Bublik regains Montpellier title in hard-fought win

HALF of Alexander Bublik‘s titles have now come from Montpellier after the world number 27 won his second trophy in three years at the Open Sud de France. The top-ranked Kazakh came back from a first set deficit to post a 5-7 6-2 6-3 victory in two hours and 18 minutes on Court Patrice Dominguez over Croatian Borna Coric.

Incredibly it was the fourth consecutive match where the Kazakhstan talent had dropped the first set, only to come back and win in a titanic struggle. While ATP 2560 events are not known for having the highest opponent quality – particularly for seeds – the Open Sud de France provided Bublik with one of the roughest draws.

First he overcame the returning Canadian and former top 10 player, Denis Shapovalov in the Round of 16. Winning just one game in the first set, Bublik forced his way back into the match and came away with a 1-6 7-6 6-3 victory in two hours and 26 minutes.

Next was his new Kazakhstan compatriot in former Russian Alexander Shevchenko. Another two-hour and seven-minute struggle resulted in him eventually saluting 4-6 6-3 6-4. In the semi-final against another former top 10 player in Felix Auger-Aliassime, Bublik became the first player in 51 matches to defeat Auger-Alissame in a three-set match on hard court after dropping the first set. He won 4-6 6-4 6-4 in two hours and 37 minutes.

Therefore it should come as no surprise that the final was played in similar circumstances against Coric, who like Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime, had missed a fair chunk of tennis over the past six months. After losing in the ATP75 BW Open final, Coric would again fall one win short of a title, as the fourth seed went down to the second seed in two hours and 18 minutes.

It mattered little that Bublik had spent seven hours and 10 matches on court in his first three matches, and would tick up to almost nine and a half hours by the final point of the decider. The endurance beast worked his way back from a set down to post a 5-7 6-2 6-3 victory in an impressive finish to the eent.

Serving 19 aces and winning 80 per cent of his first serve points, Bublik was incredible on serve, also saving five of seven break points, while breaking his opponent four times. Coric could not have as much influence off his serve, winning just 58 per cent of his first serve points and producing four aces, including a poor 33 per cent success in the second set.

“I was on the verge of losing in my opening round, now here I am standing with the title,” Bublik said post-match. “Thank you to the crowd for supporting me throughout the week.

“I’ve seen all these great [former] champions out there, and my face is [among them] in the stadium [because of 2022]. Maybe if I continue playing like this, I will have more of my pictures here, so I’m really happy.”

The 26-year-old will rise up four spots to 23rd on the ATP Tour rankings, marking a new career-high ahead of the first ATP500 event of the year, the ABN AMRO Open in Rotterdam on February 12-18.

For Coric, it marked the sixth time in nine attempts the Croatian had lost in ATP Tour finals, but conceded Bublik was the more consistent player despite fighting back from 1-4 down in the first set to take it 7-5.

“Obviously I‘m very sad about the final,” Coric said. “It was a really good match. I enjoyed it and it was a great fight. I had my chances but he was serving really big in all the big moments and he was the better player today.”

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