CINCINNATI (AFP) - Andrey Rublev won a battle of top 10 Russians on Saturday (Aug 21), overhauling fading Daniil Medvedev 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the final of the ATP and WTA Cincinnati Masters.
World number seven Rublev had never won so much as a set in four previous losses to his compatriot, currently ranked second in the world and the top seed in the prestigious hardcourt tournament that serves as a tuneup for the US Open.
But with Medvedev requiring three separate medical timeouts - for his left hand after he hit an on-court camera during a shot as well as for his right forearm and right thigh - the second half of match in 31 deg C heat was there for the taking.
Rublev re-adjusted after losing the opening set, hung on during his opponent's injury dramas and heated discussion with the umpire on camera placement and finally got his victory chances in the concluding set after two and a quarter hours.
He will play for the title against the winner of Saturday's second semi-final between second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and third-seeded Olympic champion Alexander Zverev.
A frustrated Medvedev, who had been hoping to conclude a Canada-US Masters double after winning in Toronto at the weekend, lost on Rublev's second match point.
"I don't know how I turned it around," Rublev said. "Every point was so tight, the match was so intense - it was exactly like a chess game."
Rublev said he needed to choose his moments as he closed in on success.
"He won't ever give you a chance so I had to find the right time to make him run.
"This win will give me confidence, knowing that I can compete against him, but I still have many things to improve."
Barty powers through
In the women's draw, world number one Ashleigh Barty reached her sixth final of the season with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Angelique Kerber.
The top-seeded Aussie, who has led the rankings for the past 82 weeks, needed an hour and a quarter to move into Sunday's title match, surpassing her semi-final showing from 2019.
Barty will play for the trophy on Sunday against the winner of a later match between Swiss wild card Jil Teichmann - who beat good friend and Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic in the quarter-finals - and Czech fifth seed Karolina Pliskova, more than a year and a half without a title.
Against Kerber, Barty increased her lead in the series between multiple Grand Slam winners to 4-2 as she duplicated a Wimbledon semi-final victory from last month.
Barty produced a dozen aces and broke Kerber five times.
Her 39 match wins this year nudged her one ahead of Aryna Sabalenka on the WTA list.
The top seed needed to call upon some strategy to see her through to the win.
The pair twice traded breaks in the second set, with Barty finally getting the deciding fifth break in the final game.
"It was frustrating me, because I knew Angie was lifting (her game) and I needed to go with her," Barty said.
"Not being able to execute the points when I had set them up the way that I wanted to was frustrating.
"I was able to get that momentum back with the break straight away, then it was a bit of a tug of war.
"I was able to build pressure on her games, but we both did a good job of getting out of some tough holes late in that second set.
"I had to accept that if I was going to miss I was going to miss in the right way.
"That was big at the end," added Barty, who fired 29 winners to Kerber's 16.
Kerber said that, finally, she was out-played.
She starts playing really aggressive, and I was just trying to find my rhythm," the German said.
"I tried to come back in the second set. I had my chances, but she played really well in important moments and closed the match her way.
"I'm pretty happy about my result this week, getting good matches before going to New York (for the US Open)."