For a day where all but one match was three quarters to love, it was not devoid of drama.
One semi-final was nearly abandoned, with controversy marring the clash between Andrey “Rublo” Rublev and Rune as the Dane won 20-10, 12-11, 16-11, while the other was won by the narrowest of margins with eventual champion Draper edging past Casper “The Iceman” Ruud 14-13, 12-11, 14-13.
Despite all the intensity of the final day at the UTS Grand Final, Draper’s biggest concern now is wondering how he’ll get the spectacular UTS “Zeus” trophy through the airport.
The Viking brings Rublo’s winning streak to a jarring halt
Heading into the Final Four, Rublo was looking like the man to beat. The Russian had won the most recent UTS tournament in Frankfurt in September, and navigated Group B with an undefeated 3-0 record across the first two days of the UTS Grand Final.
However, a resurgent Rune had other plans, with the Dane heading into the semi-final off the back of a much improved day two in London.
It was The Viking who started better in the encounter, racing past Rublo 20-10 in the opening quarter. Rublev was much improved in the second, however, generating a sudden death point to determine the quarter at 11-11. This was where the drama unfolded.
Rublo was furious that his “next point counts three” card had not been acknowledged by the umpire, despite claiming to have gestured for it to be used ahead of the quarter’s end. Bizarrely, he was allowed to take his serve twice on quarter point, which led to Rune winning the rally and claiming the quarter 12-11.
The Russian almost refused to return for the third quarter, with Rune describing the match as “a s**t show” between quarters. When play resumed, The Viking wrapped the semi-final up 16-11 to book his spot in the final.
Draper escapes by the narrowest of margins
UTS is all about fine margins, and Draper really embraced that in his Final Four match against Ruud on Sunday.
The Brit had been in excellent form in London, winning each of his previous three matches comfortably. However, against The Iceman he needed every iota of luck, claiming the match 14-13, 12-11, 14-13 with each quarter going to a deciding point.
“Wow… I think I got lucky a little bit towards the end,” Draper declared after the match. “I came up with some really good shots when I needed to.”
Again, it was The Power’s return of serve that put him in strong positions, with the 21-year-old capitalising on some weak shots by Ruud to keep himself in the match.
The Power turns things up a notch to claim debut title
Many of the headlines ahead of the UTS Grand Final were about the mouth-watering prospect of young stars Draper and Rune squaring off. When they met in group play, the clash was something of a fizzler, with The Viking misfiring and losing 3-0.
In the final of the UTS Grand Final, Rune was determined to allow no such repeat. The Dane came out swinging, and claimed the opening quarter 14-12–only the second quarter that Draper had lost this weekend.
It was to be the last quarter that the Brit would lose, however, as The Power lived up to his UTS nickname and turned on the after-burners, powering to three consecutive quarter victories. After a tight second and third quarter, Draper ran away with the match 19-7 in the fourth quarter, winning the final conclusively.
“It’s been amazing, just want to say thank you to Patrick for giving me the wildcard,” said The Power after the match.
“It’s been a really fun event for players and spectators. We both brought the best out of each other. It’s not easy with this format, but my coach was right behind me, so I was very happy.”
Next up, Draper will turn his attention to the ATP Tour where he’ll be hoping to improve on his quarter-final run at the most recent Grand Slam, with a deep run in January’s Australian Open.