Andrey Rublev’s bid for a second tour-level singles title of the season is off to a flying start at the San Diego Open. The top seed cruised past #NextGenATP American Brandon Nakashima 6-2, 6-1 in just 63 minutes to reach the quarter-finals.
The World No. 5 now has 23 match wins for just eight defeats on outdoor hard courts in 2021, which includes an ATP Masters 1000 runner-up showing in Cincinnati, as well as semi-finals in Miami, Dubai and Doha. He won 78 per cent of first-serve points and 80 per cent of points on Nakashima’s second serve.
“I know that Nakashima is a really great player and since the beginning I was thinking I need to be the one to dominate, I need to try to take my forehand and try to dictate… everything was going on my side,” Rublev said. “Game by game I was playing better and better. In the end I managed to win quite confidently.”
“Even when I was playing today there were still some moments that were a bit uncomfortable,” Rublev said. “In Boston, indoors, it was a really low bounce and here sometimes the ball jumped really high [today] so I’m still getting used to it, but for my first match I played really well.”
After an unbeaten starring role in Team Europe’s dominant Laver Cup victory in Boston at the weekend, Rublev arrived in form and in the first-time ATP Head2Head meeting between the pair, pressured early to secure the break in the opening game.
San Diego native Nakashima had scored a three-set victory over Fabio Fognini in the first round but this was his first showdown against a Top 20 opponent and the Russian ensured it was a steep learning curve.
A lightning forehand winner down the line secured the double break for 4-1 and Rublev’s only minor blip of the opening set came when serving at 5-2. Staring down his first break points, he fended off both with aces on his way to taking the set in 30 minutes.
It was a worrying case of déjà vu for Nakashima when he was broken in the opening game of the second set but with his back to the wall he conjured his first break as Rublev served for the match at 5-0. The Russian ensured he would not have to serve for it again as he broke to set a quarter-final clash against either sixth seed Diego Schwartzman or Lloyd Harris.