Rublev rolls to Madrid title

AFTER four consecutive losses entering the Madrid Open ATP 1000 event, few would have predicted that Russian seventh seed Andrey Rublev would string together half a dozen wins to take out the title in the Spanish capital. But coming from a set down in the final against unseeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, Rublev secured his second Masters 1000 trophy with a 4-6 7-5 7-5 victory.

It had been a strange tournament where multiple withdrawals and injuries – including to the top three seeds – impacted the run to the title, but Rublev still came away with wins over tournament favourite Carlos Alcaraz and 12th seed Taylor Fritz in the lead up to his trophy-lifting performance over Auger-Aliassime.

The final lasted two hours and 47 minutes, and made it five wins from six matches for Rublev against Auger-Aliassime, including his second in a final – after Marseille in 2022 – and his second in 2024 – after his three-set victory in Rotterdam.

Eerily similar to the match between the pair in the Round of 16 at Rotterdam, Rublev fought back from a set down to win the last two sets in a three-set thriller. He weathered 14 aces off the Canadian’s racquet – serving seven of his own – while winning an impressive 77 and 60 per cent of his first and second serve off a 67 per cent clip.

The serving in general was strong, with only Auger-Aliassime’s second serve proving a problem, winning just 14 of 39 points (36 per cent) which Rublev took advantage of. Even then, just one additional break of service separated the pair, with the Russian successful on just three of 11 attempts, while Auger-Aliassime had less chances (four), but broke twice.

“I have no words,” Rublev said post-match. “If you knew what I had been through in the past nine days you would not imagine that I would be able to win a title. I’m incredibly happy. That one week changed everything because now it looks like I was not losing the last weeks in the first round!”

The Madrid 1000 title was Rublev’s second Masters trophy of his career, and his second in 2024, having taken out the Hong Kong title early in the season. Though he has won 16 titles across the course of his career, the 26-year-old said this win gave him the most pride.

“I would say this is the most proud title of my career,” Rublev said. “I was almost dead every day. I was not sleeping at night. The last three, four days I didn’t sleep.”

Rublev’s victory moved him up to fifth in the ATP Live Race to Turin for the end of year ATP Finals as he eyes off qualifying for the fifth consecutive year. Auger-Aliassime did not walk away from Madrid without a bonus, rising up to 20th in the world – a jump of 15 spots – to return to the Top 20 for the first time since October last year.

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