Lorenzo Sonego and Andrey Rublev will take the stage this afternoon to contest the final of the Erste Bank Open, an ATP 500 being played out at the Wiener Stadhalle in the capital of Austria.
After yesterday [when he beat Djokovic] it was not easy playing against Evans because he has a good talent. He has a good talent. He has a good backhand and it was not easy. Today I won and I am so happy. Lorenzo Sonego
The two will be fresh having come through their semi-finals to make the final without being extended by a decider. In fact, neither has been taken to three sets in all their previous matches leading to the title deciding round.
The player of the week must be Sonego who, last Sunday, was packing his bags to return home to Turin having lost to Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene in the final round of qualifying only to be handed a ‘Lucky Loser’ entry ticket when Diego Schwartzman pulled out before his opening main draw match.
He certainly grasped the opportunity it provided with both hands as he went on to storm through the field without dropping his serve until the semi-final. His wins over Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic, Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in two tiebreak sets, and then the world number one, Novak Djokovic, inflicting on the Serb only his third defeat of the year.
That upset was indeed noteworthy but it was the way it was delivered that really made fans and pundits sit up for he only dropped 3 games.
Yesterday’s semi-final saw him face the British number one Dan Evans, who fought hard but was unable to make any inroads into what has developed into an all-round game by the 25-year-old Italian. His serve, despite dropping it once for the first time in the week, was powerful and accurate, his forehand lethal especially down the line and his dropshots extremely effective. All in all it left Evans very frustrated as he went down 6-3 6-4 after one hour and 21-minutes.
The 30-year-old Evans required treatment for a problem on his right shoulder at the start of the second set having just been broken in the opening game. He broke back immediately play resumed only for Sonego to regain the break in the third game.
Evans failed to convert another break point in the eighth game as Sonego strode towards the finish line which he crossed two games later.
“I am really happy,” a beaming Sonego said in his on-court interview. “After yesterday [when he beat Djokovic] it was not easy playing against Evans because he has a good talent. He has a good talent. He has a good backhand and it was not easy. Today I won and I am so happy.”
He is expected to be tested by his next opponent, Andrey Rublev, the fifth seed and world number eight, whose passage to the final includes two retirements, Jannik Sinner in round two after three games, and in the semi-finals when Kevin Anderson retired with a right thigh injury when trailing 6-4 4-1.
The Springbok, who won the event in 2018, arrived on court wearing tape on that thigh and called medical attention after losing the opening game of the second set. Anderson received more attention again at 3-0 and played two more games before throwing in the towel.
Rublev, who eliminated the home favourite and defending champion Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals, is chasing his fifth title of the season and if successful, would stand as the most titles won by a player so far this season. Currently he hasn’t lost a final this year.
“I came here thinking I had nothing to lose,” Rublev reiterated. “I came here to enjoy, to do my best, to fight for every point every match. Now I am in the final, I will keep thinking the same way.”
Rublev will certainly be the favourite but one shouldn’t underestimate Sonego who has burst onto the scene in a dramatic way to become only the second Italian player to reach the final in Vienna after Gianluca Pozzi, who lost to Petr Korda in 1992.
In the Astana Open in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, John Millman and Adrian Mannarino will contest the title on Sunday.
Ausssie John Millman, the fourth seed, edged past American Frances Tiafoe 6-3 4-6 6-4 for his third ATP Tour final appearance one day after saving two match points in his quarter-final another American Tommy Paul on Friday.
“I definitely did not want to play three sets. I was pretty tired after yesterday’s match. It was tough out there today with really physical tennis. Frances is a top player. He is obviously so dangerous,” Millman said following his victory.
In the top half of the draw, Frenchman and third seed Adrian Mannarino beat Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori, qualifier, 7-5 6-2.
Mannarino has not dropped a set this week and lost just seven games en route to the semi-finals, the same number which Ruusuvuori collected against him!