In-form Russian, Andrey Rublev aims to claim back-to-back titles at the start of 2020 when he faces South African qualifier, Lloyd Harris in Adelaide on Saturday.
Rublev vs Harris is live from Adelaide on Saturday, 18 January from 6:00pm local time/ 7:30am GMT
Rublev has stormed out of the gates in 2020, opening with a title run in Doha, and backing it with another final in Adelaide. The Russian won the Doha title without dropping a set, but he has not been as perfect in Adelaide, needing a couple of three-setters to make his way to the final. Counting from the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid last year, Rublev has now won his 11 consecutive singles matches.
The 22-year-old began his week with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Sam Querrey, but he’s had to work harder in subsequent rounds, battling past Daniel Evans 6-4 3-6 6-4, before taking down Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 6-7 6-4 in the semi-finals on Friday.
Having held two match points in the second set against Auger-Aliassime, Rublev slipped to a 0-3 deficit at the start of the final set, but the Russian impressively wrestled back the momentum from his Canadian opponent, winning five of the next six games to pull off an extremely tight victory in just over three hours.
“This match was unreal,” said Rublev. “I think people enjoyed it and that is why we are playing tennis. I hope we will bring more and more matches like this.”
“I didn’t expect that I was going to do two finals,” he continued. “I didn’t expect that I was going to start the season that well, so we will see what is going to happen next. The most important thing is to keep going, to keep working and to keep improving.”
Rublev’s fine start to the season is a carryover from an excellent finish to last year. He initially struggled in 2019, making just one tour-level quarter final in the first six months, but he was superb in the second half of the year, winning a title in Moscow, making a final in Hamburg, quarter-finals in Winston-Salem, Cincinnati, St. Petersburg and Vienna, and the fourth round of the US Open.
He will now attempt to win his fourth career title when he faces Lloyd Harris on Saturday. Rublev claimed his first title in Umag in 2017- the same year he reached the quarter finals of the US Open and first broke into the top 40. His progress was briefly curtailed by injuries, but the world No. 18 is right back on track, and is eyeing a new career-high ranking.
Standing between Rublev and the Adelaide title is Harris, who is contesting his maiden tour-level final.
The South African has compiled a fine week, beating the quality trio of Cristian Garin, Laslo Djere, Pablo Carreno Busta to reach the semi-finals, before taking down fellow qualifier, Tommy Paul 6-4 6-7 6-3 after two hours and 10 minutes. Harris powered down 13 aces against Paul, winning 85% of points on his first serve and saving two of the four break points he faced.
“I’m so excited to be in the final here in Adelaide. Just ecstatic with the match I played,” Harris said. “Looking forward to [the final] tomorrow.”
The South African was ranked outside the top-100 at the start of last season, but he peaked at 82nd in July, and ended at No. 99 in the world- his first top-100 finish. His most significant tour-level performance was in Chengdu, where he made his first ATP semi-final, but a lot of the work was done on the Challenger tour. Harris was champion in Launceston, while he made Challenger semi-finals at Indian Wells, Ostrava, Brest and Eckental.
Harris also scored his maiden Grand Slam match win last year, beating Lukas Rosol in five sets in his Roland Garros opener before falling to Borna Coric in the second round. He famously took a set off Roger Federer at Wimbledon, but the great Swiss fought back to win in four and stave off the upset.
Harris is projected to reach a new career high ranking on Monday- will he be celebrating that achievement with a maiden ATP title? He faces fellow 22-year-old, Andre Rublev for the first time at tour level on Saturday.
“I know that [Harris] is a tough player. He won so many great matches here,” said Rublev. “He is my age. We played juniors in the past, so it is going to be interesting. It is going to be one more battle between two young guys and we will see what is going to happen.”
As well as Harris has played this week, Rublev has been sensational all season. His confidence is sky-high and he is playing freely, making him very lethal especially off the forehand wing. The Russian should be too strong for Harris on Saturday.