Bublik, Last Of Four Former Montpellier Champs, Through To Semifinals

Alexander Bublik (photo: Open Sud de France)

MONTPELLIER /WASHINGTON, February 2, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

No. 2 seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan recovered from a set down and bested Alexander Shevchenko, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, in two hours and six minutes Friday afternoon to advance to the semifinal round of the Open Sud de France, an ATP 250 indoor hard court event in Montpellier, France.

The 2022 titlist and only former champ remaining in the draw fired 15 aces and converted four break points against the 59th-ranked Shevchenko, his doubles partner and fellow countryman, who was competing as a Kazakh for the first time this week and attempting to reach his second tour-level semifinal.

Bublik saved three break points while serving for the match at 5-4 and won on his second match-point opportunity. He gave props to Shevchenko afterward.

“He is an upcoming player. He has beaten a lot of top players already. I was putting every effort in and I got lucky at the end,” the 27th-ranked Bublik said in his on-court interview. “I didn’t serve any double faults on the break points and I am happy with the win.”

On Saturday, Bublik will face No. 3 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime. The 30th-ranked Canadian defeated Harold Mayot of France, 7-5, 6-1, in 79 minutes, to reach his first semifinal since last October. It came a day after Auger-Aliassime survived a three-set scare from another Frenchman, No. 83 Arthur Cazaux.

Although the 144th-ranked wild card Mayot was the last of 13 Frenchmen who started in the main draw, he was ultimately undone by five breaks of his serve.

Auger-Aliassime hit 10 aces, won 50 percent of his return points and outpointed Mayot 60-44.

“To get three breaks in the first set means I was returning really well and then it was just adding the serve to that,” Auger-Aliassime said during his on-court interview. “Then being a bit more consistent, a bit more patient and disciplined. I felt like I was playing really good.”

Rune through to back-to-back Montpellier semifinals

World No. 7 and top seed Holger Rune of Denmark advanced to his second straight Montpellier semifinal after defeating No. 133 Michael Mmoh of the United States, 7-6 (6), 6-4.  A day after achieving his 100th career ATP Tour win — second-most for a Danish man — Rune, 20, is through to his fifth semifinal as a No. 1 seed and his 15th Tour-level semifinal overall.

During the two-hour, two-minute featured night session match, Rune fired 17 aces, won 75 percent of his first-serve points, broke Mmoh’s serve twice and outpointed the American 87-73. It was their first head-to-head meeting.

Rune saved a set point down 5-6 in the first-set tiebreaker. Then, he broke Mmoh to go ahead 2-1 in the second set and was never threatened afterward. He won on his first match-point opportunity.

“It was about finding a rhythm like yesterday,” Rune said in his on-court interview. “It took me a bit of time in the first set. I tried to convince myself I did the right thing.”

On Saturday, Rune will face No. 4 seed Borna Coric of Croatia, who needed four match points to defeat No. 76 Flavio Cobolli of Italy, 6-3, 6-4, in a hour and 35 minutes, for a berth in Sunday’s title match.

“I came here the first day to go all the way; that’s why I’m here,” Rune said. “Every match is tough and I have to take it one match at a time. … It’s a constant process. Staying in the moment is the most important thing.”

Around the Open Sud de France

No. 4 seeds Albano Olivetti of France and Tristan-Samuel Weissborn of Austria advanced to Sunday’s doubles final with a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4) win over unseeded Robin Hasse of the Netherlands and Petr Nouza of the Czech Republic.

No. 1 seeds Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul of France will face Great Britain’s Lloyd Glasspool and Henry Patten, who are seeded third, in the other semifinal on Saturday.

Friday’s Open de Sud France results

Saturday’s Open Sud de France order of play

By the numbers

Friday’s Alexander BublikAlexander Shevchenko match marked just the second time two Kazakh players reached the quarterfinals at an ATP Tour event. The last time it occurred was at Moscow in 2013 in Moscow, when Mikhail Kukushkin advanced to the finals and Andrey Golubev the quarterfinals.

“Quotable …”

“When I got the break in the second set, I was thinking ‘I need to get the win because today it’s my sister’s birthday.’ I’m going to give a great gift by winning the match.”

— Top seed Holger Rune, during his on-court interview, on the significance of his quarterfinal victory.