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Hubert Hurkacz defeats Andrey Rublev (6/3 3/6 7/6) in the final of the Shanghai Masters 1000 on October 15, 2023.

Both men were vying for a second title in this prestigious category. While the Polish player celebrates his victory, Andrey Rublev may regret this match – one that was decided by a whisker. Winning this match would have allowed him to join Daniil Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz as multi-title winners of Masters 1000 in 2023. He will have to wait until Paris to try his luck again. There, the seeded players could prove to be tougher opponents.

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First Set: No Contest

The first set lasted only thirty-one minutes. Standing tall at 1.96 meters, Hubert Hurkacz fired off devastating serves. Whether down the middle or out wide, Andrey Rublev watched the balls whizzing past him. His helplessness during the return games frustrated him. He responded with an aggressive style of play built around his primary weapon. He played numerous crosscourt forehands to create openings. When those opportunities arose, all he had to do was finish with a winner down the line. But this constant risk-taking came at a cost. The Russian lost his serve in the sixth game and didn’t have any chance to recover it. Hubert Hurkacz led the final with relative ease: 6/3.

At the end of the first set, the situation was clear. The score was explained by the Polish player’s quality of service and a few unfortunate unforced errors from Andrey Rublev. One question arose: what would happen if Hurkacz’s first-serve percentage decreased and the Russian managed to find his rhythm?

Second Set: Answers

The Monte-Carlo champion returned to the court full of determination. He put intention and power into each of his shots. At the same time, the seventeenth-ranked player in the world was betrayed by his serve. Without this deadly weapon, his game fell apart. Andrey Rublev took control of the second set with a break in hand. Confident, he succeeded in everything he attempted: serves, forehand attacks, and down-the-line backhands. On the other side of the net, Hubert Hurkacz lost his footing. He tried to survive in rallies without trying to direct them. His many shots down the center of the court lacked intention. Andrey Rublev leveled the match: 6/3 3/6.

For thirty minutes, the seventh-ranked player in the world was ruthless. He had all the answers against a player lacking in ideas. His accelerations made Hubert Hurkacz cover every inch of the court. Without his first serve, the latter was pushed into a defensive position.

Third Set: A Turning Point

Hubert Hurkacz took matters into his own hands at the beginning of the second hour of play. He regained the quality of his serve and found more depth. This forced Andrey Rublev to wait for the right opportunity to attack. The Russian put on a show for Roger Federer, seated in the presidential box. He grazed the lines with mastery. But as the end of the set approached, the disadvantage of serving second became apparent. Hubert Hurkacz delivered a series of first serves while Andrey Rublev tightened up. The powerful shots he hit just minutes ago now stayed on his racket. On a tightrope, Alberto Martin’s student saved a match point to negotiate a tiebreak.

The following minutes followed the same pattern. The Polish player served aces while Andrey Rublev barely dared to hit his second serves. As always, he did not give up. The Russian saved three match points before sending a final forehand into the bottom of the net.

Andrey Rublev’s collapse in the match’s final moments recalled his old demons. The fragility of his second serve and his constant tension once again played tricks on him in crucial moments.

But let’s end on a positive note. Too often overlooked in the top 10, Andrey Rublev continues to prove his worth in 2023. With 50 victories this season, his qualification for the ATP Finals in Turin is imminent.

Marnie Abbou

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