What a year it has been but it was surprising that Andrey Rublev who has come off of a lower-back fracture would simply play smarter over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Marseille Open in the opening round 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. The Russian who last year ranked no.
31 and is now in the 100s had his game together over the wildcard Frenchman in his home country turf. Tsonga had recovered from knee surgery but his 8 matches in just 14 days might have gotten the better of him. Rublev had his chances at the warm-up for the Australian Open at Sydney by winning over Lucas Pouille in three sets but not getting past Yoshihito Nishioka winning 6-3, 6-1.
In Melbourne, he was dismissed by Mackenzie McDonald in a tough 4-set opening round. The NextGen ATP Finals Rublev shined and was given kudos. He went up against some tougher NextGen guys than himself, going the distance and having gritty 5 set matches with Taylor Fritz and the Spaniard Jaume Munar plus coming out the winner.
The Russian might have taken his skills and determination on the court with Tsonga as the first round started at Marseille Open 13. There were so many predictions of Tsonga winning this match as he had not only recuperated nicely from knee surgery but had gotten in the quarterfinals of Rotterdam against Daniil Medvedev and won a title at the Open Sud de France in his home country.
Rublev had too many answers for Tsonga who many thought would big serve Rublev of the court. It didnt happen as the Russian came right out in the first game giving exquisite down-the-lines that shocked and rocked Tsongas game plan to bits and pieces.
But the Frenchman held his ground and cross courted, found open spots and everything possible to win the first set which he did at 6-2. Rublev wouldnt go down easy, if at all and he came back in the second ripping those down-the-lines, cornering those shots and throwing Tsonga off balance on many occasions to win the second set 6-4.
The decider would be anyones who had the determination, answers and less unforced errors. At times both were diving for unpredicted shots with Rublev coming up strong leading 4-0. It wasnt a total give away as Tsonga added two more games onto the scoreboard but Rublev had the driving force with those bashing serves and finding the open court to win the match 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Andrey Rublev is getting into a very interesting and competitive gear for his next opponent, Italys Matteo Berrettini. Will he be able to dismantle his game, too? Time will tell but the spark is shining for Rublev and if he keeps being a guiding force, success will be a constant visitor to his game.