Andrey Rublev was handed a unique trophy after being crowned the winner of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS) event in Frankfurt. The Russian was making his debut on the UTS Tour and marked the occasion by beating Grigor Dimitrov in the final before he was rewarded with a lightning bolt-shaped trophy for his success in Germany.
In a final that kept the crowd on the edge of their seats with lengthy and absorbing rallies, Rublev eventually prevailed 14-13, 12-17, 11-10, 17-16 over his close friend Dimitrov to secure the narrowest of victories in Frankfurt.
And when he was presented with his prize for his victory, Rublev lifted a trophy shaped like a lightning bolt – a massive change from the shiny silverware on the ATP Tour. The Russian’s reward appeared more like a prop from a superhero film than a trophy.
It was his first tournament on the UTS Tour, which is attracting more tennis stars such as Ben Shelton and Gael Monfils. The competition is gaining momentum in tennis after it was founded in response to the ATP Tour being paused during the Covid pandemic.
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Renowned tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou and businessman Alex Popyrin, father of professional player Alexei Popyrin, are the brains behind the new movement. In a less formal setting with a stripped down version of tennis, players give themselves nicknames and play on courts with no tramlines.
Rublev – whose UTS Tour nickname is ‘Rublo’ – sat down with Dimitrov after the match in a relaxed post-match discussion and it was clear their bromance is blossoming. The pair even joked about how they were ‘falling in love’ with each other after their thrilling encounter.
In the conversation, Rublev said: “I don’t like to play against him at all, especially because the last two times he beat me. I like him outside the court, not inside the court.”
Dimitrov disagreed and responded: “I love playing Andrey. I like him a lot. I do love his tennis, I like him… I like you in the court and outside the court. I mean, I like you either way man.”
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Rublev then lavished praise on the Bulgarian with the ultimate compliment: “If I was a girl I’d be completely in love with Grigor. No, even being a man I am in love with Grigor”.
And he was spotted laughing as Dimitrov repaid his compliment, saying Rublev “wears his heart on his sleeve” and “everyone would fall in love with you”.
The pair then jokingly planned a romantic dinner together after their clash on the court. Rublev, currently ranked No 6 in the world, has enjoyed a decent run in the Grand Slams on the ATP Tour this year after reaching the quarter-finals at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open.
But after his success in Frankfurt, the 25-year-old could be tempted back to the UTS Tour in the near future.
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