Seven-time winner Roger Federer lost in straight sets to 21-year-old Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev in the third round of the Cincinnati Masters.
The world number 70 won 6-3 6-4 in just over an hour to set up a quarter-final against compatriot Daniil Medvedev.
Swiss 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer, ranked third, plans to compete at the US Open later this month.
Defeat means he will have played just two matches in preparation, after an opening win over Juan Ignacio Londero.
On Rublev, Federer said: “He was excellent today. He didn’t give me anything. It was tough for me but an excellent match for him. I was impressed.
“I just would have hoped for an overall better performance. He was mixing it up nicely on the serve and on the return he was really consistent.”
In a first meeting between the pair, Federer initially broke back at 2-0 down in the first set but Rublev established a 4-1 lead from which the Swiss could not recover. He again had no answers as the Russian made the decisive break to lead 4-3 in the second.
After his biggest career win to date, Rublev said: “It is such an amazing feeling when you’re playing a legend like Roger and all these people supporting him until the end. One day I hope I’m going to feel the same.
“Today I was just trying to do my best and was thinking in my head that I need to play every point until the end no matter what.”
Federer: ‘Rublev Was Super Clean. He Was Everywhere’
Seven-time champion falls to young Russian on Thursday
Roger Federer endured one of the most surprising losses of his career on Thursday at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, falling to rising Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev in just 62 minutes. But after his outstanding season, the seven-time champion sees little reason to ring the alarms in his first tournament since Wimbledon.
“I played 45 matches this year, so I think I should be fine,” said Federer.
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Federer looked out of sorts from the start on Stadium Court, missing shots that would normally be clean winners and converting only seven of his 19 trips to the net. Part of his uneasiness in the match had to do with facing a brand new opponent, a rarity for the Swiss at this stage of his career. But Federer praised Rublev’s clutch tennis as the main reason for the end result.
“If I play Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, I know more or less what they are going to do or can do. That’s different with a player you play for the first time,” said Federer. “It’s maybe a small advantage to have over us, but regardless, you’ve still got to hit the corners, hit the lines, keep it going. He did exactly that. He was really perfect today. It was a great performance.”
After 21 years on the ATP Tour, Federer has a keen eye for which players have the potential to reach the highest levels of the game. He was impressed by what he saw in the 21-year-old Russian, who only lost four points on serve in the second set and dictated the tempo of most of their baseline exchanges.
“You need an opponent that maybe lets you get by some tougher moments, but he didn’t do that,” said Federer. “He was super clean. Defence, offence, serving well. Didn’t give me anything. He was everywhere. It was tough for me, but an excellent match by him. I was impressed… I think I just have to play better overall to hang with him.”
The Swiss will now turn his attention to the US Open, where he looks to win a sixth title and his first since 2008. In a season that has seen him win three titles (Miami, Halle and Dubai) in addition to runner-up finishes in Wimbledon and Indian Wells, he believes an extra few days of rest and recovery could be just as beneficial as match play.
“It’s also very important for me to see that I’m injury-free and I’m feeling good. Regardless of the outcome of this week, I’m happy I came here,” said Federer. “I had good practice sessions. I worked very hard coming into Cincinnati and in that little season we had since Wimbledon, so I can maybe also utilise a couple of days off. I’m going to train, do exactly what I need to do for the US Open and that’s it. It’s fairly simple, but I’ve got to work hard.”
Two-time Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier earns upset of the week
Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev stunned seven-time champion Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati for his second Top 5 victory in as many months.
The 21-year-old Rublev, No. 70 in the ATP Rankings after injury woes the past two seasons, pounded Federer’s backhand with a barrage of all-in forehands and never slowed down, breaking the third seed three times for the match.
“It’s my biggest and the most emotional win,” Rublev said. “The true champion and legend he is… I can’t imagine every day how much pressure you have. I mean, to know that you’re Roger and everybody is watching you and you need to prove it every day, and he’s doing this, I don’t know for how many years. I mean, this is something, I don’t know, unreal.”
