This week ATPTour.com continues its annual season-in-review series, looking back at the best games of 2022, the biggest setbacks, the most dramatic comebacks and more. In this episode we look back at the rivalry between Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2022. On Tuesday we will focus on the rivalry between Nick Kyrgios and Daniil Medvedev.
Very little has separated Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas during their ATP Head2Head history, leading Greek Tsitsipas 6-5. Neither man has won more than two consecutive matchups in the series, with straight sets being a rarity.
That theme continued into 2022, when all three encounters went to a deciding set. Tsitsipas won the first two, in Madrid and Astana, before Rublev has the last laugh at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin. ATPTour.com takes a look back at those matches as we spotlight one of the best rivalries of the season.
Mutua Madrid Open, QF, Tsitsipas d. Roelev 6-3, 2-6, 6-4
Less than a month after successfully defending his Monte Carlo title, Tsitsipas went on another deep clay court run at the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid. After storming into the quarterfinals without dropping a set and ripping through the opener against Rublev, the Greek encountered his first real resistance of the week as the match progressed.
Tsitsipas’ serve was the standout shot in the opening set, as the fourth seed dropped just six points on his delivery, but Rublev’s forehand did the heavy damage in set two. Neither man could pull back as they came down blows in the final set, and a tiebreaker seemed the likely outcome. But at 4-4 Tsitsipas produced a brilliant second leg to take the lead before serving up a hard-fought victory.
“He really put a lot of power into the blows and it wasn’t easy to predict what would come next,” said Tsitsipas after parrying two Rublev break points in the final game. “But I’m very happy with the way things ended.
“It’s never easy to play against him, and I really had to survive that last game with the best of my strength and give my soul, pretty much, to finish it off in such a good way.”
Perhaps feeling the effects of the two-hour fight, Tsitsipas was beaten by Alexander Zverev in a three-set defeat in the semifinals.
Astana Open, SF, Tsitsipas d. Roelev 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
Five months after meeting in Madrid in May, Tsitsipas and Rublev faced each other on the hard courts of Astana in October.
Rublev used a fast start to take the opening set, saving three break points in the process, but it was Tsitsipas who excelled on the pressure points in sets two and three. After some struggles in the final two sets, Tsitsipas struck late in each set to advance to his sixth title match of the year. (He would end 2022 with seven final tour-level appearances.)
The Greek pointed to his variety and aggression as the keys to his ATP 500 comeback, while also crediting Rublev for his role in an entertaining matchup.
“I was hitting with a lot of variety and mixing and it was getting to the end,” he said. “I kept pursuing those shots with a lot of passion and determination. It wasn’t easy, being a set down. Dealing with a very good opponent on the other side of the net made it an extremely tough battle physically. I’m happy with myself because I am so determined to make it work so well.
In the final, Tsitsipas did not have another fight in him, as he lost to Novak Djokovic in straight sets.
Nitto ATP Finals, RR, Rublev d. Tsitsipas 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
It was Rublev’s turn to come from behind in Turin as he defeated Tsitsipas in the round-robin stage of the season finale for the second straight year. Their 2022 matchup took on additional significance: a winner-takes-all matchup to close out group play, with the winner advancing to the knockout rounds at the loser’s expense.
Tsitsipas was searing off the start as he raced through the opening set with vicious cuts to his serve and forehand. But Rublev stayed on track to advance to the semifinals for the first time in three Nitto ATP Finals appearances. As dominant as Tsitsipas was in the opening set, Rublev matched it and then some as he dictated play in the later stages.
From 3-3 in set two, Rublev won nine of the last 11 games by firing winners from both wings and stepping into his returns to great effect.
“I didn’t give up. I kept fighting and playing,” he said. “I lost my emotions a little bit when I lost a stupid game 40/0 in the first set. I let my emotions go…I thought if I just gave my best I would get a chance. I managed the match to turn .”
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As for Rublev, he sees their games as closely matched, as evidenced by the slim 6-5 lead Tsitsipas has in their ATP Head2Head series: “If you take our game, any game, we have some tough fights,” said he then told in Turin about the remarks of Tsitsipas. “This year I lost to him twice in three sets, and now I’ve beaten him in three sets.”
The pair have met three times in the past three seasons and the stage is perfectly set for more in 2023.
Read more from our Best Of 2022 series