Stefanos Tsitsipas views MWTC title as 'big positive' ahead of new season

Greek world No 4 beats Andrey Rublev in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship final on Sunday

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Stefanos Tsitsipas completed an impressive few days in Abu Dhabi by winning the Mubadala World Tennis Championship title after beating defending champion Andrey Rublev in Sunday's final.

The Greek world No 4 was in fine form throughout the three-day tournament at Zayed Sports City, and followed up straight-sets wins over British No 1 Cameron Norrie and Norwegian world No 3 Casper Ruud with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Rublev, the world No 8.

Tsitsipas flew out of the gates and charged into a 4-0 lead in the first set, clinically pouncing on a break point in each of the first and third games while holding his own serve with ease. The 24-year-old was put under some pressure in a marathon sixth game but after fending off two break points, held for a 5-1 lead before closing out the set on serve two games later.

The second set was much more competitive as Rublev found his serve. Neither player offered up a break point until Tsitsipas gave Rublev his first opening of the match at the most critical time, the break point in the 10th game also acting as a set point for the Russian, which he took to level the match.

At that stage, the match looked poised for a closely-fought decider, but Tsitsipas had other ideas, emulating the first set by cruising into a 4-0 lead. From there it was just about completing the formalities, and the Greek closed out the win with a love service hold.

"It was great, I felt very free on the court, I was covering the court much better," said Tsitsipas, who reached the MWTC final in 2019 in his previous appearance. "My serve was very consistent, which helped a lot.

"I know it's an exhibition and I wish to be playing like this in ATP events, but regardless, I see it as a big positive and hopefully I can keep building in this way."

Despite the defeat, it was another successful visit to Abu Dhabi for Rublev, who beat Croatia's Borna Coric in the quarter-finals and world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz in the semis.

"I feel great about the week," said Rublev, 25, who won last year's title by beating Andy Murray in the final. "All the players are here to play against top players, to feel the tension, to feel the atmosphere and emotions before the season. I've said before, normally I face guys like Tsitsipas and Alcaraz in the quarter-finals and semi-finals but here I play them straight away ... so it helps to prepare for the season."

Earlier on Sunday, Ruud defeated world No 1 Alcaraz 6-1, 6-4 in the third-place playoff.

Alcaraz and world No 3 Ruud received byes into the semi-finals as the tournament's top two seeds, but both lost their semi-finals on Saturday, so instead of meeting in the final – as they did at the US Open and Miami Masters this year – it was for the MWTC bronze.

Alcaraz, sidelined with an abdominal injury since the start of November, started his pre-season late and his rustiness was evident throughout his two days in Abu Dhabi. He lost the first set to Ruud in just 26 minutes, and while he improved significantly in the second, the Spanish teenager was broken was still short of his best.

"In the process of practice, I have been working to recover my level and feel more comfortable on court," the 19-year-old said. "That's the aim; to try and feel more comfortable on court."

Ruud, meanwhile, said his time in Abu Dhabi has given him a "good indication" of where is game is at ahead of the new season.

“One tough match that didn't go my way and I got a win against a good player," Ruud, 23, said. "It gives me quite a good indication. After yesterday, I thought I was quite far behind but after today maybe I’m a bit further ahead than I thought and if I’m playing well I can beat good players."

Updated: December 18, 2022, 2:51 PM