Rublev’s Revenge: Russian Ousts Berrettini To Reach US Open QFs

Andrey Rublev served Matteo Berrettini a dish of revenge on Monday at the US Open.

One year after Berrettini defeated Rublev in straight sets in the fourth round en route to his maiden Grand Slam semi-final, the Russian flipped the script. Rublev weathered an early storm to oust the sixth seed 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, reaching his second quarter-final in Flushing Meadows.

“It was really tough, especially against Matteo. He’s a Top 10 player,” Rublev said on court after his two-hour, 42-minute triumph. “I knew it was going to be a tough battle and I’m really happy I won.”

It was a heavyweight brawl inside Louis Armstrong Stadium, with both players crushing the ball, especially off the forehand wing. Both men entered their fourth-round encounter without losing a set this tournament, but only one could advance.

In the early going, the match played out similarly to their clash of a year ago. Berrettini used his backhand slice often in order to keep his Russian opponent from gaining enough rhythm to repeatedly bludgeon the ball. Then when the opportunity presented itself, Berrettini blasted his forehand. That pushed Rublev far behind the baseline, where he is less comfortable.

All Berrettini needed in the opening set was a crisp cross-court forehand passing shot to give him the lone break of the first set. After holding in his first service game of the second set, Berrettini had won his first 51 service games of the tournament, making him the only player who had not dropped serve.

But that was when the match turned around. Berrettini used his backhand slice and short chip well early on, but he began making poor shot selections off that wing, which shifted the tide. Perhaps more importantly, Berrettini only made 48 per cent of his first serves in the second set, allowing the Russian to swing away. Rublev broke for a 3-1 lead in the second set and suddenly he was the player taking control of the baseline.

“Last year I remember he started to play really well, he started to play aggressively and I was not ready to accept that. I started to complain really early. I was thinking, ‘How was it possible that he’s playing so good? I cannot play the same way.’ When I woke up I was already losing two sets to zero and he was already so confident,” Rublev said. “Today he started also so good. He was aggressive, he was dictating. I think I accepted this a little earlier and that’s why after the first set I was able to come back and start to play better.”

Rublev hit 34 winners to only 28 unforced errors, while Berrettini made 44 unforced errors. The Russian did not lose serve after the first set.

The 10th-seeded Rublev made the last eight at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2017 as a 19-year-old, making him the youngest player to reach the US Open quarter-finals since Andy Roddick in 2001. But now, Rublev is deep into the American Grand Slam with far more experience.

Since that run, Rublev has won three of his four ATP Tour trophies. He began this season with titles in Doha and Adelaide, making him the first player to capture hardware in the first two weeks of the year since Dominik Hrbaty in 2004.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I was waiting for five months,” Rublev said, referencing the ATP Tour’s suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s a really special moment for me to play here, to win matches, to win [against] great players. I was waiting a lot for this moment.”

Rublev will next play third seed Daniil Medvedev or American Frances Tiafoe.

Did You Know?
Berrettini and Rublev were two of 10 players aged 24 and under who reached the fourth round, marking the most of that age at the US Open since 2001 (also 10).

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