Andrey Rublev celebrates his semi-final win over Hubert Hurkacz at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Andrey Rublev celebrates his semi-final win over Hubert Hurkacz at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Andrey Rublev is either one of the toughest and most tenacious men on the ATP Tour — or he is a glutton for punishment.

Once again the Russian had to call on all his energy reserves and nerves of steel to overcome Hubert Hurkacz in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships semi-final on Friday evening.

He may be seeded No. 2, but no one was more surprised than Rublev himself to even make it through his first-round clash with Dan Evans, having only arrived in Dubai hours before — catching a last-minute jump-seat flight from Marseille after clinching both the singles and doubles titles in France.

Then came two arduous slogs against South Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon and American upstart Mackenzie McDonald, in which he had to fight back after looking down and out after meekly surrendering the first set both times.

Cue Friday’s semi-finals and Rublev was at it again, throwing away the opener 6-3 in 30 minutes to Hurkacz and sending a tennis ball over the stands and somewhere into the vicinity of Dubai Creek in frustration in the process.

But, yet again, someone new emerged at the start of the second set and slowly he turned things in his favour, snatching a vital break to level up and then all but collapse over the line in the final set tiebreak.

Reflecting on his 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 triumph, Rublev said: “I don’t know how I got here, to be honest. Before the tournament I told to my team I don’t know how (Stefanos) Tsitsipas managed to win two years in a row Marseille and then reached the final two years in a row here. I don’t know how he did it. I couldn’t even imagine before that it was something that tough.”

He added with a laugh: “This week I did the same and I still don’t know how, to be honest.

“Maybe it was a bit of confidence from Marseille. Maybe also that some points during the match, especially important points, I was a bit more lucky, stuff like that. In the end, like a puzzle, it all comes together.”

While he is glad to reach the final, he is hoping he doesn’t face yet another marathon match.

“I wish to play shorter games of course,” he said. “Yesterday I think I was losing 5-0 in less than 15 minutes. I was telling to myself, ‘No way, it’s only 15 minutes and one set down. Please at least try to make it one hour’. Even if you lose, you try to play more than one hour so it is not completely embarrassing.

“Today I was thinking the same. I lost the first set 6-3 in 20-something minutes. It was so fast. He broke me and until the end of the set he was serving aces. I was telling to myself, ‘Try to at least go to the tiebreak in the second, at least the score will look better’, and then I got my chance.”

Andrey Rublev in action against Hubert Hurkacz
Andrey Rublev in action against Hubert Hurkacz Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Looking ahead to his potential final opponents — Novak Djokovic’s conqueror Jiri Vesely, or No. 6 seed Denis Shapovalov — Rublev told Gulf News: “I don’t know how Vesely is playing because we never play each other. So I don’t really know what to expect. But I saw yesterday’s match. He was playing really, really great against Novak.

“Against Shapo, we have played so many times. All of them are super tough matches, three sets or two tough sets. I mean, for me it’s tough to play against him because he has no set rhythm, he just goes for the shot. Hopefully, I don’t know, both of them will have bad day tomorrow

“I will try to sleep as much as I can, do my warm-up during the day. go back to the room, maybe sleep a bit more, then go get ready for the match.”