Andrey Rublev wore down one of the most consistent players on the ATP Tour, Roberto Bautista Agut, on Friday for a place in the Hamburg European Open semi-finals. Fifth seed and 2019 runner-up Rublev played with great aggression on the slow Hamburg clay to triumph 6-2, 7-5 in one hour and 31 minutes.
Rublev, who hit 20 of his 30 winners off his forehand wing, improved to a 23-6 match record on the 2020 season and will next challenge Ugo Humbert or Casper Ruud on Saturday at the newly renovated Am Rothenbaum, venue of the ATP 500 tournament.
“Roberto is one of the most consistent players on Tour, it’s really tough to beat him,” said World No. 14 Rublev, in an on-court interview. “You need to play at an amazing level and be really fit. He never gives you an easy match. I am really pleased as I played well, even in the first set — in spite of the score — there were long games and I’m happy to get through the second set.”
Rublev’s backhand stood up well in the opening exchanges, and it was fourth seed Bautista Agut who faltered in the opening game as he missed a backhand down the line. Rublev broke once more for a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner, before Bautista Agut started to step in and take the ball earlier to make inroads. Rublev broke for a third time, for a 5-2 advantage, with a barrage of aggressive forehands and completed the 34-minute opener with a backhand volley — one of 12 winners. Bautista Agut had won eight of his 23 service points.
Rublev twice appeared to have made a decisive breakthrough in the second set — breaking in the third and fifth games — but Bautista Agut found a way back, muscling his way in with his own aggressive play to lead 5-4. Rublev, playing at his very best, did so well to maintain his composure in their fourth ATP Head2Head meeting and broke Bautista Agut at 5-5, 30/40 with two aggressive forehands on approach to the net, which forced a backhand error. The 22-year-old secured his spot in the fourth ATP 500 semi-final of his career, in the next game, when Bautista Agut hit a backhand return into the net.
© Hamburg European Open/Witters