“It’s like you pass university and they give you a diploma,” a delighted Rublev said on court after the match.
The fourth seed, who fell to Medvedev and the Australian Open in February, had not defeated the 12-time tour-level titlist in their previous four encounters, nor at any time earlier in his career. However, Rublev rallied in Ohio hitting powerful forehands to defeat Medvedev 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in two hours and 22 minutes and improve to 1-4 in their ATP Head2Head Series.
”Even when I was 2-6 down, the score should not have been like this because the points were so tight,” Rublev said in his on-court interview. “The match was so intense, so many long rallies, super tough, super physical, super mental. A lot like a chess match.
“Medvedev is one of those players who won’t give you a chance to attack, but if I have enough power and chose the right moment, I have to be the one to make him run. In the end, I was trying to find the perfect moment to start being more aggressive to open the angles.
“It gives me more confidence that I can compete against him. There are still so many things to improve.”
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The 23-year-old reached his maiden Masters 1000 final in Monte-Carlo in April and will face third seed Alexander Zverev or Roland Garros finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s championship match as he bids to claim his first title at this level.
Rublev has fond memories in Cincinnati, having defeated Roger Federer en route to the quarter-finals in 2019. This year, the eight-time tour-level titlist helped guide Russia to the ATP Cup title alongside Medvedev in February and lifted the Rotterdam trophy in March.
In a lively start, Medvedev gained an early break as he sat deep behind the baseline and hit with consistent depth. The 25-year-old covered the court well to frustrate Rublev, who committed 18 unforced errors in the first set as Medvedev moved ahead.
After colliding with a cameraman at 1-1 in the second set, Medvedev recovered as both hammered their groundstrokes to manoeuvre each other around the court in a high-quality encounter. In an epic eighth game, Rublev raised his level, converting his fifth break point as he managed to hit through his countryman, before holding serve to claim his first-ever set against Medvedev and force a decider.
Both players were strong on serve in the third set until the seventh game, when three errors from Medvedev handed Rublev a crucial break of serve. The World No. 7, who won 73 per cent (44/60) of his first-service points, then held his nerve to secure his victory.
Medvedev overcame big-serving American Reilly Opelka in Toronto last week to capture his fourth Masters 1000 title. The top seed, who clinched the Cincinnati trophy in 2019, had won 11 out of his past 12 matches in Ohio.
The Australian Open finalist, who has also lifted titles in Mallorca and Montpellier this season, was aiming to become just the seventh male player in the Open Era to complete the Toronto-Cincinnati double.