It’s rare for Alexander Bublik to be able to compete on home soil.
Kazakhstan’s leading light hopes to put on a show at the Astana Open, where he is the second seed this week.
Before beginning his run, the World No. 34 was able to mix up his pre-tournament routines, taking in a local Kontinental Hockey League match between Barys Nur-Sultan and CSKA Moscow on Tuesday night.
“I’m bad, I can’t even stay on the ice,” Bublik said, joking about his hockey skills. “The experience was great. To be at home once in the year, to play a tournament here and to visit a local team. We almost won and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Rewind to November and Bublik exited the inaugural Astana Open in the first round. This time the 24-year-old arrives feeling fresh and forward thinking as he prepares to play Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic.
“For me this is the first time I’ve played here, as a complete, healthy player,” Bublik said. “It’s great when you arrive as one of the top seeds, it gives you a little confidence.
“You did a good job if you’re the second seed near the end of the year. It means you’ve don’t a decent job throughout the year. But I have to treat it like another tournament, to stay calm and try to perform, not putting too much pressure on [myself].”
Watch Tuesday Nur-Sultan Highlights
Belief has been building for Bublik, who has posted some impressive results in 2021, including trips to ATP Tour finals in Antalya and Singapore, ATP Masters 1000 quarter-finals in Miami and Madrid, and a third-round showing at Wimbledon.
“I’ve had an okay year, played some great matches, won some great matches. I’ve done some things I’ve never done, like [reaching] the quarters of a Masters. To have that in the book is nice for my confidence,” Bublik said. “I have a couple weeks to go and I’ll try my best, especially because I’m at home.”
Bublik knows Kecmanovic — who beat Fernando Verdasco in the first round — very well, despite this being their first ATP Head2Head clash.
“We’re quite close. We grew up together, played Challengers together and we elevated through the game together. We’ve got to these [FedEx ATP] Rankings at the same time,” Bublik said. “First match at home, this isn’t a very easy opener. But that’s tennis, you have to work with what you’re given.”
Kecmanovic praised his friend earlier this week at the Astana Open, indicating the 24-year-old’s shot-making, spontaneity and unpredictability as a positive for the sport. Bublik frequently has fans and, more crucially, his opponents guessing.
“I’m just being myself. When you’re trying to prove to somebody, to be like ‘this’, I think that’s fake. I just do whatever I want to do,” Bublik said. “It’s simple, that’s the way I am. It’s just me.”