Casper Ruud overcame a break down in the third to deny Andrey Rublev 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) and capture the last semifinal spot in the ATP Finals.
After getting routed by a hot Rublev in the first set, Ruud forced the issue in the second. But Rublev would regain control in the third, leading with a break at 3-2. Ruud would immediately get back on serve, then save break points and 5-all and eventually win it in a breaker.
“The court is playing very fast and Andrey plays very fast,” Ruud said in his on-court interview. “He rips the ball harder than anyone on the Tour and serves very well on his first serve. We all want to play under control and with initiative, but it is not easy against Rublev because he makes you run all the time and play defensively all the time. I knew I had to fight fire with fire. On the big points I think I played quite smartly.”
Rublev finishes the season just 7-8 in his last 15 matches since his runner-up in Cincinnati. And he went just 1-2 this week.
“It is tough,” Rublev said. “Hopefully I can go through it to get a good lesson, which will give me a huge improvement.
“In the moment I got tight, which is normal,” Rublev said. “Casper played well. He has a great forehand. One of the best on Tour. He dictates with it and hits the ball well. Because I was tight, I was serving too slowly and he returned aggressively on the forehand and I could not do anything.”
In his first ATP Finals, tomorrow Ruud will have to face Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals. The defending champion Medvedev has won his last eight matches at the event.
“I am looking forward to tomorrow already,” Ruud said. “It is going to be another tough battle, different kind of player from today, but one of the best in the world and he has proven himself as one of the best over the past two or three years. I have played against him a couple of times and lost both, but I know a little bit about what I am going to face and it is going to be a fun challenge.”
In a dead match, Djokovic steamrolled Cameron Norrie 6-2, 6-1 to stay perfect on the week. Tomorrow, Djokovic will meet Alexander Zverev in the semifinals.
“Sascha is playing well,” Djokovic said. “He is obviously one of the best players in the world, arguably the best serve, it is definitely up there. It is going to be tough. The conditions are quick, so that will be one of the keys, how well will I serve and return.”
Djokovic leads the German 7-3 having won six of their last seven with the lone loss at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I think every single match that we played was very close,” said Zverev. “Every single match that we played we both needed to be at our best. One or two points decided the matches. I expect no different here, as well.”
SATURDAY ATP FINALS SCHEDULE
CENTRE COURT start 11:30 am
 R. Ram (USA) / J. Salisbury (GBR) vs  N. Mektic (CRO) / M. Pavic (CRO)
Not Before 2:00 pm
 D. Medvedev (RUS) vs  C. Ruud (NOR)
Not Before 6:30 pm
 M. Granollers (ESP) / H. Zeballos (ARG) vs  P. Herbert (FRA) / N. Mahut (FRA)
Not Before 9:00 pm
 N. Djokovic (SRB) vs  A. Zverev (GER)
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