Wild card Aslan Karatsev made for a remarkable duty free tennis championship in Dubai in 2021 when he defeated compatriot Andrey Rublev 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
He will face qualifier Lloyd Harris on Saturday, who scored a remarkable win against Denis Shapovalov 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 earlier in the day.
Both finalists have set their own records; Karatsev was the first Joker to reach the finals in Dubai since Thomas Muster in 1997, while Harris was the first qualifier to reach the finals.
The two Russians faced each other for the first time in Friday’s late game, and Karatsev ended Rublev’s 23-game winning streak in the ATP 500.
Karasev, who reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in 2021, has set an 11-2 record this year and can jump to 22nd place in the ATP world rankings if he wins the title on Saturday. Karatsev landed 41 winners and made 16 breakpoints. He beat Rublev in his own game by hitting early in rallies and keeping his compatriot behind the baseline.
The first set surprised Rublev when Karatsev’s excellent serves and two breaks earned him the first set with ease. The second seed Rublev fought 3: 3 against four breakpoints in the second set and was able to equalize the match after being supported by two double mistakes by his opponent and breaking 6: 4.
In a tense final set, Rublev doubled 1-1 on Karatsev’s sixth breakpoint, and Karatsev seemed at home and dry when he went broke again, leading 5-2. But Rublev dug deep into his nervous opponent, broke the serve, then held two more breakpoints at 5-5 before Karatsev finally got over the line on his second match point.
In a game that was well balanced down to the last shot, an aggressive Shapovalov took the first set 7-6 against Harris. Although Harris received medical attention and had his thigh taped off, the world number 81 continued to fit his opponent ball after ball.
The South African, trailing 2-4 in the second set, saved three of the four breakpoints he faced to lead the game to a crucial set where neither player was given a breakpoint.
In a tie, Harris prevailed against his opponent and won his second match point. The battle lasted two hours and 41 minutes.
“I don’t have a lot of words right now. I am very happy with this win, ”Harris said in a court interview.
“Being a set and 2-4 down is a bit of a pain mentally and physically, but I found my best tennis from there,” he continued.
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