On serving for the match, Rublev said, “You start shaking another level. In my head I was just trying to [say] don’t look at my team, don’t look at the score, don’t look at Roger. I just tried to be more relaxed. And in the end it works.”
Although the Russian displayed flawless judgment with his shotmaking on Stadium Court, a mental error earlier in the tournament almost kept him out of the qualifying draw. “I forgot to sign up for this tournament. So basically I was not even supposed to play here,” said Rublev. “And then I signed up for an alternate spot and I got in qualifying.
“The first match, I got lucky that Bernard Tomic retired. Then I beat Mikhail Kukushkin and Nikoloz Basilashvili. Kukushkin, I lost to three times. Basilashvili, I lost to twice this year. And then I beat two legends like Stan Wawrinka and Roger. It’s amazing.”
Federer tried bringing Rublev forward but the Russian delivered volleys with newfound touch. The Swiss sprinted to net more often, but his usual reliable volleys were lacking. Federer won only 37 per cent of his net points (7/19).
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The 62-minute defeat was Federer’s fastest in more than 16 years, since his 54-minute defeat against Franco Squillari in the first round of 2003 Sydney. (No times are available for Davis Cup matches and 2000 and 2004 Olympic matches.)
“He was super clean. Defence, offence, serving well. Didn’t give me anything. He was everywhere. So it was tough for me, but excellent match by him. I was impressed,” Federer said.
Rublev, who twice competed at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, is through to his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final and will meet Coupe Rogers finalist and countryman Daniil Medvedev for a place in the semi-finals. Medvedev eased past Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 6-2, 6-1 to reach his third consecutive quarter-final.
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Looking ahead to the all-Russian quarter-final with Medvedev, Rublev said, “We are good friends and we know each other quite well since kids. I mean, it’s going to be interesting match, interesting match for Russia. He’s now No. 1 [Russian], so I have no pressure. Last time we played was three or four years ago and he beat me easily. So tomorrow is gonna be all the pressure on him.”
For Rublev, this type of run has been at least three years in the making. In 2017, he won his first ATP Tour title in Umag and made the US Open quarter-finals, becoming the youngest quarter-finalist there since Andy Roddick in 2001. Rublev then reached the title match of the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals (l. to Chung).
He reached a career-high of No. 31 in the ATP Rankings in February 2018. But a lower back stress fracture forced him to miss three months last season and a wrist injury kept him out of Roland Garros and the start of the grass-court season this year. His results reflected his lack of consistent matchplay.
But last month, the Russian began to return to his 2017 level, making his first ATP 500 final (l. to Basilashvili) at the Hamburg European Open and beating No. 4 Dominic Thiem along the way.
Beating Federer in Cincinnati, however, is an entirely different occasion. The tournament is his most successful Masters 1000 event (seven titles, 47-10). But Rublev never looked in awe of the 38-year-old, breaking Federer in his first service game.
Federer broke right back, but Rublev added another break, one that he wouldn’t let go of for the remainder of the opener. The Russian was setting up on his backhand side, pounding forehands to Federer’s backhand, and the Swiss was unable to escape the pattern and get out of the corner despite various attempts. Rublev was nearly perfect from the net as well (5/6).
He broke again in the seventh game of the second and never cooled off. Despite going for his characteristically big groundstrokes all match, the Russian finished with only six unforced errors, compared to 19 for Federer.
Russian reflects on journey back to health as he seeks his best tennis
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on 25 March 2019. Andrey Rublev upset seven-time champion Roger Federer on Thursday in Cincinnati to reach the quarter-finals at the Western & Southern Open.
Last February, Russian Andrey Rublev reached his career-high ATP Ranking of No. 31. Two months later, he was at home on his sofa… literally.
The 2017 Umag champion and two-time Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier missed three months last year due to a lower back stress fracture. He would spend three hours per day at a clinic doing magnetotherapy, eating lunch, and sitting on the sofa. In his words, he was doing ‘nothing’.
