In a thrilling match at the Erste Bank Open on Tuesday, third-seeded Andrey Rublev displayed resilience and skill to clinch a first-round victory over Alexei Popyrin with a scoreline of 7-6(5), 6-4. The win improves Rublev’s record to 10-4 at Vienna's esteemed ATP 500 event.
Despite leading early in the opening set at 2-0 and 4-2, Rublev found himself in a precarious position, needing to return from a breakdown at 4-5 to push the set to a tie-break. Popyrin demonstrated tenacity, leading the tie-break at 5/2, but Rublev executed a remarkable turnaround, winning five consecutive points to seize the first set.
He maintained his composure in the second set to wrap up the victory in just 97 minutes. Rublev, currently ranked World No. 5, expressed his thoughts post-match, stating, “I don’t know [how I won the first set]. I was super lucky; it was my mistake.
I was 4-2 up. I had an easy ball and played it where he was, and he passed me. The match started to change from that moment, and he was 5-4 up with a break. Somehow, I was able to stay there, and I was able to turn it around."
Rublev's Stride to Turin
The 26-year-old, a five-time ATP 500 titlist, showcased his strong game, converting four of seven break points.
His victory at the Erste Bank Open is a crucial step forward, bringing him to the brink of confirming his spot at the prestigious Nitto ATP Finals for the fourth consecutive year. A win against Matteo Arnaldi in the upcoming round in Vienna will secure his place in the tournament, held in Turin.
Reflecting on his journey to Turin, Rublev said, “Every match, you feel you are one step closer. Every win, every day. The door is open, and I see what is inside, but I am not inside the room yet”. The tournament also witnessed advancements from other contenders.
Seventh seed Frances Tiafoe progressed to the next round after Daniel Evans had to retire due to a right calf injury. At the same time, American hopeful Tommy Paul secured a commanding 6-3, 6-1 win against qualifier Alexandre Muller.
Both players continue their pursuit of a spot in the Nitto ATP Finals, intensifying the competition at the Erste Bank Open.