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Tsitsipas, Rublev advance to Mubadala World Tennis Championship final

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev will battle for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship title on Sunday afternoon in Abu Dhabi. This is the most prestigious event of the ATP’s offseason exhibition schedule and there is plenty of prize money on the line, as well ($250,000 to the winner), so the intensity should be high even though no ranking points are involved.

Opening byes in this loaded six-man field certainly did not prove to be any advantage, as top seeds Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud bowed out right away in Saturday’s semifinals. Rublev already had a match under his belt (a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory over Borna Coric) and then destroyed Alcaraz 6-2, 6-1. Tsitsipas followed up a 6-1, 6-4 defeat of Cameron Norrie by beating Ruud 6-2, 6-2.

Thus it will be familiar foes Alcaraz and Ruud in the third-place match while Tsitsipas and Rublev take center stage in the final.

Speaking of familiar foes, Tsitsipas and Rublev have faced each other 12 times in official competition and the head-to-head series is all tied up at 6-6 (Tsitsipas leads it 6-5 at the ATP level). Rublev has won five of their eight hard-court encounters, including a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 decision at last month’s Nitto ATP Finals.

Tsitsipas may be a slight favorite on paper, but this should set up well for Rublev. Given his recent head-to-head success in Turin, his performance against Alcaraz, and the Abu Dhabi setting, you have to like the eighth-ranked Russian’s chances. He loves the quick hard-court conditions and–as usual–it will be windy in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Rublev generally handles wind better than the Greek, whose backhand can go awry even in favorable conditions.

Look for Rublev to come out on top in a competitive, high-quality contest.

Pick: Rublev in 3

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.