He came. He saw. He conquered! On a day that started with three thirty somethings that were long on UTS experience, and one fiery 25-year-old debutant, it was the rookie Andrey Rublev – aka “Rublo” – who was crowned UTS Frankfurt by Builder.ai champion.
Thanks to his dramatic 14-13, 12-17, 11-10, 17-16 victory over “G-Unit” Grigor Dimitrov at the Süwag Energie Arena in Frankfurt Rublev is a first-time UTS champion!
The race to the Grand Final
With his triumph “Rublo” automatically qualifies for this year’s UTS Grand Final, along with UTS Los Angeles by Builder.ai champion Wu Yibing. Champions from all three of 2023’s UTS events (Seoul is next, from December 1-3) will qualify for the Grand Final, along with the top three players in the race (excluding champions) and two additional wild cards.
The three players currently in line to qualify at the Race ranking, in addition to Rublev and Wu, are “El Peque” Diego Schwartzman (17 points), “La Monf” Gael Monfils (15 points) and “The Rebel” Benoit Paire (15 points).
A dynamic debutant!
Rublev proved himself to be a quick learner on the UTS stage. After a difficult loss to Schwartzman in his first match on Friday, he won his final four matches and dealt with the pulsating stress of the rapid-fire competition like a true champion.
“It was really tough,” Rublev said of the final with Dimitrov. “It was really intense. We had a lot of long rallies – in some moments it was really tough to breathe. I’m happy that we showed great tennis and in the end people enjoyed it – that’s the most important thing.”
Scroll down for more details on Sunday’s semi-finals and final…
Semi-final 1: “G-Unit” towers over “El Peque”
Sunday’s first semi-final in Frankfurt featured two UTS by Builder.ai veterans and fan favourites locking horns in a thrilling clash that went down to the wire.
It was Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, aka “G-Unit”, who walked the tightrope successfully to book his place in his first UTS final.
“G-Unit” weathered a brave fightback from “El Peque” and snatched a place in his first UTS final with a 15-9, 14-9, 7-21, 4-22, 2-0 sudden death triumph.
Schwartzman had all the momentum in the contest, but Dimitrov flipped the script once again in the extra session as he won an epic 30-stroke rally on the first point of sudden death, then clinched the contest on the next point to book his spot in the final.
“He played amazing in the third and fourth,” an exhausted Dimitrov said after his dramatic victory. “Last two points could have gone either way. He’s such a fighter, you should never count him out.”
The loss ends a solid run for “El Peque”. He had only dropped one quarter in his first three matches, which placed him in the semi-finals.
With his new coach Bruno Tiberti encouraging him from the sidelines, Schwartzman dealt with adversity and rallied in quarters three and four, winning 43 of 54 points to steal the momentum.
“The key was to stay focused in the match. I think I got more aggressive, he missed a few balls and that’s why I won the two quarters,” he later said.
“G-Unit”, meanwhile, was running on fumes, seeking energy to continue the fight.
Like a true champion, the former world No 3 dug deep to change his fortune in sudden death, grinding out two epic points to prevail.
Semi-final 2: “Rublo” ends “The Rebel’s” dream
“The Rebel” Benoit Paire was having the time of his life at UTS Frankfurt by Builder.ai this weekend. Into the semi-final for the first time at a UTS event, he was gaining in confidence, and riding a wave of emotion as he took his place across the net from a hungry 25-year-old on Saturday in Frankfurt.
World No. 6 “Rublo” lost his first match of the weekend but he has quickly become a master of the UTS format and he showed off his power and poise on Saturday as he put Paire in his place with a 21-8, 14-13, 17-3 victory to book his spot alongside “G-Unit” Grigor Dimitrov in the final.
Paire played exceptionally well, and the contest was extremely close in all three quarters, but “Rublo” delivered in the biggest moments to continue a hot streak that saw him qualify for the final as he stretched his run of consecutive victories to three.
After the second quarter, a disappointed – and exhausted – Paire took a nap on the bench, laying horizontally as his coach fanned him with a white towel.
“He was running like Gael and now I think he needs to go to the hospital,” Rublev remarked during his post-quarter interview.
Paire, with his head covered by another white towel, wasn’t about to surrender. But he was downtrodden.
“Who is this guy Rublo? How is it possible to hit the ball this hard?” he quipped.
Paire bounced back and earned several chances to prolong the contest in the third quarter.
The Frenchman pulled out all the tricks in the third, hoping that he could take Rublev off his game.
But his theatrics—“The Rebel” throw his racquet over the net, stomp on his racquet, and wind up on his back multiple times in the third quarter—had no effect on the steely “Rublo.”
UTS debutant Rublev learned the ropes on Saturday when he faced similar disruptions during his second match of the day from “La Monf” Gael Monfils.
In the end he was simply too good for Paire and proved himself to be a deserving finalist.
“Every match I am playing better and better, happy to be in the final,” he said.
The final: “Rublo” Edges “G-Unit” in an epic
It was a fitting final that fans witnessed on Sunday evening in Frankfurt, with two elite talents pushing each other to the brink of exhaustion, while the outcome remained in doubt until the final point.
In the end it was “Rublo” Andrey Rublev who raised the Zeus Trophy with a dramatic 14-13, 12-17, 11-10, 17-16 triumph in which he was able to secure all three quarter points.
Rublev saved a quarter point in the first quarter, playing a brilliant 16-shot exchange to force a deciding point at 13-13. His forehand then delivered under pressure to clinch the stanza, with several big shots getting him across the line to win a tight 14-13 opening quarter.
Dimitrov ran away with the second quarter but could not hold off Rublev in the third.
“Rublo” rallied from 10-5 down to force a quarter point at 10-10 – he took it when a Dimitrov forehand sailed long.
The fourth quarter followed the opposite script, with the tireless Dimitrov rallying to save five championship points from 16-11 down in the waning moments to force a quarter point at 16-all.
Again, it went to the Russian, who played a decisive volley and smash to draw the forced error from the Bulgarian.
“I tried to go for it, somehow I made an unreal volley, normally I wouldn’t make it, but this time I did – it was so good.”