BET & Agrave; DAY
MELBOURNE, Australia | Andrey Rublev's ball hit the top of the net. She could have fallen on her side of the field, but fate wanted her to collapse in the portion of the Dane Holger Rune, completely out of reach of the ninth favorite.
And Rublev went through to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. At the end of a 3:37 marathon – another in this fortnight – that the fifth seed won 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6 and 7-6 (9) at large Rod Laver Arena, just before his next opponent, Serbian Novak Djokovic, enters the scene.
“It had never happened to me before. I have never been so lucky in my life, launched a still incredulous Rublev, in a press conference. I can now go to the casino. If I bet, I'm sure to win.”
Rublev looked cooked
When he saw the ball fall “on the right side”, the 25-year-old Russian first apologized to Rune with a wave of his hand, as players traditionally do in these circumstances. Then he dropped to the ground.
Because three times during this final round, we thought that Rublev was cooked. Rune, who is only 19, led at one point 5-2. It was used for the meeting. The Dane had two match points at 6-5 on the Russian's serve.
He then took a 5-0 lead in the tiebreaker which, in Australia, was won by the first player to reach 10 points.
He didn't believe in it either
Even Rublev didn't believe in his chances of making a comeback. But he started to give a hard time to Rune, the very one who ended Félix Auger-Aliassime's 16-game winning streak in the fall, in longer rallies.
And the young sensation, though infallible since the start of the tournament, ended up cracking first.
“At 5-2, I couldn't believe it anymore,” Rublev conceded. But I started to play more relaxed. I was more focused, better.”
“Then, even at 6-5, even with two match points against me, I started to tell myself that I was going to break of equality. And in the tiebreaker, when I was trailing, I started to think it was over again. I was just saying to myself: “Don't do like at Roland-Garros [against Marin Cilic], don't give up.”
Never further than the quarters
Facing Djokovic – probably on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, Eastern time – the Russian will be in his seventh appearance in the quarter-finals in a major tournament. He has never made it past this stage of the tournament.
Now that luck has smiled on him, does he believe he can win against the fourth seed, intractable on Monday against the Australian Alex de Minaur, 22nd racket of the tournament?
Rublev has won a match in three occasions against the Serb. It was in the final in Belgrade, on clay.
The Russian is not known for displaying great self-confidence. And he was true to himself at the press conference.
“I don't know. What I know is that Novak is a very hard player to beat, especially in Grand Slams. He has the experience of winning this kind of match. He is one of the best in history.”
“My only chance is if I play my best tennis, that I fight for every ball. This is my only chance.”
That and maybe another little help from fate…