Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely continued his dream run in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships to book a date with Russia’s Andrey Rublev in the final at around 7pm on Saturday evening.
The 28-year-old was playing his seventh match of the tournament on Friday night after coming through three rounds of qualifying and once again emerged on top in a titanic tussle against Canadian No. 6 seed Denis Shapovalov 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 as the clock went past 11pm.
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Vesely famously defeated world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals on Thursday, but he was not about to let his fairy-tale journey end there, having never before reached the semis of an ATP 500 event.
Nothing could separate the pair until Shapovalov finally broke to serve for the match at 5-4 in the third. But, just as the two had slugged it out all match, Vesely hauled himself level by breaking straight back, just as the Canadian looked to close out the game.
In an ending fitting for such a showdown, it came down to a third and final tiebreak, with Vesely keeping his nerve to take it 7-3 and book his date with Rublev after more than three hours on court.
“It was very difficult, especially after missing out on a set point in the first,” Vesely said after his marathon triumph. “It gets you down a little bit but I am having a dream run here. This is my first ATP 500 semi-final and final and I just can’t believe it.
“The crowd was amazing. I was trying to get them on my side and take their energy. I really appreciate their support.”
Vesely has had a tough time in the past six months — suffering a serious car crash before being hit hard by Covid-19 and injury — and had said he had fallen out of love with the game recently. But that is a different story now, having defeated Grand Slam winner Marin Cilic, last week’s Qatar Open champion Roberto Bautista Agut, Djokovic and now Shapovalov en route to the final.
“My faith is back absolutely,” the Czech, who has dropped to No. 123 in the world, said. “I am loving it here in Dubai and I will see you all tomorrow once again.”