Andrey Rublev reacts to outdoing Murray antics in Dubai title defence

Andrey Rublev has shared his reaction to mirroring Andy Murray’s recent antics by saving five match points against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina to progress at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where he is the defending champion. The world No 6 has now saved 10 match points to clinch victory so far this season, surpassing Murray’s nine following the Brit’s extraordinary run in Doha last week.

Murray has earned himself a reputation as the marathon man so far in 2023, with all six of his victories coming in final sets while three saw him save match points before escaping with the victory. The former world No 1 ousted 13th seed Matteo Berrettini at the Australian Open from match point down and continued his antics in Doha, saving three in his opening match and five in the semi-final.

But his tally of nine saved en route to victory across the season so far has already been overtaken by Rublev, who saved five in the second set of his Dubai match against Davidovich Fokina on Wednesday having also saved match points at the Australian Open and Doha like Murray. And the 25-year-old has now given his thoughts after pulling off the escape as he admitted each match point save felt like a “Christmas present”.

Entering his post-match press conference, the reigning champion in Dubai was simply asked “how?” and responded: “I don’t know. This has already happened third match this season. I have no words. These matches, when it’s over, and somehow you win them, it’s always special. I don’t know. I have no words to describe.”

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Having echoed Murray’s feat of saving five match points in one contest – something the Brit did against Jiri Lehecka last week – Rublev admitted that it no longer felt like luck after saving two against Holger Rune in Melbourne and three against Tallon Griekspoor in Doha. He continued: “One time maybe you feel lucky, you feel – how you say – super tight and emotions because you almost lose, and somehow you win it.

“When it’s happen third time, you think now there is no chance, is impossible, now it’s over for sure. I don’t even have any emotions now because in my head, the match was done. Like I said, when it never happens, sometimes you hope, like, maybe I will be lucky today and I will make it.”

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But, like Murray, the 12-time title winner has now pulled off the escape on multiple occasions and admitted that it made it even harder to believe. “When you’re three times lucky, almost last three tournaments – Australian Open, Doha and Dubai – three tournaments in a row, it’s like, How many more I have there Christmas presents?” he added.

The world No 6 is the defending champion in Dubai this week, and will next face Botic van de Zandschulp in the quarter-final. And he refused to discuss his chances of retaining the title after narrowly avoiding defeat to Davidovich Fokina, joking: “I don’t know. I know I almost lost today basically. I don’t know. I just want to play match by match. With the beginning like I did today, we cannot talk about title.”

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