Andrey Rublev unleashed a torrent of hard-hitting winners against Briton Daniel Evans Saturday to muscle his way into the fourth round of the Australian Open. The fifth seed clocked triple the number of winners (60-20) than his opponent en route to a dominant 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 win.
Evans, a gritty opponent who can get under the skin of even the most unflappable players, had proven a difficult challenge for the combustible Rublev in six prior meetings, which the players had evenly split.
But on Thursday Rublev mixed devastating first-strike tennis with one of his stronger mental performances as he denied Evans a path into the match. Hitting a Serve+1 forehand 90% of the time, Rublev dominated points of 0-4 shots, winning 66 to Evans’ 44.
Not even an act of kindness from Evans could soften up the 25-year-old, who recently passed $15m in career earnings. Early in the match when Evans heard Rublev call for a banana, he tossed one to his opponent.
“I didn’t ask him for it, but I asked a ball boy. He had two so he threw one to me and I caught it. It helped with some energy,” Rublev said with a smile.
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Having already moved to No. 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings to tie his career-high mark, Rublev will next face the winner of ninth seed Holger Rune and Frenchman Ugo Humbert as he shrugs off what had been a slow start to the year.
After two opening-round defeats to Roberto Bautista Agut and Thanasi Kokkinakis at the back-to-back Adelaide 250 tournaments in the first two weeks of the season, Rublev said that he was in need of a boost.
“At the beginning of the season I lost a bit of confidence with those losses, but now I am playing good tennis,” he said. “After the first set I was feeling really confident and I knew I could play better, faster and that he was not comfortable with that, so I tried to play even more aggressive.”
Rublev, who has never reached the semi-finals of a major, is now one win away from his seventh major quarter-final, and second in three years Down Under.