© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Andrey Rublev makes quick work of his opening match at the Australian Open.

Rublev Kicks Off 2022 In Style

Russian in a hurry in his opening match of season

World No. 6 and four-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Andrey Rublev began his march towards another Grand Slam second week with a straightforward victory over Italy’s Gianluca Mager on Tuesday at the Australian Open. Making his 2022 debut, the Russian blitzed through in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

It was a near-perfect start for Rublev, whose clean hitting produced 31 winners to just 13 errors in the one-hour, 24-minute contest. While he dropped serve once on five break points against, the Russian—a quarter-finalist in Melbourne one year ago—broke seven times and never trailed in any of the three sets.

After winning the ATP Cup and Davis Cup with the Russian Tennis Federation in 2021, Rublev was set to begin his ’22 campaign at this year’s ATP Cup before a positive COVID-19 test ruled him out. He said he felt “a bit tired” before Tuesday’s match due to the layoff, but was pleased with his performance on the day.

“Of course I would have preferred to play ATP Cup, to feel already these emotions, the nerves during the match, to feel this winning feeling,” he explained in his on-court interview. “Of course it’s not easy when you’re not playing for a couple of weeks and you go straight into one of the best tournaments.

“You feel a bit double pressure because you don’t know how it’s going to be. But this is life, you cannot control it.”

Mager’s attempt at a comeback peaked with two break points in the opening game of the final set, but two big Rublev serves set up easy second balls as he quelled the danger with ease. He finished the match with 13 aces and an 81 per cent win rate on first serve.

After his speedy win in the day’s second match in Margaret Court Arena, Rublev now awaits the winner of the match between Ricardas Berankis and Roberto Carballes Baena.

Making his first appearance at the Australian Open since 2018, Richard Gasquet returned with a bang in a four-set comeback upset against fellow Frenchman Ugo Humbert. The 35-year-old Gasquet, 12 years his countryman’s elder, knocked off the No. 29 seed with a surprise 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(3), 6-3 result on Tuesday.

The match turned on the two tie-breaks, with a vintage Gasquet winning the first with the help of an ace and a set-point winner, and the second after back-to-back errors from Humbert. On the whole, Gasquet’s steady play frustrated his more aggressive opponent: He finished with a 39-to-36 winners-to-unforced-errors count, while Humbert tallied a 55-to-50 ratio.

Ranked as high as World No. 7 in 2007, Gasquet now sits at No. 81, with his last ATP Tour title coming in 2018 ('s-Hertogenbosch).

He will take on shock US Open quarter-finalist Botic van de Zandschulp in Round 2, after the Dutchman took out Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, in the first round.

It was smoother sailing for the three other seeds in early action on Tuesday. No. 13 Diego Schwartzman was a 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 winner over Filip Krajinovic, though the Argentine was broken while serving for the set in both the second and third stanzas. He received treatment on his right quad late in the third, but recovered to get through in straights.

Roberto Bautista Agut, seeded 15th, was made to work against Italy’s Stefano Travaglia, but the Spaniard finished strong in a 7-6(2), 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 win. The Spaniard created 17 break points in the two-hour, 55-minute match, converting seven of them.

Elsewhere, No. 27 seed Marin Cilic rolled past Colombia qualifier Emilio Gomez, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2.

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