Defending champion Andrey Rublev avoided a collapse, rallying to save five match points in a 1-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3) fightback win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Wednesday at the ATP Dubai event.

The second seed said he kept his emotions bottled up as his 29th-ranked Spanish opponent got away to a sprint start by winning the first five games of the second-round confrontation.

Rublev was also overpowered throughout much of the second set but squeezed it out in a tiebreaker which gave him hopes of survival.

“In the second set I was super-tight, holding everything inside,” he said. “I was completely calm.

“When I won the set, all the emotions came out.”

The seed earned match points of his own in the final set, letting out a scream of joy when he finally won after nearly two and a half hours of hard work on his opponent’s error.

“I’m just super-happy to win this kind of match against such a tough and great player,” Rublev said. “I’ve never come from  1-6 down in a tiebreaker in my life.

The winner admitted he kept his emotions bottled up until he managed to win the second set and square the contest..

“My beginning was not good, I got frustrated. He started well and I didn’t have many options.

“But I started to fight and got more positive.”

Rublev is into his fourth consecutive Dubai quarter-final and will face Dutchman Botek Van De Zandschulp.

Davidovich Fokina has now lost all 10 of his matches played on hardcourt against Top 10 opponents.