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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Sunday, May 5, 2024


Andrey Rublev beat Felix Auger-Aliassime 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in the Madrid final to capture his 16th career title, including his second Masters 1000 crown.

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty

Facing fault lines and jolting firepower, Andrey Rublev calmly completed red clay reclamation.

In a dramatic Mutua Madrid Open final, Rublev rallied past Felix Auger-Aliassime 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 to capture his 16th career championship, including his second Masters 1000 title.

More: Rublev Rolls Fritz for 25th Final in Madrid

The sometime volatile Rublev was resolute today. Rublev overcame a gritty Auger-Aliassime and his own emotion to become the first Russian man since Hall of Famer Marat Safin in 2004—when it was still a hard-court event—to win Madrid.

"I'm really happy. I'm really happy that I was able to perform well all the matches," Rublev told the media in Madrid. "I think I showed great level of tennis since the first match.

"In the end, I was able to win a title. And now looks like everything, like, the last couple of weeks, couple of tournaments never happened, you know."

The seventh-seeded Rublev double faulted twice in succession to start the match, gifted two breaks almost immediately, was a point away from going down 1-5, yet never completely let his sometime raging temper consume him.

Instead, Rublev channeled frustration into action closing a two hour, 48-minute battle when Auger-Aliassime coughed up his fourth double fault.

"For sure, the best mental performance [of my career] when I won the title," Rublev told Tennis Channel's Prakash Amritraj afterward.

A match that started and ended with doubles had a whole lot of dynamic shotmaking for the duration.

Afterward, Rublev, who knocked off four seeds—-Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Tallon Griekspoor, two-time defending champion Carlos Alcaraz and Taylor Fritz—en route to the final, paid tribute to Auger-Aliassime as a class character.

“I would like to say thanks a lot to Felix,” Rublev said. “Very disappointed to lose a match like this. I’m sorry I know the feeling.

“I say this many times and I will not be tired to say it again: You are a true inspiration for me as a player, for the spectators, for the kids, how professional you are, how humble you are, how nice person you are. I just want to wish you all the best. You always have great people around you…hope you will have together many more success.”

World No. 35 Auger-Aliassime, who took a couple of medical timeouts for apparent muscle spasms in his legs, was denied his 200th career victory. Still, Auger-Aliassime will rise to No. 20 with this inspired run to his maiden Masters 1000 final.

“Congrats to Andrey, [you’re a] very deserving winner congrats to you and your team,” Auger-Aliassime said afterward. “I tried until the end. I’m sorry I made you maybe think, overthink, I was struggling. You’re a great player, we always have a great time on the tour, very deserving. Well done.”

Though 2023 Monte-Carlo champion Rublev has been criticized for failing to surpass a Grand Slam quarterfinal in 22 major appearances, consider what he has achieved. In addition to six Slam quarterfinals in his last seven appearances, Rublev now owns two Masters 1000 titles.

The 26-year-old Russian is just the fifth active man with multiple clay-court Masters 1000 titles at different events joining Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Andy Murray in that class. Six of Rublev’s 16 career titles have come on red dirt.

Contesting his fifth Masters 1000 final, Rublev came out tight. Rublev double faulted twice in a row, surrendering serve at love in the opening game, one round after ceding serve to start his semifinal against Taylor Fritz.

Across the net, Auger-Aliassime, who was 5-1 in his last six finals, raced through 10 of the first 11 points, snatching a 2-0 lead.

Once he gained the lead, the Canadian played aggressive tennis to extend it.

Pouncing on a shorter second serve, Auger-Aliassime pounded a forehand return bolt down the line for double break point in the fifth game.

A mediocre drop shot sat up in the service box, but Rublev slapped a forehand wide. Auger-Aliassime had his second break at a 4-1 lead.

The 23-year-old Canadian opened a 40-love lead and was one point from going up 5-1 before Rublev responded with a six-point run. Rublev rifled a backhand off the sideline breaking back in the sixth game.

Serving at 3-5, Rublev repelled a set point, rocketing an ace out wide, holding for 4-5.

The seventh seed scalded a backhand return down the line for break point in the 10th game. Auger-Aliassime thumped a serve winner down the T to wipe it away.

Stress did not faze the Canadian in his Masters 1000 final debut. Auger-Aliassime knocked off a forehand volley for set point and fired a forehand to take a one-set lead after 48 minutes.

Auger-Aliassime served 77 percent and hit eight more winners—13 to 5—in the opening set.

Contesting his fifth Masters 1000 final, Rublev rolled through a love hold to start the second set.

The explosive Rublev forehand can detonate like a dynamite stick. Rocketing forehands, Rublev earned a break point in the sixth game. Auger-Aliassime saved it then pulled the string on a clever backhand drop shot holding for 3-all.

Rublev powered through his second love hold of the set for a 6-5 lead.

Serving to force the tiebreaker, Auger-Aliassime misfired on a backhand then a forehand to face double set point at 15-40. Rublev narrowly missed a forehand return on the first set point.

On the second set point, Rublev ripped a return right back at the feet rattling out an error to take the second set and force a decider.

An energized Rublev rapped a series of stinging forehands to earn break point in the second game of the decider.

Chair umpire Fergus Murphy hit the Canadian with a time violation warning right before he served down break point. Auger-Aliassime shrugged it off and saved the break spinning a forehand winner down the line.

Reading the wide serve, Rublev raked a forehand return winner crosscourt for a second break point. Auger-Aliassime saved it and navigated a near 12-minute hold to level the final set after two games.

The man in gold came up with glittering first serves again in the fourth game. Auger-Aliassime erased a pair of break points, pumping an ace and serve winner to hold for 2-2.

After Rublev held for 3-2, Auger-Aliassime took treatment for an apparent quad issue. He came back to confront another deficit in the sixth game and tamed trouble to hold.

After another visit from the physio, who kneaded his legs on the changeover, Auger-Aliassime made another stand saving break point in the eighth game. Despite the creaky leg issues, the Canadian was cracking the ball. Auger-Aliassime lit up the lines with a pair of forehands holding for 4-all.

Serving to force the tiebreaker, Auger-Aliassime hit his fourth double fault then was forced to defend by a relentless Rublev.

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Sending the Canadian corner to corner, Rublev drew the error for championship point. A weary and nervy Auger-Aliassime ended a gripping battle hitting his fifth double fault deep.

This determined run to the Madrid title is red redemption for Rublev, who was defaulted from Dubai earlier this season and arrived in Madrid on a four-match losing skid.

In a stunning turn of events, Rublev was booted for an unsportsmanlike conduct code violation right before he was set to serve to try to force a third-set tiebreaker in the Dubai semifinals.

Alexander Bublik led 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-5 when the referee informed Rublev he was being defaulted for berating the linesman, allegedly using profanity in Russian.

A stunned Rublev repeatedly denied he spoke Russian during the exchange.

"I was not talking Russian!" Rublev said. "I swear to God. This is a whole mistake. I swear to God."

That default was a low point, but Rublev has grown from it.

When chaos haunted his head today, Rublev stayed strong, improving to 21-8 this season, including an impressive 8-1 mark in decisive sets this season.


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