Andrey Rublev will be out to claim his third career title when he takes on French qualifier, Corentin Moutet in the final of the Qatar Open in Doha on Saturday.
Rublev is into his second final at the event, having finished runner-up to Gael Monfils in his tournament debut in 2018. The Russian has been in fine form this week, moving through the draw without dropping a set.
Rublev opened with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Mikhail Kukushkin on Wednesday, but persistent rain in Doha meant he wouldn’t play again until Friday, when he had to put in a double shift to make up for lost time. The 22-year-old first took down Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4 6-3 in the quarter finals before registering an even more convincing 6-3 6-1 win over Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic later in the day to advance to the first ATP Tour final of the season. Rublev hit 10 aces against Kecmanovic, winning 92% of points on his first serve, while he faced no break points in the 53-minute dispatch of the world No. 62.
“Today I felt even better in the second match than the first match,” said Rublev. “I was moving better. I was hitting better. The energy was much better the second match than the first match.”
Rublev is into his fifth career final, and will attempt to win his second title in just under three months when he faces Moutet on Friday. The Russian was champion at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow in October, while he also made a final in Hamburg in July- his only other tour-level final in 2019. Rublev has had his injury problems in the last couple of years and was ranked outside the world’s top-100 as recently as last March, but he found his form again in the second half of last season, and earned an impressive year-end ranking of No. 23 after peaking at a career-high 22nd during the season.
He will be looking to maintain that momentum in 2020, and he’s made a very strong start in Doha. Can he turn that into a perfect start by taking down Moutet on Saturday?
Moutet had not made an ATP Tour semi-final before Friday, but he not only moved into his maiden semi on a milestone day, but he also reached his first final.
Rublev entered the main draw through the qualifiers, beating Andrej Martin and Alexei Popyrin to earn his spot, and he’s put together four battling wins to get to the final. He defeated former Australian Open quarter-finalist, Tennys Sandgren 7-6 6-4, took down former world No. 3, Milos Raonic 7-6 7-6 in the second round before pulling off a pair of three-set wins over Fernando Verdasco and Stan Wawrinka on Friday to reach the final.
Moutet was very solid behind his serve against Wawrinka, winning 80% of first serve points and a very healthy 67% on his second. The 20-year-old lost his serve in the fourth game of the first set en route dropping the set, but he did not face any more break points after that, fighting back to win 3-6 7-5 6-3 in just over two hours. He had also needed over two hours to beat Verdasco earlier in the day.
Moutet had his best results on the Challenger Tour last year, winning titles in Chennai and Lyon, and making a final in Samarkand. He also played quite a few tour-level events, with his best result being a third-round run at Roland Garros, where he defeated Alexey Vatutin and Guido Pella before falling to Juan Ignacio Londero in five sets.
He also won a match at Wimbledon, fighting back from two sets down to stun Grigor Dimitrov, while he reached the second round in Lyon and the Paris Masters. He took out Dusan Lajovic in the first round in Paris, and pushed Novak Djokovic to a first set tie break in the second round before losing 7-6 6-4 in a valiant effort. The left-hander started last year at No. 144, but he finished at 83rd in the world, and has crept up to 81st in the new year. He is guaranteed to have a new career ranking by virtue of his Doha run, with the projection being that he will be just outside the top 70. If he wins the title on Saturday, he could climb into the top 60.
For all the excellent work Moutet has done this week, Rublev has been far more convincing, and appears to be playing the better tennis. You could also argue that Moutet has had a more difficult route, with Raonic, Verdasco and Wawrinka all in his path, while Rublev has had Kukushkin, Herbert and Kecmanovic.
Still, the smart money would be on the fresher and more experienced Rublev to capture his third career title on Saturday.