Rublev Enjoying Resurgence In Madrid, Reaches Fifth Career Masters 1000 Final

Andrey Rublev (photo: Angel Martinez/MMO)

MADRID/WASHINGTON, May 3, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

With his 6-4, 6-3 semifinal victory over 12th-seeded American Taylor Fritz at the Mutua Madrid Open Friday afternoon, No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev has reached the fifth Masters 1000 title match of his career — and it’s the Russian’s 25th overall ATP final.

After arriving in Madrid on a four-match losing streak, Rublev, 26, is now one win from garnering the second Masters 1000 title of his career, after capturing his first one last year at Monte-Carlo on clay. He’s strung together victories over Facundo Bagnis, No. 27 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, No. 24 seed Tallon Griekspoor, two-time defending champion and this year’s No. 2 seed Carlos Alcaraz, and Fritz.

Rublev, the highest-remaining ranked player in the draw, beat Fritz not only with his serve (which produced five aces and an 83-percent efficiency in winning first-serve points) and powerful groundstrokes, but also because he was mentally tougher than Fritz throughout the 72-minute semifinal under sunny skies on Manolo Santana Stadium.

“For sure. Mentally I’ve been feeling much better. I was able to perform putting emotions in the right direction. It helped me to be in the final. Without this, I wouldn’t be in the final,” said Rublev, who outpointed Fritz 61-47, in his on-court interview.

Rublev will face No. 35 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada in Sunday evening’s championship match.

During his post-match interview, the World No. 8 played down the aspect that he will be the favorite because of his superior ranking.

“I’m not looking at it this way. Because I know Felix used to be top 10. He didn’t play for a while last year. He’s now playing better and better,” Rublev said. “We played at the start of the season. I saved I don’t know how many match points. He almost beat me. Previous matches he beat me as well. … I never look at the ranking because I know the guys and how they play. To judge by the ranking in tennis doesn’t work.”

Friday evening, Auger-Aliassime advanced to his first ATP Masters 1000 final after 30th-seeded Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic was forced to retire during the seventh game of their semifinal due to a back injury. Lehecka had left the court during a medical time out for treatment after the sixth game of the first set with the score tied 3-all.

The World No. 31 Lehecka recently withdrew from competing at Monte-Carlo and Barcelona last month due to a right vertebrae ailment. He visibly grabbed at his lower back in pain during the sixth game. After returning from the medical time out, Lehecka tried to play on. However, after the third point, he called an end to the match and met Auger-Aliassime at the net. The two hugged each other.

It marked the second match of the tournament that Auger-Aliassime had advanced after his opponent retired. Earlier, Jakub Mensik retired in the second set of their third-round match. Auger-Aliassime also advanced to the semifinals by walkover due to a hip injury suffered by top seed Jannik Sinner.

“It’s crazy. I don’t know if I’s every happened to a player before,” said Auger-Aliassime during his on-court interview. “It’s kind of a weird situation to be in on my part. It’s never happened to me in my career so far, a withdrawal or a walkover or retirement of this sort, and back-to-back like this. I couldn’t believe what was happening when I saw his back locked on him.”

Now, Auger-Aliassime will go after the biggest title of his career when he faces Rublev at Caja Magica in their sixth tour-level meeting Sunday evening.

Around the Caja Magica

Competing in their first tour-level doubles event together, Sebastian Korda and Jordan Thompson have together enjoyed a memorable run to the Madrid final.

Friday afternoon on Arantxa Sánchez Stadium, the American Korda and Thompson of Australia rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 10-8 victory over No. 11 seeds Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Michael Venus of New Zealand in 74 minutes. It marked the first set the two had lost this week.

Korda and Thompson, who competed in both singles and doubles draws in Madrid, will face doubles specialists Ariel Behar and and Adam Pavlasek in Saturday’s final. The Uruguayan/Czech pair advanced to their first Masters 1000 final by walkover after No. 2 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina withdrew prior to their semifinal match due to leg injury suffered by Zeballos in Thursday’s quarterfinal round.

Despite their withdrawal, Granollers and Zeballos will become joint World No. 1 on Monday in the individual PIF ATP Doubles Rankings for the first time in their careers.

By the numbers

No. 35 Felix Auger-Aliassime has become the fourth player born in the 2000s to play in an ATP Masters 1000 final and the second-lowest ranked player to reach the final in Madrid event history.

Auger-Aliassime joins Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune as players born in the 2000s to play in a ATP masters 1000 final. The lowest-ranked player to play in a Madrid final was then-No. 65 Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany in 2023.

“Quotable …”

“I feel really bad for him. I’ve had injuries myself, and we can all imagine how it feels to come out on a night like this, hoping to win to go through, having a battle with your opponent, and not being able to play. I have a lot of empathy for Jiri, and I can’t do anything but try to prepare for Sunday.”

Felix Auger-Aliassime, during his on-court interview, reacting to the retirement by injury of his semifinal opponent Jiri Lehecka.