Rublev had held a match point against Tsitsipas at the 2020 season finale in London but lost in a third-set tie-break. It was the Russian’s serve that failed him on that occasion, as he double-faulted at a crucial moment.
But 12 months later Rublev turned in one of the best serving performances of his career, winning 90 per cent of points behind his first serve (36/40).
Asked whether he had ever produced such a consistent match on serve, Rublev chuckled.
“I think it was the first time ever,” he said. “I don’t know what to say because it was the first time ever and I’m happy with everything I did today on court. From serve, return, rallies from the baseline to my mental part, how I controlled my emotions today. So we’ll see if I can keep going this way.”
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Rublev’s reward for tying his head-to-head with Tsitsipas at 4-4 is a Wednesday clash with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. It will be the first match between the two and will determine which player leads the standings in the Green Group, after Djokovic defeated Casper Ruud 7-6(4), 6-2.
“It’s already set I’m going to play Novak and there is not much to say,” Rublev said. “He is one of the greatest players in history, so I don’t know even what to say. I hope I’m going to win a couple of games, but the reality is the only thing I can do is believe in myself and do my best.”
The victory over Tsitsipas was just the second Rublev has recorded at the Nitto ATP Finals, after a win over Dominic Thiem at The O2 Arena last year, which came when Rublev had already been eliminated from semi-final contention.
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Rublev’s performance was all the more impressive after the Russian revealed that he had mistakenly thought he had slept through the match.
“It’s true, because my match was at 9pm, so during the day I had a lot of time, so I decided to sleep,” Rublev explained.
“Normally I don’t sleep at all during the day or even if I try to sleep I never fall asleep, but today I fell asleep for more than one hour. I set an alarm for 6pm and when I woke up, it was already so dark, and I felt completely broken, like if someone wake you up at 7am. And I was thinking, ‘I’m not going to wake up now, I’m going to sleep for another half an hour.’ Because normally in the morning I set many alarms, like this I can sleep longer, at least mentally I think this.
“I felt strange, firstly I always put my phones on to charge and now they were not charging. I was thinking, something strange is going on. Normally at night I would charge them. Then I look at the time, 6pm. What is this? 6pm? How is possible? Did my phone get maybe a bit broken or something? And then I started to realise, ‘Oof, I fell asleep during the day. Oof, I have a match in couple of hours, so I need to wake up.’”