeah, you get disappointed when it's not happening," he told reporters.
Rublev isn't yet officially eliminated but he is not counting on getting out of the group having failed to win a set in his first two matches.
"To be honest, now I don't expect anything. It's going to be the last match," he added.
"At least I will try to do something better than the previous two matches, and that's it. Try at least to finish in a good way."
Alcaraz meanwhile will now face Medvedev in his final match with his Russian opponent having a chance to reach the semi-finals in his clash with Zverev later on Wednesday.
World No 3 Medvedev can book an early place in the next round if he wins in straight sets, while Alcaraz's victory means seventh seed Zverev will be through with a win of any sort.