Day 5. Semifinals. Andrey Rublev

Andy Taylor. Tennis Host. Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2018. Day 5. Semifinals. Andrey Rublev

Tennis Host. Andy Taylor. Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2018
Andrey Rublev (RUS) def Guido Pella (ARG) 62 46 76(2)

What a match!

Andrey Rublev is for real. He will start 2018 the same way he ended the 2017 season: Contending for a title. Friday night, he saved match point to reach the Doha Final. Last year at this time, the former member of a One Direction cover band was whacking the ball around, preparing for Australian Open qualifying.

Last January, Rublev was ranked outside the top-150. The tennis world had no idea the 19-year-old would finish the season as runner-up at the Next Gen ATP Finals, ranked inside the top-40. Check out his remarkable 2017 below.

High praise for Guido Pella, as well. Earlier this week, he defeated the 4-seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas for the first time, then powered past a pair of qualifiers to secure a career-best start to the season: Juniors, Futures, Challengers and Tour-Level combined.

Pella absolutely battled on Friday and came within a point of reaching his third career Tour level final.

Rublev dominated the first. Pella stepped-up in the second

In set-1, the Russian opened with a break, then broke again to solidify a 4-1 lead. Three games later, he was a set away from the Championship match. Rublev simply overpowered Pella, punishing the Argentine Davis Cup Champion by pushing him all over the court, controlling every point.

Struggling on serve, Pella knew he had to swing lights-out in the second to find his way against the next-level Next Gen star. After two lengthy battles just to hold, Pella decided it was time for some risky target practice. Down 40-15 in game 4, Guido started tearing the felt off the ball, ripping winners from impossible angles. 4-points later, he earned his first break.

Like in yesterday’s victory over Borna Coric, Rublev quickly recovered, breaking back to deny Pella’s momentum…or so it appeared. Back on serve, Pella was relentless, earned several more break chances, and finally converted on a Rublev forehand error wide. But again, Andrey broke back, then leveled the set at 4-all on his serve.

Up 5-4, Guido dug in, sensing opportunity. All the pressure was on Rublev, serving to stay in the set. Pella scrapped his way to deuce, then earned his first set point. Rublev was rattled. While Andrey fought off set-point #1, he was too shaken to do it again. Pella leveled the match with his third break.

A 3rd-set marathon

The third set could have gone either way. Both held through the tiebreak, but every game became a brutal, rally-rich slog. In fact, game-two alone lasted nearly nine minutes. Both missed several break opportunities as the deuce clashes piled-up. Down 4-5, Andrey felt the pressure again, but erased match point with a thundering ace to stay alive.

By the deciding tiebreak, Rublev relaxed into his potential. He trusted his power and accuracy when it mattered most, allowing Pella only two points down the stretch. With a 7-2 victory in the breaker, Andrey Rublev reached the Qatar ExxonMobil Open Final in his Doha debut.

Next up: Championship Match. Gael Monfils

Gael Monfils reached his 4th career Doha Final without even taking the court in the Semifinals. During the Doubles Championship, tournament organizers learned that Thiem fell ill after his Quarterfinal victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas, and was unfit to compete Friday night. Because of Thiem’s withdrawal, Monfils advanced with a walkover.

That said, tomorrow’s Championship match will feature a well-rested 4-time Finalist and a hungry, 20-year-old Next Gen ball-crusher. The two have never played before. Who will step-up and claim the falcon?

Andrey Rublev

YESTERDAY, THIS 20-YEAR-OLD DEFEATED FELLOW ATP NEXT GEN STAR BORNA CORIC IN STRAIGHT SETS, AND IS THROUGH TO THE SEMIFINALS IS HIS DOHA DEBUT. LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME, HE WAS RANKED OUTSIDE THE TOP-150, PRACTICING FOR THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN QUALIES. BUT BY SEASON’S END – IN A YEAR OF REMARKABLE FIRSTS – HE WAS RANKED INSIDE THE TOP-40. IN MELBOURNE, HE QUALIFIED FOR THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN AND REACHED THE 2ND-ROUND IN HIS GRAND SLAM MAIN DRAW DEBUT. HE WON HIS FIRST CAREER TOUR-LEVEL TITLE IN UMAG, REACHED THE MAIN-DRAW AT BOTH ROLAND GARROS AND WIMBLEDON, AND AT THE US OPEN IN NEW YORK – BECAME THE YOUNGEST US OPEN QUARTERFINALIST SINCE ANDY RODDICK IN 2001. HE FINISHED THE YEAR IN NOVEMBER BY REACHING THE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH AT THE NEXT GEN ATP FINALS IN MILAN. COMPETING IN HIS FIRST QATAR EXXONMOBIL OPEN, FROM RUSSIA – PLEASE WELCOME ANDREY RUBLEV

Guido Pella

TO THE CHAIR UMPIRE’S ___ – AT 27-YEARS-OLD, THIS DAVIS CUP CHAMPION IS ENJOYING THE MOST-SUCCESSFUL WEEK-ONE TOURNAMENT OF HIS CAREER. IN ROUND-1, HE UPSET THE 4-SEED ALBERT RAMOS-VINOLAS, THEN DEFEATED STEFANO TRAVAGLIA AND MIRZA BASIC TO REACH TONIGHT’S SEMIFINAL MATCH. LAST YEAR, HE REACHED HIS SECOND CAREER TOUR-LEVEL FINAL IN MUNICH, CAPTURED HIS 11TH AND 12TH ATP CHALLENGER TOUR TITLES IN MILAN AND COLUMBIA, AND EARNED HIS SECOND CAREER TOP-10 VICTORY, DEFEATING WORLD #7 DOMINIC THIEM EN ROUTE TO THE SEMIFINALS OF THE CHENGDU OPEN. CHAMPION OF THE 2012 YEAR-END ATP CHALLENGER TOUR FINALS; TWO-YEARS-AGO, WITH VICTORIES IN THE FIRST ROUND, QUARTERFINALS AND SEMIFINALS, HE HELPED LIFT ARGENTINA TO ITS HISTORIC, FIRST-EVER DAVIS CUP TITLE. COMPETING IN HIS FIRST QATAR EXXONMOBIL OPEN, FROM ARGENTINA, PLEASE WELCOME – GUIDO PELLA