Rotterdam 2021: Rublev continues to rumble, winning his fourth straight ATP500 title
With victory over Fucsovics, the Russian has won 13 of 14 matches this year
Andrey Rublev has long been on the list of young players tipped for great things.
After all, before turning 20 he won his first title in Umag, and went on to reach the quarters of the US Open in 2017. He was up to 31 in the world by early 2018, but then his precocious rise was halted by a stress fracture in his back, and he had to work his way back up from 115 in early 2019 to his current high of No8.
Along the way, of course, things were slowed down for everyone by the global pandemic that suspended tennis for much of 2020, yet in that abbreviated year, Rublev won a tour-leading five titles and 41 matches. And he set a career-high ranking seven times, despite a 22-week ranking freeze.
Already, he had also built a surge this year with a clean sweep at the ATP Cup, and a quarter-final run at the Australian Open. Now he was 12-1 with his run to the Rotterdam final, with 19 straight ATP500 match-wins that took in the titles in Hamburg, St Petersburg and Vienna.
To reach his 20th, he had now to face Marton Fucsovics, perhaps an unexpected finalist in what had been a top-notch draw headed by next week’s new No2, Daniil Medvedev and featuring Alexander Zverev, Kei Nishikori, Alex de Minaur and Borna Coric. But the qualifier from Hungary, ranked 59, and a former junior Wimbledon champion, survived all comers—though he did not face a seed—to reach the final.
In contrast, Rublev had taken the hard road via an unseeded Andy Murray and No2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, yet his aggressive, powerful and animated game seemed to grow with each challenge—along with the boldness with which he attacked the net.
That he had beaten the Hungarian in their only main-tour match, last year at Roland Garros, must have boosted his confidence, too, though at almost four hours, it was hardly push-over. But weighing in the Fucsovics’ scales was a five-set win over Rublev in Davis Cup in 2017.
The first set in Rotterdam was a tight affair, neither man able to convert a number of break-point opportunities, but the Rublev serve was firing much the better, and come the tie-break, he forced enough errors from his opponent to edge the set, 7-6(4), after more than an hour.
Rublev rode that momentum into the second set, and showed again what a proficient forward game he has, and he took the initiative to break at the start, gaining a lead that he never lost. The Russian did not offer up a single break chance in the second set, though Fucsovics continued to go for his shots, also coming forward to make, by the end, 14 points at the net. But Rublev served it out, 6-4, with his signature shot, a forehand winner, his 28th winner overall—for a mere 11 errors.
And that made it 20 straight 500-level wins, four straight 500-level titles, and a 13th win in 14 matches so far this year.
And despite his own pleasure in victory, he made a special point of congratulating Fucsovics:
“I think physically you are one of the strongest ones! You are playing amazing.”
It was a fair point—seven matches in little more than a week by the Hungarian—but now both men have to pack fast and take the flight to Doha where Fucsovics, unseeded, will have to play his first match in two days’ time against Dusan Lajovic—a tough opener against the world No27 who missed out on a seeding in Doha by just one place.
What is more, Fucsovics could face Stan Wawrinka in his second match and then, of all men, Rublev in the quarters. The Russian does have an extra day’s grace for preparation, enjoying a bye in the first round, and will then play either Richard Gasquet or Blaz Rola.
And if that wasn’t enough, both men are scheduled for Dubai in the following week—where Rublev will have the chance to make it 25 wins in five ATP500s, though with so many miles on the tennis-court clock this season already, maybe it will someone else’s turn. For now, the young Russian is the man to beat, wherever he chooses to play.