“That time was really tough for me. I was completely depressed, I was down. I remember I didn’t watch any tennis matches because as soon as I watched tennis news or something, I was feeling even more depressed that all the guys were playing and competing. They were on tour and I was there on the sofa doing nothing,” Rublev said. “It was a really tough moment and I’m happy that it’s almost already one year past and hopefully it’s never going to happen again.”
Rublev was desperate to return to action. He had reached the Doha final in his first tournament of 2018, a good start to the year. But he had no choice but to rehab.
“In that moment inside I was like, ‘I can’t wait, I want to be back on court as fast as possible’,” Rublev remembered. “But as soon as I arrived for my first tournament, I remember I was a little bit lost. I felt like I wasn’t there. I was feeling like I was in the past when I was playing well before the injury. To recover this mental part of being here in this moment took me a couple of months.”
Listen To ATP Radio’s Interview With Rublev:
Rublev reached the semi-finals of the Citi Open, an ATP 500 tournament, in his third tournament after returning in July. But that was the best result of his comeback, also making the semi-finals in his second appearance of the Next Gen ATP Finals.
Last February, Rublev was the Russian No. 1, ahead of then-World No. 47 Karen Khachanov and No. 50 Daniil Medvedev, who also made Milan in 2017. Both Khachanov and Medvedev are now inside the World’s Top 15, while Rublev is searching for his best tennis.
“To be honest if you talk about the guys, then I’m happy for them. If they’re winning, it means I also have enough level to win these matches, to win those tournaments, so I’m happy for them because we’re not enemies, we are friends,” Rublev said. “My goal is not if I do better [than them] or not. My goal is bigger. It’s to win big tournaments.”
Rublev has shown flashes of his best tennis in recent weeks, qualifying in both Indian Wells and Miami. In the California desert, the 21-year-old advanced to the third round, in which he lost to Khachanov. On Saturday, he upset ninth seed Marin Cilic in straight sets to reach the third round in Miami, earning a clash with #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
The Cilic win is Rublev’s best by ATP Ranking since the 2017 US Open, where he beat Grigor Dimitrov. The Russian applied tons of pressure on former World No. 3 Cilic, earning 22 break points.
“It definitely is amazing for me, especially against a great player like Marin. I’ve known him a long time. I played him once a couple years ago, so I knew it was going to be very tough for me,” Rublev said. “I’m really happy that I won and I’m sure it’s going to give me much more confidence and I hope I will improve and play better and better.”
Rublev has been slowly feeling better this season. He points to a strong base he built during his off-season training in Barcelona.
“I started to move better, I started to feel that I was hitting the ball quite well. Then I was a little bit out mentally,” Rublev said. “But now mentally I’m much better and now everything is starting to come all together. Little by little, I’m starting to win some good matches.
“I completely forgot about my injury the past couple of months. I’m already playing fully: full practice, full intensity. So hopefully everything is recovered inside of my body and I’m hopefully 100 per cent healthy.”
It’s clear that Rublev has the potential to make up ground, and quickly. According to Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, who plays a similarly big-hitting game, the Russian has a bright future ahead of him.
“I think he has big potential. He’s a very good ball-striker from the baseline and I am pretty sure he will have a really great career,” Basilashvili said. He had the problem with his back and hopefully he will fully recover soon. I think he’s a really good player.”
Rublev is currently the World No. 99, and he fell as low as No. 115 in February. But the Russian is not worrying about that. He’s only concerned with his tennis.
“That was the last time I opened my ranking and then I never opened it again. Maybe sometimes I saw my name and sometimes on the draw they put the number and then I saw it. But I never opened it to see where I was in the Race or how many points I’m going to lose or gain,” Rublev said. “I haven’t looked since that time, because then you start to feel a little bit stressed and I don’t want to feel stressed.”
