Top seed Andrey Rublev of Russia yesterday rallied from a set down to beat Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor to reach the quarter-finals at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.
Rublev, the 2020 champion and a losing finalist in 2018, yesterday won 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (6) in 1 hour and 54 minutes.
Second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada also braved a mighty onslaught from Australia’s Jason Kubler before posting a three-set win. After losing the first set, Auger-Aliassime got his game together for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in 2 hours and 16 minutes.
Also yesterday, former champion Andy Murray of Great Britain beat fourth seed Alexander Zverev of Germany in three gruelling sets. Murray, winner here in 2008 and 2009, won 7-6 (5), 2-6, 7-5 in 3 hours and 2 minutes.
Murray will now play French qualifier Alexandre Muller who yesterday stunned eighth seed Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands. Muller won 6-2, 6-4 in 1 hour and 14 minutes.
“Alex is a top player. He’s a great competitor. He always fights right till the end. It’s one of his biggest strengths. So even once I got that tight first set, he kept going for it,” Murray said.
“In the third set, I was really hanging on as he was creating more of the chances and was a better player for large parts of that, but I managed to stay strong, kept fighting and got the break at the end and closed it out well,” the 35-year-old said.
Rublev, who lost in the quarter-finals at the Australian Open last month, admitted he was taken by surprise in the clash against Griekspoor.
“I don’t know,” Rublev said when asked how he managed to get the win in three sets. Rublev fired 10 aces in his fighting win, his 10th overall in Doha.
“I guess I was lucky. He’s coming from Rotterdam. He had tough matches in there, three sets, and he came straight away here without rest. So obviously mentally for him it was super tough,” the Russian added.
“Maybe that’s why I was able to break him at the most important moment of the match. If he was fresh, I think there would be no chance (for me). I was lucky today,” he added.
“I wasn’t breathing easy. I don’t know why. I couldn’t breathe well. I was just, like I said, lucky,” Rublev said.
Rublev added: “Super excited to be back in Doha. I have great, great memories here. My second (career) final was here. In the next couple of years I won the title. I won the title in doubles also. So a lot of great memories. I’m happy to be back. I’m happy to play in front of you guys, and I’m enjoying my time here.”
Last year, Rublev reached the semi-finals without playing a single match after getting a bye in the opening round, a walkover by Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the second round followed by another walkover by Marton Fucsovics of Hungary.
In the semi-finals, Rublev lost to Roberto Bautista Agut, the eventual champion.
In an inspiring show of resolve, Rublev yesterday saved three match points in the ninth game of the third set. Later on, Rublev needed three match points of his own in the tie-break to claim victory over Griekspoor.
In the quarter-final today, Rublev takes on last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up from the Czech Republic Jiri Lehecka who yesterday beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-2, 7-6 (2).
Yesterday, Auger-Aliassime beat Kubler in three sets, thanks to his staggering 15 aces.
“No, the wind was okay,” Auger-Aliassime said when asked if wind was a factor in yesterday’s slow start. “I think the first day I got here was pretty windy. I think it was Sunday or Monday,” he added.
“Today was all right. You know, I think it could have been worse, but it’s just so different from when I was playing indoors last week, and I think in the afternoon with the sun it got a bit hot and the conditions were quite fast. The ball was flying a lot. I had to adapt to that in the first set,” the Canadian said.
“I was struggling to find precision in my shots overall, especially on the return and the serve. Once I got the rhythm and I found my position on the first shots in the rally, then things got much better,” he added.
“Overall, good conditions to play in. It’s a great court,” he added.
In the quarter-final today, Auger-Aliasime will face seventh seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain who yesterday beat South Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon 6-3, 6-2 in 78 minutes.
Singles Round of 16 results
Felix Auger-Aliassime (2), Canada, def. Jason Kubler, Australia, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Jiri Lehecka, Czech Republic, def. Emil Ruusuvuori, Finland, 6-2, 7-6 (2).
Alexandre Muller, France, def. Botic Van de Zandschulp (8), Netherlands, 6-2, 6-4.
Andrey Rublev (1), Russia, def. Tallon Griekspoor, Netherlands, 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (6).
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (7), Spain, def. Kwon Soon Woo, South Korea, 6-3, 6-2.
Andy Murray, Britain, def. Alexander Zverev (4), Germany, 7-6 (5), 2-6, 7-5.
Christopher O’Connell, Australia, def. Roberto Bautista Agut (5), Spain, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
Quarter-finals start at 2:30pm
(1) Andrey Rublev (RUS) vs Jiri Lehecka (CR)
Andy Murray (GBR) vs Alexandre Muller (FRA)
Not Before 6:00pm
Christopher O’Connell vs Liam Broady Or Daniil Medvedev
(7) Alejandro Davidovich Fokina vs (2) Felix Auger-Aliassime
Rublev, Auger-Aliassime survive Doha scares
Crowd favourite Andy Murray beats Alexander Zverev in tense three-set battle
Andrey Rublev reacts after winning his match against Tallon Griekspoor of Netherlands during day three of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open at the Khalifa Tennis Complex in Doha. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil
Andy Murray of Great Britain reacts during his Round of 16 match against Alexander Zverev of Germany in Doha on Wednesday. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil