Up 30-0, De Minaur nets, but Rublev forced that error with the way he’s hitting the ball now, early and hard. And have a look! He opens shoulders to pound a forehand that raises 30-all while making his opponent look underpowered; that opponent responds with an ace, but Rublev plays another fantastic point, nailing a backhand return then cleaning up with the fore. The crowd can see their man flagging, so they attempt to rouse him at deuce … but he strays fractionally long with a forehand. Two double-break points to Rublev, and both men know the match is here. AND THERE IT IS! Rublev does a D-MIN, expending energy he shouldn’t have to stick in the rally before destroying a backhand winner down the line, and at 3-0 he’s almost home, bellowing his approval as the crowd fall silent.
The temperature on court has dropped, we’re told, and it makes sense that, in such circumstance, Rublev is the better player, because with the ball moving less quickly through the air, his extra power is definitive. He serves superbly here, consolidating to love, and though D-Min only needs one break to alter the flow, he’s run so much further tonight and for first time looks to be struggling with the pace. Rublev leads 2-0 in the fifth.
So who’s going to win this? It’s hard not to favour Rublev, who has bigger weapons, greater experience and took the fourth set. And he’s quickly up 0-30 in game one of the fifth, a brilliant return on to the line facilitating the succession of murderous forehands it takes to make 0-40. And he only needs one, his backhand seizing control of the point, a couple of forehands consolidating, and an inside-out backhand winner sealing the break to love! Rublev strikes first in the decider!
A big forehand sees De Minaur go long and an ace down the T takes Rublev two points away from the set. A service winner follows, then a netted return, and we’re going all the way – rightly so! De Minaur 4-6 7-6 7-6 3-6 Rublev
De Minaur holds to love, so Rublev must now try and serve out at 5-3 to earn a fifth set. Rather him than me!
Rublev finds himself standing still during another horrendous rally, losing focus to wham a forehand long and give De Minaur 15-30. Then, at 30-all, another lob, so the Russian backpeddles to slam-dunk another overhead – “One of the best I’ve ever seen,” enthuses Kyrgios, and we wind up at deuce, then D-Min takes a forehand early, wrong-footing his opponent to raise break-back point! He can’t, though, control his next return, and Rublev cements a crucial consolidation. Rublev leads 5-2 in the fourth, and the decider this match deserves looks highly likely. We can cope!
Oh man, down 15-0, Rublev annihilates a forehand winner down the line, dispatched with terrifying velocity. We wind up at 30-all, but D-min then nets a backhand, and can Rublev break? Yes he can, because a forehand larruped long, one of the worst shot the Aussie has played under pressure, means he now leads 2-1 but trails 2-4! I’ve not a clue how this match is going to shake out because the contest is so even and pressure does funny things to everyone.
Kyrgios reckons Rublev “has the level” to win a major, there are just lots of good players around. But I think that’s a little kind – he doesn’t quite have the level, which is why he’s yet to get close, but expanding on the point, Kyrgios says he might just have one run, once, where it’s all going for him. That’s possible I guess, our new commentator saying that once the Djokovic calls it a day, we’ll see a whole host of Slam winners, and that’s his tactic – waiting until then. But back to the now, from 30-0 down, De Minaur makes 30-40, Rublev thrashes a backhand wide, and we’re back on serve in the fourth! I’m surprised he ceded his advantage as easily as that, but the constant buzzing coming from over the other side of the net must be extremely disconcerting. De Minaur leads 4-6 7-6 7-6 2-3.
At 30-15, Rubley nails a backhand winner down the line and Kyrgios wonders if fatigue is encouraging him to go for his shots off both wings. De Minaur then goes wide, and that’s the break consolidated for 3-0 in the fourth.
At 30-15, Rublev zones a terrific backhand slices zones cross-court which dips over the net, De Minaur unable to shovel it back, and then he doubles handing over break point. Rublev is playing well here, hitting hard from the back until his opponent wafts long, and that’s an immediate break! De Minaur leads 4-6 7-6 7-6 0-2!
De Minaur is lively as you like at the start of the fourth. He knows Rublev is incandescent and wanting to keep him thus, but having made 0-15 15-all he sends a forehand long, and this match does have the feel of a five-setter; we’ve been going three hours 11 minutes for our three sets and three points so far. It’s seriously enjoyable stuff too, full of brilliance and fluctuations, and is Rublev tiring? He’s a little tentative as D-min makes 30-all, but from there, closes out for the lead in set four.
Rublev saves the first, backing away into the backhand corner to punish a forehand winner down the line. BUT WHAT IS THAT! Again, De Minaur is out of the rally, Rublev running in to hammer a forehand to the corner. But the Aussie skids towards it, flings a racket … and creams a winner down the line that gives him the set! How on earth did he do that?! De Minaur leads Rublev 4-6 7-6(5) 7-6(4)!
Again, an increasingly livid Rublev sends a return long, and De Minaur has three set points at 6-3!
No way! Apparently out of another rally, D-min retrieves a short ball, then a shot later flicks one that hits the cord twice, giving him 4-3, cementing the mini0break when Rublev’s return drops long, prompting cries of anguish from the Russian. 5-3 De Minaur!
Rublev frames a backhand winner cross-court, taking the immediate mini-break, but goes long to immediately return it then nets and puts his racket across his knee like a naughty child! De Minaur now has the advantage … but not for long as we reach 2-2. The Aussie, though, is managing to control more rallies than before, making 3-2 … before a serve-forehand one-two punch takes us to 3-3. These two are so well-matched.
Ooooh yeah! De Minaur leaps and stretches out wide on the forehand to force back a return, gets on his bike and, from the opposite corner, lasers a backhand winner cross-court; 0-15. Another minging rally follows, D-Min again all over the court like an orange rash before he goes long for 15-all. Then, facing a second serve, he steps in … only to lunge at a backhand return and send it out. Rublev, though, is feeling it too, his backhand falling long. But just as our breaker looks set, at 40-30 De Minaur again stays in a point in ridiculous style before finding a tremendous top-spin winner for deuce! This is compelling, engrossing, affirming stuff, and when D-Min runs around his backhand, he absolutely cleanses a forehand winner down the line for advantage and a second set point! But no expletive way! Rublev destroys a backhand that clips the outside of the sideline, in by 5mm apparently – ! – then follows it with another to restore deuce! I, and everyone else watching this, was certain that penultimate ball was going out, but somehow it stayed in and Rublev closes out for 6-6 and another breaker! This is such a tussle, physical, skilful and brutal.
Up 30-15, De Minaur tries the lob-trick again, but this time his effort sails just long, and he’s under it again. A big serve saves him, though, then another, and it’s looking like another breaker – but first, Rublev must hold at 5-6.
De Minaur will be raging he couldn’t close out but we saw it coming, Rublev’s level increasing over the last few games. He holds for 5-5, and it’d be entirely unsurprising were he to ride the wave to break again.
De Minaur slices a tentative backhand wide, but then Rublev wallops long for 15-all. Another error from the Aussie, though, means 15-30, and he takes time to compose before the next point, making 30-all when Rublev again overhits. At 30-all, though, a long rally – the 44th over nine shots, the score 22-22 – De Minaur swipes across a backhand that falls wide; break-back point. Rublev gets close to converting too, his forehand dropping just beyond the corner, and when he nets a return to hand over set point, his racket bears the brunt of his frustration. He responds superbly, though, massive hitting from the back earning deuce – he’s playing much better at the arse-end of this set than the start – and when D-Min nets a forehand, he has his first break-back point. P-R-E-S-S-U-R-E. Goodness me, P-R-E-S-S-U-R-E! De Minaur cedes all he’s worked for with a fifth double, and we’re back on serve in set three! De Minaur 4-6 7-6 5-4 Rublev
Rublev, up 15-0, sends down his 15th double of the match; De Minaur has four. But from there, he finds his big serves, holding to 15, and the Aussie will now serve for the set at 5-3 in front of an increasingly agitated home crowd.
In the first two sets, it was Rublev dictating most of the rallies, De Minaur sticking in them, but that’s much less the case now, and when the Aussie finds himself under minor pressure at 15-all, he spanks an ace down the T. Eighteen months ago, he doesn’t have the pop to do that, and to put an exclamation mark on it, sends down another at 40-15 that gives him 5-2! Rublev will now serve to stay in the set!
Rublev took the start of this set off – probably not on purpose, but he knows he could and probably should have taken the second before the breaker, so losing it knocked him. But he’s playing a little better now, holding to 15 to stay within a break-back at 2-4 in the third.
Rublev’s annoyance is increasing, and when he goes long for 40-0, De Minaur on the verge of another straightforward hold, when the ball comes back he petulantly swings at it anyway … then rips an unbelievable return cross-court for a winner. We wind up at 40-30, then a lovely backhand winner down the line raises deuce – Kyrgios thinks he shuld try this shot more often – and is this another momentum shift? Nah, De Minaur quickly closes out, and he leads 4-6 7-6 4-1.
Rublev just can’t get going, netting for 30-all when De Minaur lands one on the outermost fibre of the baseline. Then, at 40-30, he slams a backhand wide but manages to right himself, holding to get on the board in set three at 1-3.
At 30-all, De Minaur finds a terrific serve that gives him game-point, Rublev nets a backhand, and the Aussie is properly in the ascendancy now. Reflecting on the breaker, until then, Rublev had been able to get himself out of trouble with his serve and forehand, but as we said, a point here and there can decide things and that’s what happened, the ludicrous one De Minaur took with a lob ultimately decisive. De Minaur 4-6 7-6(5) 3-0 Rublev
For now, it’s De Minaur playing the better stuff, he makes 15-40 … and Rublev hammers a backhand wide! That’s the break! He was made to fight for every point there, Kyrgios notes, saying “Rublev looks like he’s about to lose it, and I know exactly what that feels like … I have ongoing conversations with about 10 different personalities in my own head when I’m out there.” De Minaur leads 2-0 in the third.
Kyrgios is absolutely loving this contest – some might say he’s showing greater enthusiasm for it than for some of his own matches. Anyway, De Minaur responds to going down 0-15 with two humungous forehands that make him 30 and we learn that Rublev’s coach would like him to love tennis a little less to give him greater equanimity on court. Kyrgios notes he’s lacked the love in his career, and D-Min holds for 1-0 in the third.
OH MY DAYS! A sensational rally, Rublev dominating and De Minaur defending – in rrrridiculous style, not just retrieving but asking a question – ends with a fantastic lob, raising set point at 6-4. But Rublev finds a decent return and from there seizes back the mini-break … only for De Minaur to punish a glooooorrious backhnd winner cross-court for the set! This is a really, really good match now, both players playing well and that set taking 73 minutes to resolve. De Minaur 4-6 7-6(5) Rublev
This set’s been going 68 minutes so far, and when Rublev swipes a backhand wide on serve, De Minaur is two points from the set at 5-3! A fantastic forehand winner, inside-out into the corner, gives him 4-5, but the breaker is on D-Min’s racket…
Rublev was the better player in that set, looking more likely to break, and he’s soon ahead in the breaker, his forehand prompting D-Min to go long. It’s worth saying, though, that his backhand has also been decent tonight – it’s been targeted to little avail – but have a look! Rublev hits the net-cord and De Minaur streaks in as it clips off to the side, flicking a winner low around the net-post! We’re back on serve, the Aussie taking the next point too, for 3-3.
Serving at 30-15, a rally of slices ends when De Minaur goes long, but next point Ruboev misses his inside-out backhand by a few inches and goes long immediately afterwards. We’ve got our second-set breaker, and it doesn’t feel too extreme to say the match is here: if Rublev takes it, it’s probably over, but if De Minaur does, we’ve got ourselves a ball-game. De Minaur 4-6 6-6 Rublev
De Minaur plays what looks like a gorgeous pick-up coming in, but apologises when it turns into a winner so he must’ve played something different. Still, it gives him 15-30 … and Rublev responds with two service winners for a 6-4 6-5 lead.
