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Ricky’s preview and pick for the Dubai championship match: Rublev vs. Vesely

Andrey Rublev of Russia celebrates after winning his semi final match against Hubert Hurkacz of Poland at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis ATP Championships 2022 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 25 February 2022. EPA-EFE/ALI HAIDER

By Ricky Dimon

Andrey Rublev’s appearance in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is no surprise. His opponent on Saturday, on the other hand, is someone nobody could have predicted.

Jiri Vesely is ranked No. 123 in the world, thus being forced to qualify just to get into the main draw. The 28-year-old Czech did so successfully with a pair of three-set victories, and since then he has been off to the races. Vesely’s dream run features upsets of Marin Cilic, Roberto Bautista Agut, Novak Djokovic, and Denis Shapovalov. In the semis, Shapovalov served for the match at 5-4 in the third set only to squander his chance and lose 6-7(7), 7-6(2), 7-6(3).

A thrilling semifinal Friday also kicked off with a final-set tiebreaker, as Rublev battled to a 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) win over Hubert Hurkacz. It was the seventh-ranked Russian’s third consecutive three-set success, having previously outlasted Soonwoo Kwon and Mackenzie McDonald. Rublev’s run–which began with a 6-4, 7-5 defeat of Dan Evans–has also been remarkable considering that he was already fatigued when the week started after lifting the trophy last Sunday in Marseille.

“I’m feeling super happy and super tired,” the 24-year-old said. “I could not imagine that it would happen this week again–that I would be in a final. I’m just happy.

“I could not imagine how (Stefanos) Tsitsipas did it twice, because two years in a row he won the title in Marseille and (reached) the final in Dubai. I was thinking that was impossible to do, and somehow I did it this year. I still don’t know even myself how I did it. Let’s see what happens next.”

Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic in action against Denis Shapovalov of Canada during their semi final match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis ATP Championships 2022 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 25 February 2022. EPA-EFE/ALI HAIDER

What’s next, of course, is a match in which Rublev won’t be the only worn out competitor on the court. Vesely has already played six matches in Dubai–including his emotional upset of Djokovic–and he needed three hours and 12 minutes to get past Shapovalov. The underdog will obviously have to play a ton of defense in baseline rallies against Rublev, too, which does not bode well.

Vesely has never played in an ATP final above the 250 level. Rublev has won four 500 titles. Look for the Russian to remain on a roll.

Pick: Rublev in 2

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