Tennis: Rublev survives scare to open season with win in Hong Kong

AFP , Thursday 4 Jan 2024

Andrey Rublev survived a huge scare on his 2024 seasonal singles debut Thursday as the world number five was forced to dig deep to battle past British qualifier Liam Broady 6-4, 7-6 (10/8) at the Hong Kong Open.

Andrey Rublev
Russia's Andrey Rublev serves Britain's Liam Broady during their men's singles tennis match at the Hong Kong Open in Hong Kong on January 4, 2024. Photo: AFP


The Russian top seed appeared to be cruising when racing into a 3-0 first set lead in the second-round encounter.

Broady broke back but Rublev, having managed to secure the set, dropped his serve again at the start of the second as the 108th-ranked Broady looked to celebrate his 30th birthday Thursday in style.

The fiery Rublev's frustration began to grow and, after one of a succession of unforced errors, he angrily kicked out at the advertising boards behind the baseline.

It got the 26-year-old's adrenalin pumping and he clawed back the break when Broady failed to serve out for the set at 5-4.

Broady, playing his fourth match of the week after coming through qualifying, forced Rublev to save three set points in a nerve-shredding tiebreaker.

"It was really tough," said Rublev, who finally crawled over the line on his first match point after 1hr 50min of rollercoaster tennis.

"He played really well. For me it was the first match so it's always tough. It's always nervous first time. It was a bit stressful second set."

Rublev will face rising French youngster and world number 36 Arthur Fils in the last eight on Friday.

The 19-year-old Fils, who is the highest ranked teenager in the men's game, was pushed hard for a shade over two hours before edging past a spirited world number 194 Marc-Andrea Huesler 7-5, 7-5.

"He was serving great and he was killing me from the baseline so wasn't that easy," Fils told reporters of his Swiss opponent.

"So I changed some tactics and it worked pretty well so I'm really happy."

Fils said it had been an honour to be voted ATP Tour "newcomer of the year" in 2023, a season in which he reached the final of the NextGen Finals tournament for players aged 21 and under.

"Some great guys won (newcomer of the year) before me," said Fils, who won his maiden ATP Tour title as a 112th-ranked wildcard at Lyon last year.

"But you have to win many more titles to be one of the greatest of all time," he added. "So we'll try."

Spanish veteran Roberto Bautista Agut continued his smooth start to the season with a second straight-sets victory of the week to knock out fourth seed Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina 7-5, 6-3.

Bautista Agut, 35, will face Austria's Sebastian Ofner in the quarter-finals after he beat German fifth seed Jan-Lennard Struff 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/2).

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