Andrey Rublev overcame a tough challenge on his Mutua Madrid Open debut on Tuesday to beat Tommy Paul 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 for a place in the third round. Paul put forth a brilliant effort while Rublev struggled to control the ball in the unfamiliar high altitude.
“It’s important to win when you’re not [playing] your [best] game and things are not going well,” the Russian said on-court. “So it’s really important to win this match to have more confidence. I’m happy that I turned it around.”
The World No. 7, who has advanced to the quarter-finals or better in all seven tournaments he has played this season, is now 9-2 at the ATP Masters 1000 level in 2021, after reaching the semi-finals in Miami and the final in Monte-Carlo.
Rublev’s next opponent is still undecided as John Isner awaits the winner of Roberto Bautista Agut and Marco Cecchinato, who play later Tuesday.
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Rublev opened up a 4-2 lead in the first set, but Paul stayed calm, even with this week also marking his Madrid debut. After four straight service breaks heading into the tie-break, and later a 1/5 deficit, the American held his nerve to fight back and clinch the 49-minute opener by winning six points in a row.
In the second set, Paul showed signs of fatigue, and after trading service games, Rublev capitalised on Paul’s slight letdown in energy to break for 5-3. The third set could have gone either way with both raising their intensity. Paul had a look at a break point at 4-3, but Rublev saved it and then took all of the momentum to break in the very next game. He sealed his first win in Madrid with an ace.
Rublev improves to 3-0 in their ATP Head2Head Series and inches ahead of Stefanos Tsitsipas to take the lead for most ATP wins in 2021 with 27.