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Rublev wins wild one against Rune, will meet Djokovic in quarterfinals

It looked like Andrey Rublev had won. Then it looked like he had lost. And then–with a little bit of luck–he won.

Fittingly, Rublev defined his Australian Open fourth-round match against Holger Rune on Monday afternoon as a “roller-coaster.” In the end, the world No. 6 outlasted Rune 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(11-9) after three hours and 37 minutes to book a spot alongside Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

For a while it looked like Rublev would finish off the 19-year-old in more routine fashion. After Rublev seized a two sets to one lead by taking the third, Rune began to struggle physically–not an unexpected development since had not looked quite 100 percent during his third-round victory over Ugo Humbert. The fifth seed had two break points in the opening game of the fourth but could not convert, and from out of nowhere Rune eventually pocketed a break of his own for a surprising 4-2 lead. The Dane failed to serve it out at 5-3, but another scalp of the Rublev serve pushed the match to what proved to be an incredibly dramatic decider.

A break at 2-1 gave Rune a quick upper hand and he consolidated the advantage all the way to 5-2. With the checkered flag in sight, however, the world No. 10 turned in car wreck of a service game at 5-3. Following his break at love, Rublev delivered a love hold to reach 5-5. The Russian’s hold at 5-6 was much tougher. Rune brought up double-match point at 15-40 only to see Rublev save both chances and reel off four points in a row to force a super-tiebreaker.

The wild ride continued with Rune surging to a 5-0 lead before losing nine of the next 11 points. This time it was the teenager’s turn to fight off two match points, the second of which came via a brilliant backhand passing shot after Rublev failed to put away a swinging forehand volley. Rublev’s third opportunity came at 10-9, and this time he converted in shocking fashion–with a backhand return that slammed into the net cord and dribbled over to Rune’s side.

“It was a roller-coaster, man,” Rublev assured. “I was 5-2 down in the fifth set; 6-5 with two match points and then 5-0 in the super-tiebreak. I never in my life was able to win matches like this and this is the first ever time that I win something like this–especially in a very special tournament playing the Australian Open. Playing in the quarterfinal is something that I will remember for sure all my life. I have no words man. I am shaking.”

Rublev will have to rebound in a hurry both mentally and physically before facing Djokovic, who is in dominant form after destroying Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in the night match on Monday.

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