Russia’s Andrey Rublev celebrates after defeating Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz during a semifinal match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
No. 2 seed Andrey Rublev looks to cap off a tremendous three-week swing by winning in Dubai
Qualifier Jiri Vesely has dispatched three seeds – including world No. 1 Djokovic, in a shock run to the final
In the first-ever meeting between the two Saturday (10 am ET), Rublev is a strong favorite. We break it down
In most circumstances, a match between the world No. 7 and the world No. 123 would result in odds heavily favoring the higher-ranked player.
But in the case of Saturday’s Dubai singles final, world No. 123 Jiri Vesely has defeated Roberto Bautista Agut, tournament favorite world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 14 Denis Shapovalov during the week.
Jiri Vesely vs Andrey Rublev Odds
[Q] Jiri Vesely (CZE)
O 22.5 (-130)
 Andrey Rublev (RUS)
U 22.5 (+100)
Odds as of Feb. 25 at Caesars Sportsbook
So you can’t discount his chances against No. 7 Andrey Rublev, the No. 2 seed. However, Rublev is still a huge -300 favorite as you can see in the odds above.
Vesely’s Career-Affirming Week
Vesely is a 28-year-old behemoth, a 6-foot-6 Czech lefty euphemistically listed at 207 pounds.
He was out on the Futures circuit in 2009, at 15, as a fledgling pro. He was junior No. 1 for all of 2011. But he reached his career-high of No. 35 all the way back in 2015 when he was 21.
Feb 2021: Catches COVID
May 2021: Suffers injury in car crash
Feb 2022: Reaches the biggest final of his career
After a tough 12 months, @jiri_vesely is enjoying the best week of his tennis life 🙏 pic.twitter.com/2VW8IkXo2z
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) February 25, 2022
Since then, he has been a viable but not a world-beating player who has had the occasional great moment – such as when he defeated Djokovic for the first time in Monte Carlo in 2016.
He’s had an assortment of injuries the last few years. But 2021 was a trial on every level, including a physical struggle to recover from Covid a year ago.
Vesely vs Rublev Head-to-Head
28 (July 10, 1993)
24 (Oct. 20, 1997)
Pribram, Czech Republic
Career ATP Singles Titles
No. 35 (April 27, 2015)
Career High Ranking
No. 5 (Sept. 13, 2021)
2022 Won/Loss record
Career Head to Head
With Heavy Heart, Rublev Keeps Rolling
As for Rublev, he’s getting used to this kind of week.
Especially the last three weeks. In a row.
The Russian reached the semifinals in Marseille, won singles and doubles in Doha last week, and now, is poised to claim his second consecutive title and move up to world No. 6.
Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev writes “No war please” on the camera following his advancement to the final in Dubai. pic.twitter.com/GQe8d01rTd
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) February 25, 2022
All that, with the reality of his native land invading neighboring Ukraine weighing on his mind. It would not be a simple thing to come out against that. But Rublev did on Friday.
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Physical and Emotional Exhaustion
Rublev told the media he was already “completely tired” even before his two-hour, 23-minute win over Hubert Hurkacz in Friday’s semifinal. So he won’t be any more fresh for this final.
He also knows that it’s when he is physically tired that his emotions can tend to get away from him.
Vesely Coming Off a Marathon vs Shapovalov
Vesely said he was able to guard against the natural letdown following a win over the world No. 1 by learning from past mistakes.
When he upset Djokovic in Monte Carlo in 2016, Djokovic had just won the “Sunshine Double” – Indian Wells and Miami back to back.
So the first round of his next tournament was the time to get him. But Vesely got a little distracted by the outside world and the attention after that one.
He kept it simple this time – family and close friends only.
And somehow he was able to overcome Shapovalov 6-7 (7), 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3) in a three-hour, 12-minute semifinal match he won in part because of Shapovalov’s 14 double faults.
Matchup Favors Rublev, But …
This is the first meeting between the two, so there’s no history to go on.
Rublev generally does very well against lefties; his winning percentage of 65.8 percent is higher than it is against right-handers.
There is a fair bit at stake. But there is even more at stake, in a way, for Vesely, who has played six matches (including the qualifying this week) to Rublev’s four.
The Czech will move up nearly 50 spots in the tennis rankings from his current No. 123 after this week.
But if he can win the title, he would get close to the top 50. At that level, he’s game-changingly close to getting direct entry into all of the big Masters 1000 events this spring and summer: Madrid, Rome, Cincinnati, Canada.
Name a player who’s got as massive forehand as Andrey Rublev 👇
(GIF @tennistv) pic.twitter.com/dQlo7DKyq6
— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) April 18, 2021
Rublev’s biggest weapon, his crosscourt forehand, goes directly into Vesely’s two-handed backhand. And the extra reach that requires for a tired giant who isn’t speedy at the best of times bodes well for Rublev winning the territorial game.
No matter how tired he is.
Pick: Rublev in Two Sets (-114)