Rublev just wants to work hard, earn his way back to the stage, and compete with the very best in the sport.
Daniil Medvedev continued his excellent form on the North American hard-court swing on Thursday afternoon when he took apart the powerful game of Stefanos Tsitsipas’ conqueror, Jan-Lennard Struff, at the Western & Southern Open.
Ninth seed Medvedev committed just 12 unforced errors and won 18 of his German opponent’s 25 second-service points to triumph 6-3, 6-1 in 66 minutes on Grandstand.
The Russian, who is currently in sixth position in the 2019 ATP Race To London for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in the English capital from 10-17 November, has now won 11 of his past 13 matches. On Friday, he is set to meet seven-time former Cincinnati champion and third seed Roger Federer or compatriot Andrey Rublev.
Medvedev took a 3-0 lead, before Struff stepped into court to produce his characteristic winners, and the 23-year-old Russian won 17 of the first 21 points in the second set. He extends his FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Struff to 3-0.
The consistent Medvedev, who has a 41-16 match record in 2019, has finished runner-up at two consecutive ATP Tour events — the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. (l. to Kyrgios) and the Coupe Rogers in Montreal (l. to Nadal) — in the past couple of weeks. In February, Medvedev lifted his fourth tour-level trophy at the Sofia Open (d. Fucsovics).
Gasquet, Nishioka Move Into Cincinnati Quarter-finals
Nishioka doesn’t experience letdown after Nishikori win
Richard Gasquet turned back the clock in a vintage performance on Thursday at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the quarter-finals.
Gasquet, who underwent groin surgery in January, competed with great intelligence to record a 7-6(6), 6-3 victory over Diego Schwartzman of Argentina in one hour and 48 minutes.
The 33-year-old Frenchman recovered from 2/5 down in the first set tie-break and saved two set points from 4/6, prior to taking a 3-0 lead in the second set. He booked a place in his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final since April 2018 at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters with a forehand winner — his 34th of the match. Gasquet won 42 of his 77 points in rallies under five strokes.
He will next face Spanish No. 11 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, the recent Wimbledon semi-finalist (l. to Djokovic) or qualifier Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia. Bautista Agut can break into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time if he wins.
Earlier in the day, Yoshihito Nishioka continued his fairytale run to reach his first Masters 1000 quarter-final.
Twenty-four hours after beating his hero, fellow Japanese Kei Nishikori, for the first Top 10 victory of his career, the 23-year-old qualifier worked his way past #NextGenATP Australian Alex de Minaur 7-5, 6-4 in 83 minutes. He will next face Belgian No. 16 seed David Goffin or Adrian Mannarino of France on Friday.
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One break of serve in each set was enough for Nishioka to beat De Minaur, who won 28 of 32 first-service points. Nishioka beat Australian John Millman and Portuguese Joao Sousa to qualify for the main draw of his seventh Masters 1000 tournament, then defeated another Aussie in Jordan Thompson in the first round.
The 20-year-old De Minaur drops to a 20-14 match record on the season that includes two ATP Tour titles at the Sydney International (d. Seppi) and BB&T Atlanta Open (d. Fritz).
Russian wins their first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting
Russian Karen Khachanov gutted out a 6-7(3), 7-6(4), 6-2 win against Nick Kyrgios on Wednesday evening to reach the third round of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Khachanov served for the opening set and had a set point on Kyrgios’ serve at 5-6, Ad Out. But Kyrgios erased it with a second-serve ace and hit two more aces to force a tie-break.
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The World No. 9 rebounded in the second-set tie-break, though, gaining a mini-break and serving out the set. In the third, Khachanov rolled, ending the match with four straight games.
“It was a really difficult match for me. I had to really work it out to get the win,” Khachanov said.
The 2018 Rolex Paris Masters titlist is looking to reach back-to-back Masters 1000 semi-finals after making the last four at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal (l. to Medvedev) last week. The Russian will meet France’s Lucas Pouille for a place in the quarter-finals on the line. Khachanov leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-1.
