Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev have propelled Russia into the semi-final at the Davis Cup Finals, beating Serbia 2-1 after a thrilling doubles match. In the first rubber, Andrey Rublev needed just 53 minutes to destroy Filip Krajinovic 6-1, 6-2 and put Russia in front.
The youngster did just about everything right on the court, blasting 13 aces and fending off all three break chances to mount the pressure on the other side of the net. Krajinovic couldn't endure it, struggling on both the first and second serve and suffering four breaks to trail all the time, never finding the rhythm despite a strong performance against Japan and France in the round-robin stage.
Andrey held at love with an ace in the opening game and broke Filip in game two after a loose backhand from the Serb. The Russian forced an error from his opponent to repel a break point in game three, delivering another break with a forehand down the line winner to open a 4-0 gap.
Serving for the set, Rublev fired another ace in game seven to seal the opener in just over 20 minutes, hoping for more of the same in set number two. There, he broke Krajinovic in the first game following a loose forehand from the Serb and extended the lead with another break in game three when his volley found an empty spot.
Andrey fended off a couple of break chances in the sixth game and moved over the top with another booming serve at 5-2 to send Russia in front. With no room for errors, world no. 2 Novak Djokovic toppled Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-3 to level the overall score and send the tie into a deciding doubles rubber.
It was another rock-solid performance from the 16-time Major champion here in Madrid, fending off both break points he faced and stealing Karen's serve three times to control the scoreboard all the time. Novak saved a break chance in the third game and moved in front with a perfect lob a few minutes later, erasing another break point in the next game to open a 4-1 advantage.
Serving for the set at 5-3, Djokovic held after a lucky net cord and had to work harder in the first half of the second set where Karen stayed in touch with him. From 3-2 down, Novak rattled off four straight games to bring the encounter home, scoring a break in game seven and sealing the deal with a forehand down the line winner at 5-3 for another break and pivotal point for Serbia ahead of the doubles rubber.
Both teams saved the best for last, with the final clash going down to the wire as Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev repelled three match points in the third set tie break to oust Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 after two hours and 16 minutes, setting the semi-final clash against Canada on Saturday.
The Russians came back from a 3-1 down in the first set to take it 6-4 before Djokovic and Troicki responded with two breaks in set number two to set up a decider where they stayed neck and neck until the tie break. There, the Serbs wasted those match points at 6-5, 7-6 and 8-7 after some loose shots from Troicki who couldn't endure the pressure and deliver that crucial point that would push them through.
In the end, Karen and Andrey converted the first match point in the 18th point to start a massive celebration of what had been one of the most entertaining encounters this week in Madrid.