(Reuters) - Australian teenager Alex de Minaur prevailed in a three-set thriller against Russia’s Andrey Rublev to set up a title clash with defending champion Alexander Zverev at the Citi Open in Washington on Saturday.
The 19-year-old Aussie saved four consecutive match points from 2/6 in the second-set tie-break before winning 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-4 in nearly three hours.
Champion Zverev cruised into the final with a 6-2 6-4 victory over Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.
De Minaur, who will be seeking his first title, made especially good use of his backhand down the line in the second half of the match, as the effects of Rublev playing in his second match of the day slowly began to show.
The Russian broke twice in the decider, but de Minaur converted his fourth match point when Rublev double faulted.
The 16th seeded Russian had started his day by defeating American Denis Kudla 6-1 6-4 in a delayed quarter-final match.
De Minaur is projected to crack the world top 50 for the first time with the win. If he beats Zverev, he will soar to number 33. If not, he will still make a 27-spot rise to number 45.
World number three Zverev will seek his third title of 2018 after needing 87 minutes to defeat Tsitsipas and win his 40th match of the year.
The German dropped only one point on his first serve and took advantage of the 10th seeded Greek’s poor serving in the first set.
The second set was tighter. Tsitsipas, serving better, landed 65 percent of first serves and used that to moved closer to the baseline and prohibit Zverev from attacking from the first ball.
But in a 24-point game at 4-4, Zverev dived to earn one of six game points and on his fourth break point of the game, made a return off a deep second serve. Tsitsipas hit a forehand into the net to concede the deciding break.
“I saw he was getting a little bit tired, Zverev told Tennis Channel. “I think the heat helped me in this case a little bit. I saw him hitting himself (he smashed his palm against forehead five times at a changeover).”
Now on a nine-match Citi Open winning streak, Zverev chided officials for scheduling his semi-final in the afternoon after playing night matches all week.
“You play the whole week during the night and then all of a sudden on semi-finals day let’s play at 2 o’clock,” the German said. “I’m not so sure of that idea.
“The semi-finals you want to play with the same conditions, with the same rhythm you had and all of a sudden you’ve got to go out there with the hottest weather all week.
“We’ve been going to sleep at 3:30-4 am and now all of a sudden we have to wake up at 10 o’clock and get ready to play.”
He said the only day match he played last year was the final.
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, additional reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Pritha Sarkar/Amlan Chakraborty