Andrey Rublev responded brilliantly after dropping his first set of the 2023 Australian Open to defeat Emil Ruusuvuori on Thursday in the second round. The fifth seed powered through the finish line in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3 win to match his result from one year ago in Melbourne.
A six-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist, including at the year’s first major in 2021, Rublev remains on course to reach that stage this fortnight. He next faces 25th seed Daniel Evans, with ninth seed Holger Rune a potential fourth-round opponent. His draw has been difficult from the start, with a win against Dominic Thiem to open his campaign.
“First round was super hot, now it’s super windy,” the 25-year-old said in an on-court interview. “It’s tough in these conditions against players like Emil who hit the ball really hard, flat… I’m happy that I was able to show a great level, no matter the conditions.”
Following a disappointing third-set tie-break, Rublev quickly made amends by racing to a 3-0 lead in the fourth. Aided by a loose service game from Ruusuvuori, he re-established his dominance on Kia Arena, finishing the match with 50 winners and 16 aces.
“I started really well. I was dominating, I was hitting the ball really well,” he assessed. “That allowed me to win two sets straightaway. And then I lost focus a bit and Emil, opposite, he started to play a bit better, more consistent, harder.
“In the fourth set I was able to play good tennis again and I was able to win.”
Through to the Melbourne third round for a fifth time in seven appearances, Rublev is prepared for a battle of wits against Evans, whom he called “one of the smartest players on Tour”. The pair have split six previous ATP Head2Head matchups, with Evans winning their latest meeting last year in Montreal.
Evans booked his place in the third round with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 win against France’s Jeremy Chardy. The Briton is relishing the seventh installment of their rivalry.
“I’ve never played him in a Grand Slam, so it’s slightly different,” he said. “I look forward to it. [These are] the matches I want to play in. I came here wanting to get into the third round, where my seeding should get me. Then, it’s a match I can win, but it’s also a very tough match… It’s going to be good fun.
“Obviously my plan will be to frustrate him with my game, and I have done that pretty well the last few times. We’ll see how he responds. I’m sure he’ll have a different plan.”
Rune continued his impressive form in Melbourne when he moved past American Maxime Cressy 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the third round at the hard-court major for the first time.
The #NextGenATP Dane hit through Cressy, striking 30 winners en route to a two-hour, three-minute win. The World No. 10 will next meet Frenchman Ugo Humbert after the World No. 106 downed American Denis Kudla 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-4.
Rune, who won his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title in Paris in November, reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros and the third round at the US Open last season.