The First of Many? #NextGenATP Rublev Battles Past Felix In Umag
Years from now, we could all be looking back at it as the start of a great FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry.
Twenty-year-old Andrey Rublev of Russia fought off 17-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3 on Thursday at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag, denying the Canadian teenager his biggest win to date.
Rublev, the fourth seed and defending champion, was playing in his first match in three months because of a stress fracture in his lower back, and how much the return victory meant to him was evident after Auger-Aliassime's final backhand landed wide. Rublev bent over and buried his face in his hands.
“I was super happy because it's my first match since three months, and I was really happy to win it. It was a little bit emotional moment for me,” Rublev told ATPWorldTour.com.
He wasn't sure what to expect in his return, but Rublev was pleased with his fight and the outcome. “In the end, everything was better than I expected,” he said.
Auger-Aliassime, who's the youngest player (17) in the Top 150 of the ATP Rankings (No. 144), was aggressive and confident throughout the two-hour, 30-minute second-round match, pushing Rublev behind the baseline and frustrating the Russian, who finished runner-up at last year's inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
Rublev, however, employed his experience and composed himself well in the third set after Auger-Aliassime led by a break 3-1. Rublev won the final five games, breaking twice before serving it out.
The No. 35 player in the ATP Rankings is looking to go back-to-back in Umag. Last year at the ATP World Tour 250-level event, Rublev was the first lucky loser in eight years to win an ATP World Tour title. He will next meet sixth seed Robin Haase, who beat Slovakian qualifier Martin Klizan 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Argentine qualifier Marco Trungelliti, who famously drove from Buenos Aires to Paris to play in Roland Garros as a lucky loser, beat Hungary's Marton Fucsovics 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to his first tour-level quarter-final. Trungelliti will next play Russian Evgeny Donskoy, who beat second seed Damir Dzumhur 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-4.