For the second time in 24-hours, Andrei Rublev recovered from dropping a tight first set to claim victory, but on this occasion, that victory also brought with it his first ATP 1000 event title after three attempts as he became the Rolex Monte Carlo champion and the first for Russia since 1990.
I am so happy. I have been struggling so much to win a Masters 1000 tournament. Trailing 1-4, 0-30, then saving break points, thinking there is no chance to win. But somehow, I did it. Andrei Rublev
And it couldn’t have been achieved at a much more prestigious venue than in the Principality of Monaco where he has previously fallen at the last hurdle.
But for much of the match it looked as if he was headed for disappointment once again, but he turned the match around rallying back late in the third when trailing 1-4 to upset his final opponent, the Danish teenager, Holger Rune 5-7 6-2 7-5 after two hours and 24-miutes of intense tennis.
“I have tears,” an emotional and seemingly stunned Rublev said after his dramatic win. “I don’t know what to say. I am so happy. I have been struggling so much to win a Masters 1000 tournament. Trailing 1-4, 0-30, then saving break points, thinking there is no chance to win. But somehow, I did it.
“I was hoping deep inside that I would have one chance,” he eventually explained. “Play until the end. I remember the previous finals and when I was losing, I thought I’d have no luck and mentally I was going down. But today I thought, ‘Just believe until the end’, and this is what I was trying to do in the third set, hoping I would have an extra chance to come back and what a way to do it.”
After dropping the second, the 19-year-old Rune was in complete command building what looked like an unassailable 4-1 lead. He could have extended that lead had he not failed to break Rublev in the sixth game which no doubt gave Rublev the confidence to push back into contention by seizing one of his chances to break back and level on serve with a hold for 4-4.
The next two games were shared and a first ever Monte Carlo Masters final tie-break loomed, only for Rune to make two unforced errors in the 11th game as he hit two balls into the crowd in frustration, an action which did not go down well with the spectators who booed it.
Rublev however, remained focused and took full advantage by capturing the Rune serve again and by holding his own, pocketed the win, the Monte Carlo crown and a winner’s cheque for 892,590 Euros. It was also the Russian’s 13th title and the biggest of his career.
“I was definitely in control in the third set and also I would say mostly in the first set as well,” said Rune who won his maiden and only Masters’ title in Paris last year. “But again, I didn’t manage to close it out. Disappointing, but again, it’s part of tennis.”
Looking back at his successful week, the 25-year-old Rublev added: “I was thinking that if I do the things right outside the court, practicing-wise, I will have chances to win the big titles.
“The thing is I didn’t know when it’s going to happen, this year, last year, two years ago, because I played two finals before. I played couple of times semi-finals, and I couldn’t make it. In the end, happened here.
“I didn’t really expect that I’m going to win the title before (the) week (started), but then match by match I started to win, and then somehow, I ended up wining.”
This milestone might well launch Rublev to greater things at the majors where he has never got past the quarter final stage.