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Ruud Beats Rublev for last Semi Spot at Nitto ATP Tennis Finals, Awaits Medvedev on Saturday in Turin

Casper Ruud of Norway celebrates after winning his group stage match against Andrey Rublev of Russia at the Nitto ATP Finals tennis tournament in Turin, Italy. EPA-EFE/ALESSANDRO DI MARCO

By Ricky Dimon

So much for Casper Ruud being a clay-court specialist….

Ruud is capping off a stellar run on hard courts this fall with an improbable showing at the Nitto ATP Finals–which are being played on a lightning-fast surface even by hard-court standards. The eighth-ranked Norwegian earned a spot on semifinal Saturday with a 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) victory over Andrey Rublev on Friday afternoon. With both players at 1-1 heading into this round-robin showdown, it was a winner-take-all contest with the winner advancing as the No. 2 seed out of Group A and the loser going home.

For most of the way it looked like Rublev would the one staying alive in Turin. The world No. 5 dominated the opening set and led by a break in both the second and the third. Every time, though, Ruud had an answer and the underdog eventually completed his comeback after two hours and 23 minutes.

“The court is playing very fast and Andrey plays very fast,” Ruud noted. “He rips the ball harder than anyone on the tour. We all want to play under control and with initiative, but it is not easy against Rublev, because he makes you run all the time and play defensively all the time. I knew I had to fight fire with fire.”

Andrey Rublev and Casper Ruud embrace at the Nitto ATP Finals tennis tournament in Turin, Italy. EPA-EFE/ALESSANDRO DI MARCO

That is exactly what the 22-year-old did, as his forehand heated up in the second and third sets to go along with 14 aces–the same number as Rublev.

“It is tough,” the Russian admitted. “Hopefully I can go through it to get a good lesson, which will give me a huge improvement.

“In the moment I got tight, which is normal. Casper played well. He has a great forehand–one of the best on tour. He dictates with it and hits the ball well. Because I was tight, I was serving too slowly and he returned aggressively on the forehand and I could not do anything.”

Rublev now awaits Davis Cup duty for Russia, while Ruud moves on to face another Russian–world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev. Saturday’s other semifinal pits world No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 3 Alexander Zverev.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.