Casper Ruud became the first Scandinavian in 32 years to reach the Nitto ATP Finals championship match, after showing his class to power past Andrey Rublev in straight sets.
Rublev wrapped up the first game comfortably on his serve with no response from Ruud, showcasing his superb forehand armoury with several stinging shots. However, the Norwegian rose to the challenge on his serve to level things up.
It was the second amid four consecutive games which went to serve, as Rublev sealed the third game after a scintillating mid-game rally, before wrapping things up with a superb ace to move 2-1 ahead.
However, everything seemed to go Ruud’s way from that point as Ruud motored towards a 6-2 scoreline in the first set.
The Norwegian broke Rublev in what was arguably the turning point in the contest, as the Russian surrendered a 40-15 lead after Ruud sealed break point with a deep return.
Ruud moved 4-2 ahead, winning the game to love, sealing it in style with a superb forehand strike to establish a two-game lead.
After failing to land a series of forehand shots of his own in the seventh game, the Russian’s serve was broken again and his anger was clearly visible whilst sat down during the change over.
The set was wrapped up in comprehensive fashion after a mere 32 minutes of play, as Ruud served the eighth game to love against an increasingly distraught Rublev.
Rublev was broken twice in the opening four games of the second set, and a bagel looked like a real possibility after the world No. 4 moved into a 4-0 lead.
A deep return sealed the first game in Ruud’s favour, as the world No. 7 slammed his racquet to the floor in what was becoming an increasingly difficult evening for the 25-year-old.
The next game was won to love, and Rublev’s abject evening was perhaps best summed up when he failed to land a simple volley at the net at 30-0. The 23-year-old’s serve was proving to be too much to handle.
Ruud’s defence was something to behold as he continued to cruise his way towards the final, and a stunning backhand up the line sealed a break to 15.
A pair of aces and yet another brilliant forehand moved Ruud 4-0 ahead with another win to 15, but Rublev fought back on his serve to get himself off the mark in the set.
Victory looked a mere formality for Ruud when he moved a game away from the final with an excellent hold to 15, but Rublev showed his admirable fighting spirit to nearly claw himself back from the dead.
The Russian amazingly won the next three games to make Ruud sweat and secured the ninth game to love, and suddenly played like a man with nothing to lose.
However, the night ultimately belonged to Ruud, and he booked his place in Sunday’s final by successfully serving for the match at the second time of asking. He ended the contest with a fine backhand down the line, and it was a case of job done after one hour and eight minutes.