Rublev Outlasts Bautista Agut

Andrey Rublev booked his place in the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters quarter-finals with 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-3 win over Roberto Bautista Agut on Thursday. The 23-year-old’s reward for all of his hard work? A showdown with a very fresh Rafael Nadal.

Bautista Agut came into the third-round contest with a 3-2 edge in their ATP Head2Head series, having beaten the Russian in the Doha semi-finals. Despite that and the Spaniard having early 4-1 leads in the first two sets, it was Rublev who emerged victorious after finding the right balance between ripping groundstrokes and staying patient. Neither could keep command of their service games, trading six breaks across two hours and 44 minutes.

After going down 3-0 and 4-1 in the first set, Rublev settled in and turned the momentum in his favour by putting more steady pressure on Bautista Agut. The Russian had to paint the lines, place sharp angles or push forward into the net to avoid exhaustingly long rallies with the world No. 11 (more than 50 of their rallies would last over nine shots).

He evened out the match to 4-4 and had a double break point opportunity, but didn’t capitalise. Rublev would make good on his next break chance at 5-5 and then failed to serve out the set. In the tie-break, it was all Rublev from the start with huge cuts off his forehand wing. He jumped out to a 4/0 lead and closed it out comfortably 7/2.

The match repeated a similar flow in the second set, with Rublev letting out some early frustration and errors before turning the momentum on its head. Again, the Russian would go down 4-1 and claw his way back, this time winning four games in a row. Bautista Agut bounced back to hold for 5-5 and with a couple of deft drop shots he picked up a crucial break for 6-5 and closed out the set 7-5.

At the start of the third set, the 34-year-old sprayed a few uncharacteristic unforced errors of his own. Rublev successfully changed the pattern from the first two sets to grab the early break, 2-0. He seemed to find a perfect balance between pulling the trigger on winners and managing his errors. Though Bautista Agut still got his own break in to get back on track, Rublev responded by breaking one final time for 4-2 before closing out the match.

Rublev came into the clay-court season on the heels of three semi-final runs (Miami, Dubai and Doha), having picked up his first ATP Tour title of the season in Rotterdam. The eight-time ATP Tour champion is a threat for the title every week, especially after winning five crowns in 2020.

He’ll need to recover quickly for his quarter-final with Nadal. The World No. 3 leads their ATP Head2Head Series 2-0, with Rublev looking to win his first set against the 11-time Monte-Carlo champion.

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