Bublik Gives Brilliant Performance To Win Halle Title

Alexander Bublik (photo: Terra Wortmann Open/Mathias Schulz)

HALLE/WASHINGTON, June 24, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

Championship Sunday at the 30th edition of the Terra Wortmann Open in Halle Westfalen, Germany, one of two ATP Tour 500-series grass-court tournaments, served up a fourth-time meeting between a pair of longtime friends, No. 3 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia and unseeded Alexander Bublik, born and raised in Russia but now representing Kazakhstan.

While both players were trying to win their first career ATP Tour grass-court title, only one would succeed. Rublev arrived at OWL Arena for his 21st tour-level final with a 13-7 record while Bublik, playing in his eighth title match, was 1-6.

After an hour and 33 minutes of entertaining – and at times acrobatic – tennis, it was the 48th-ranked Bublik who prevailed over the World No. 7 Rublev, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, to win his first ATP 500 title as well as his first grass-court crown. After serving an ace to win the title, the 6-foot-5 Bublik flashed a big grin, tapped his heart with his hand, then strode over to his box to celebrate with his team and to hug and kiss his wife.

“It really means the world to me,” said Bublik, during an on-court interview with ATP Media. “I’ve been struggling for half a year and now having this a reward; I don’t take it for granted. It was hard work. I was walking through the little Hall of Fame here before entering the court for the very first time against Struff [in the second round], and I was like ‘Wow, the different names, a lot of guys I’m familiar with. That would be nice maybe to have it one day’. 

“But I could not even imagine that I would win this tournament, and I’m really, really happy.” 

Looking back, the 26-year-old Bublik capped a brilliant week by beating four seeded players and will move up to a career-high No. 26 with Wimbledon looming a week away. He advanced to play 2021 Halle runner-up Rublev after both won their semifinal matches in straight sets on Saturday.

First, Bublik defeated two-time Halle finalist Alexander Zverev of Germany, 6-3, 7-5, by hitting 14 aces and saving the only break point he faced. Then, Rublev beat Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, 6-3, 6-4.

“The job is not finished, there is one last match,” Bublik said after his win against the 22nd-ranked Zverev, who was looking to win his first ATP Tour title since 2021. Although winless in two previous grass-court finals and 0-3 lifetime against Rublev, all on hard courts – most recently three years ago in Rotterdam – Bublik came in 8-2 in his last 10 matches on grass. As the match wore on, he looked more comfortable than Rublev and played steadiest.

Despite coming in 1-5 against Top-10 players in the past 12 months (and 7-18 lifetime), Bublik played inspired from start to finish and was dominant in his service games against Rublev. He fired 21 aces (and finished with a tournament-best 79), the last coming on championship point; struck 41 winners and won 91 percent (41 of 45) of his first-serve points. He converted two of six break points and saved three of the four break points he faced. Bublik outpointed Rublev 83-72 by disrupting the Russian’s rhythm and limiting his opponent’s return opportunities. Rublev managed just 23 winners.

During the trophy ceremony, Rublev gave props to the new Halle champion. In addressing Bublik, the gracious Rublev said: “I want to say congrats to Sasha for an amazing week. You’ve always been so talented. It’s more about you, if you want to be a better player and more consistent like this week or not. It’s always special to win a title in front of your family.”

Bublik returned the compliment, saying to Rublev: Congrats to my longtime friend, Andrey. Walking on this court today against you I was thinking about our first match. I remember it very clearly, back probably 15 years ago. And I said, ‘Woah, what a long way we’ve come.'”

• The Terra Wortmann Open doubles title was won by Tour veterans Marcelo Melo of Brazil and John Peers of Australia, who defeated Italian duo Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 10-6, in the one-hour, 35-minute final. It was the first championship final together for Melo and Peers in just their seventh tournament together. Melo (37) and Peers have combined to win 64 doubles titles.

Alcaraz wins Queen’s Club title, set to return to No. 1

World No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz won his first career grass-court title and earned a return to the World No. 1 ranking after winning the ATP 500 Cinch Championships at The Queen’s Club in London Sunday.

The 20-year-old top-seeded Spaniard from Murcia defeated No. 7 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia, ranked 18th, 6-4, 6-4, in an hour and 39 minutes.

On Monday, Alcaraz will pass Novak Djokovic for World No. 1 and head into the Wimbledon Championships as the men’s No. 1 seed.

Alcaraz’s London triumph was his fifth ATP Tour title in 2023, which ties him with Daniil Medvedev for most on the ATP Tour. This season, Alcaraz has won crowns in Buenos Aires, Indian Wells, Barcelona and Madrid in addition to The Queen’s Club.

In his on-court interview, Alcaraz said: “It means a lot to me. Being able to win this amazing tournament in my first time that I played here for me is fantastic. To know that I’m [capable of] a good level on grass, obviously [to be] champion of every tournament feels special.”

Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Austin Krajicek of the United States duo won  the Cinch Championships doubles crown on Sunday with a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 10-3 triumph over American Taylor Fritz and Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic. The second-seeded Croatian-American duo were dominant in the match tie-break to win their fourth tour-level title of the season. They have now won tournaments on hard courts, clay and grass in 2023.

By the numbers

Alexander Bublik, who beat four seeded players en route to the Halle title (No. 7 Borna Coric, No. 4 Jannik Sinner, No. 9 Alexander Zverev and No. 3 Andrey Rublev), added his second career tour-level crown after capturing the title at Montpellier last year. He denied the seventh-ranked Rublev from capturing a second title of the season after winning Monte-Carlo on clay in April. A title in Halle would have given the Russian a 14th career crown and an ATP 500 title on grass, clay and hard courts in his career.

“Quotable …”

“Of course, recovering the No. 1 before Wimbledon, it gives you extra motivation, it gives you extra confidence coming into Wimbledon. But it doesn’t change too much if I play Wimbledon as the No. 2 or the No. 1.”

Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, during his on-court interview after winning the Cinch Championships title Sunday.