Pouille never faced a break point and beat #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 6-4. The Frenchman, who made the Australian Open semi-finals in January, will try to reach his third tour-level quarter-final of the season (Stuttgart).
“Lucas played two good matches, I think he won two really tough matches,” Khachanov said. “I will be ready for tomorrow.”
Djokovic, Federer Headline Thursday Action In Cincinnati; View Schedule
Round of 16 features four qualifiers
Defending champion Novak Djokovic and seven-time titlist Roger Federer respectively take on qualifiers Pablo Carreno Busta and Andrey Rublev on Round of 16 day at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. Djokovic takes a 2-0 FedEx Head2Head record into his match against former World No. 10 Carreno Busta, while Federer faces 21-year-old Rublev for the first time.
In total, four qualifiers — Carreno Busta, Rublev, Miomir Kecmanovic and Yoshihito Nishioka — are through to the Round of 16 at an ATP Masters 1000 event for the third time in series history (since 1990).
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Opportunities await the players in the bottom half of the draw. Following the exits of Kei Nishikori and Alexander Zverev on Wednesday, only two seeds remain: No. 11 Roberto Bautista Agut and No. 16 David Goffin. Bautista Agut, along with Frenchman Richard Gasquet, are also the only two players remaining in the bottom half who have reached an ATP Masters 1000 final.
Bautista Agut will face Kecmanovic, who’s trying to reach his second Masters 1000 quarter-final of the season (Indian Wells), and Gasquet will meet Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman in the first match of the day on Centre Court.
On the top half, top-ranked Russian Daniil Medvedev, last week’s Coupe Rogers finalist (l. to Nadal), will try to reach back-to-back Masters 1000 quarter-finals against Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, who upset No. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas on Wednesday. Struff, No. 36 in the ATP Rankings, is looking to make his first Masters 1000 quarter-final.
See Where To Watch The Western & Southern Open
SCHEDULE – THURSDAY, 15 AUGUST 2019
CENTER COURT start 11:00 am D. Schwartzman (ARG) vs [PR] R. Gasquet (FRA) Not Before 1:00 pm WTA match  R. Federer (SUI) vs [Q] A. Rublev (RUS) Not Before 7:00 pm  N. Djokovic (SRB) vs [Q] P. Carreno Busta (ESP) Not Before 9:00 pm WTA match
GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am WTA match Not Before 1:00 pm  D. Medvedev (RUS) vs J. Struff (GER) [Q] M. Kecmanovic (SRB) vs  R. Bautista Agut (ESP) L. Pouille (FRA) vs  K. Khachanov (RUS) Not Before 7:00 pm WTA match
More From #CincyTennis * See Where To Watch The Western & Southern Open * Can You Pass Our Quiz? * Kecmanovic Notches First Top 10 Win * Struff Hangs Tough To Upset Tsitsipas * Rublev Dispatches Wawrinka, Now For Federer * Nishioka Fulfills Dream, Beats Nishikori
STADIUM 3 start 11:00 am [Q] Y. Nishioka (JPN) vs A. de Minaur (AUS)  D. Goffin (BEL) vs A. Mannarino (FRA) 2 WTA matches [WC] R. Harrison (USA) / J. Sock (USA) vs [PR] F. Lopez (ESP) / A. Murray (GBR)
COURT 4 start 12:00 C. Garin (CHI) / B. Paire (FRA) vs  L. Kubot (POL) / M. Melo (BRA) After Suitable Rest – D. Schwartzman (ARG) / H. Zeballos (ARG) vs  H. Kontinen (FIN) / J. Peers (AUS) After Suitable Rest – M. Demoliner (BRA) / D. Medvedev (RUS) vs  M. Pavic (CRO) / B. Soares (BRA) Not Before 5:00 pm  J. Cabal (COL) / R. Farah (COL) vs [Alt] R. Bopanna (IND) / D. Shapovalov (CAN)