Rublev, Rune advance to Monte Carlo final

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MONACO — Fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev reached the Monte Carlo Masters final for the second time after rallying to beat eighth-seeded American Taylor Fritz 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 in a rain-interrupted contest on Saturday.

The Russian player, who lost in the final two years ago, goes for his 13th career title and first at Masters level against sixth-seeded Dane Holger Rune.

Rune also fought back to win 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 against No. 7 Jannik Sinner of Italy in another rain-marred match, which finished under floodlights at 9:45 p.m. local time.

The 21-year-old Sinner was competing in his third straight Masters semi this season and was cheered on by a large contingent of Italian fans.

Sinner broke the 19-year-old Rune’s serve twice and served out the first set comfortably.

The players went off for a rain delay with Rune leading 3-0 in the second set. Sinner fought back when they returned but Rune held firm to send the match into a deciding set.

A tense match ended when Sinner sent a backhand into the net and Rune celebrated by pointing a finger to his head as he set up a third career meeting with Rublev.

They are tied 1-1 ahead of their first contest on clay.

Rune goes for his fourth career title and second Masters after winning the Paris Masters last year, beating Rublev along the way.

Earlier, under cloudy skies, Rublev leveled the match on his fourth set point when Fritz, the French Open junior runner-up in 2015, double-faulted for the fifth time.

He broke Rublev to lead 2-1 in the deciding set but trailed 15-40 in the next game.

Fritz won a 40-stroke rally to save one break point, but Rublev let out a roar after a stinging backhand down the line won the next point as he broke straight back. He then held for 3-2 as the rain started falling more heavily.

The chair umpire wanted to continue at first, but both players were reluctant and play was suspended at around 4 p.m., before resuming under clearing skies at 5:40 p.m.

Rublev broke serve immediately in windy conditions, winning a 34-stroke rally when his backhand from Fritz’s drop shot landed just in, and then holding easily for 5-2.

Serving to stay in the match, Fritz saved three match points. But Rublev won with a love hold on serve, clinching victory with a crisp forehand winner that wrong-footed Fritz.

“It was really tough, especially against Taylor. I lost the past three times [against him],” Rublev said. “I started really well and then I was up a break and then he broke me back, but I knew I would have chances.”

The 25-year-olds, who are friends, shared a warm hug at the net after facing each other for the seventh time.

“In the end we had a great match and I am pleased with the win,” said Rublev, who now trails Fritz 4-3 overall.

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