Badabing! At 15-all, Rublev hits a forehand to the forehand corner, then opens shoulders to dispense an inside-out disgrace for a winner so conclusive that even De Minaur doesn’t bother chasing it. But from there, D-Min finds enough, making 5-5. He’s actually playing pretty well, he’s just not been able to get past Rublev’s serve and forehand when it counts, but a breaker – if we get one – can be decided by a point here and there.
I mean seriously. Imagine prompting this reaction in one of the toughest humans ever to walk the earth.
I’m struggling to find footage, but did anyone see Julia, Martina Navratilova’s wife, surprise her by learning to sing opera – Martina loves it – then performing it at her “Fuck Cancer” party on Real Housewives of Miami? It might sound silly, but it’s beautiful – look it up if you can. Back on court, Rublev again does the necessary when under pressure, a big forehand and an ace out wide taking him through deuce, so De Minaur will shortly serve to stay in set two, trailing 4-6 4-5.
Rublev has words with umpire about the shot-clock but it’s not clear as to the precise context; perhaps he wasn’t chuffed with it starting so close to the end of that monstrous rally. Anyhow, De Minaur secures a welcome straightforward hold to 15, and we’re at 4-4 in the second, things getting tense.
Rublev hares in and slams a swing volley into the net when a gentle putaway would’ve sufficed; De Minaur has 0-30. But then on 15-30, a double, a mini-tantrum, and two break points as the arena lights up. So Rublev serves out wide then cleans up with a forehand to the opposite corner – his two big weapons have been the difference so far –and have a look! A brutal rally, D-Min in control hitting to the back, until eventually Rublev works a chance for a forehand, ending the longest sequence of the match with its 35th shot, an inside-out animal on to the outside of the sideline. He’s played the pressure situations superbly so far, and seconds later is closing out for 6-4 4-3 with an ace on to the T.
Rublev makes 30-all thanks to two De Minaur forehands which drop long. Then a decent backhand out wide persuades D-Min to net, and this is a crucial point coming up … De Minaur dematerialising an ace out wide. But when he tamely goes long again, he’s in trouble again, saving himself well again the making advantage thanks to a felicitous net-cord and seeing out the game from there. We’re 3-3 in the second, Rublev by one set to love.
Now then. Down 15-30, Rublev swipes a forehand into the net, his second such error of the game, and De Minaur has two break points. So Rublev uncorks a succession of terrifying forehands, the Aussie retrieving superbly, then does really well to pick up a net-cord and close out the point, making deuce immediately afterwards. In comms, Kyrgios explains that you try and find Rublev – and Nadal’s – backhand on return, problem being they’re so good at hiding it, but on advantage, Rublev goes wide off that wing and D-Min quickly makes advantage coming in cleverly. He concedes break-point tamely, though, Rublev closes out, and I’d not be shocked if he expoits his opponent’s disappointment to break following change of ends. Rublev 6-4 3-2 De Minaur
If De Minaur wins tonight, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who lost to Taylor Fritz earlier, will be out of the top 10. When he broke through plaaying Futures events, I thought he’d a be a champion, but his weakness then – his backhand – is still a weakness now, and he’s showing no signs of sorting it, while opponents are taking it apart. De Minaur holds for 2-2 in the second.
What I love about Rublev’s forehands is how flat he hits it, and in minor grief at 30-all, it quickly restores with advantage, 6-4 2-1. De Minaur is playing OK, but he doesn’t have a weapon of similar potency, which looks likely to be the decisive factor here.
A backhand down the line earns Rublev 0-15, then a flat, booming forehand 0-30. He’s more relaxed after going in front, and though he then goes long with two backhands, a De Minaur error means break point. A sapping really follows, Rublev dominating, but just as he looks to have it won, a terrific forehand on to the tootsies makes deuce, and from there, De Minaur closes out. He needed that, because coming back from a set and a break down would’ve been a very significant problem – especially given how much scurrying he’s being forced to do against an opponent chilling on the centre-line. Rublev leads 6-4 1-1.