Nikoloz Basilashvili arrived at last year’s Hamburg European Open at No. 81 in the ATP Rankings with a place in the qualifying draw.
On Sunday, the Georgian lifted his second straight trophy at the ATP 500 event with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 victory against Andrey Rublev. Basilashvili hit 26 forehand winners to claim his 12th straight win in Hamburg, which includes 10 main-draw victories. He improved to 2-0 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against the 21-year-old.
“When you have achievements, people want more and expect more,” said Basilashvili. “Everybody is writing to me, everybody is happy. I have a lot of support from home and it is a great feeling.”
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The fourth seed has now lifted three tour-level trophies, with each title run coming at the ATP 500-level. Basilashvili also triumphed at last year’s China Open, defeating Juan Martin del Potro in the championship match. The World No. 16 is the first player since Roger Federer in 2005 to claim back-to-back Hamburg crowns.
“It looks like I am playing my best tennis here… Just to see my name next to [Roger and Andrei Medvedev who also defended titles here] means a lot to me,” said Basilashvili.
The 27-year-old, who owns 20 victories from 36 tour-level clashes this season, was forced to save two match points in his semi-final meeting against Alexander Zverev. Basilashvili trailed 3-5 in the deciding set before claiming his second Top 5 win (2-6) after three hours and eight minutes.
“I was really happy how I stayed mentally stable in both matches and did not give up,” said Basilashvili.
Rublev made a quick start to his first ATP 500 final, breaking his opponent in the third game after an extended forehand battle. The Russian changed direction well to find Basilashvili’s backhand corner with pace and precision to take the lead.
But three games later, Basilashvili settled into the match. The Georgian found his range on his forehand to dictate rallies, before firing a forehand winner up the line on his fifth break point. With Rublev serving to stay in the set at 5-6, Basilashvili punished his opponent with a series of aggressive returns to take the set after 55 minutes.
Once again, it was Rublev who broke first in the second set. The Russian stepped up the court to take time away from his opponent and move into a 4-3 lead. After just over 90 minutes, Rublev captured the second set as Basilashvili committed back-to-back forehand errors.
Basilashvili continued to dictate points with varied success at the start of the decider, with both men trading service breaks in the opening three games. But Basilashvili trusted his strategy, moving in behind his return to earn a second straight break and a 3-1 advantage. The Georgian maintained his advantage, holding serve to love to clinch the title as Rublev’s backhand floated beyond the baseline.
“I really like playing on the Centre Court here, I see the ball very well… I played my best tennis here and I will come back next year, for sure,” said Basilashvili.
Rublev was aiming to lift his second ATP Tour title, following his maiden triumph as a lucky loser at 2017 Umag. The Russian defeated top seed Dominic Thiem to earn his first Top 5 win en route to the championship match.
“It was a good week for me. For the moment, my best week,” said Rublev. “Of course, it is always disappointing to lose in a final, but Nikoloz was playing really well and he deserves it. To win two years in a row here is amazing. It is really hard. It is really tough mentally and he did it. It is unbelievable.”
Basilashvili receives 500 ATP Ranking points and collects €354,845 in prize money. Rublev gains 300 ATP Ranking points and receives €178,220.
Did You Know?
Basilashvili is the first seeded player to lift the Hamburg trophy since Martin Klizan in 2016. Lucky loser Leonardo Mayer won the title in 2017, while Basilashvili was a qualifier when earned his maiden crown last year.