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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, May 1, 2024


Andrey Rublev saved seven of eight break points toppling two-time defending Madrid champion Carlos Alcaraz 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in Madrid.

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty

Demolition man Andrey Rublev knows all about blowing up on court.

Today, the explosive Rublev played superb streak snapper.

More: 10 Roland Garros Stats You Can't Live Without

Rublev repelled seven of eight break points dethroning two-time defending champion Carlos Alcaraz 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to roar into the Mutua Madrid Open semifinals.

The 2023 Monte-Carlo champion advanced to his eighth Masters 1000 semifinal, including his third on dirt.

A shrewd Rublev snapped the Spanish superstar’s 14-match Madrid winning streak and shattered his own five-match losing streak against Top 3 opponents. Rublev, who arrived in Madrid mired in a four-match losing streak, scored his first Top 3 win since defeating No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas at 2022 ATP Finals.

"I don't know what to say," Rublev said in his on-court interview. "Maybe this week is a relief, but then next week it will go back to the same. 

"So better not to think this way. Because when you start to think how good is everything, that's what was happening in the beginning of the season. And then six weeks, I was not winning anything.

"So it's better not to think at all.That is not bad or not good. It's just a moment that happens to every player. The most important thing is to keep working, to keep improving and to keep remembering: one week can change everything."

The seventh-seeded Rublev will take on either 12th-seeded American Taylor Fritz or 21st-seeded Argentinean Francisco Cerundolo for a spot in the final.

"I mean, I don't know what this victory means for my season, but for this week, it means a lot," Rublev told the media in Madrid. "I mean, doesn't matter what's gonna happen in semifinal.

"For sure it's already been a positive week for me with really great tennis, because I played great tennis since the first match.

"So just the most important thing is somehow now to be able to rest, to recover, and then to do my best on Friday and that's it."

The second-seeded Alcaraz, who withdrew from both Monte-Carlo and Barcelona due to a right forearm issue, was in control for a set, but was ultimately unsettled by Rublev’s variety.

Wearing a white protective sleeve wrapping his right forearm, Alcaraz could not gain too much traction in key rallies down the stretch. 

"He was quite good today. I mean, his serve was unbelievable today," Alcaraz said. "He brought me a few opportunities in the match to break his serve. I couldn't make it. That was the key of the match. But I think his game was outstanding today.

"I couldn't push him to the limits in every ball, so I think he hit the ball in a good position every time. And a player like Rublev, if he hits the ball in a good position, it's almost impossible to make points, to beat him.

"So I have to learn from this match to see how it's gonna be the next one."

In a tactical role reversal, Rublev, known for his power-based grip-and-rip style, beat Alcaraz at his own game relying on his own variety. Rublev served 74 percent, belted his backhand down the line to exploit the sometime erratic Alcaraz running forehand and doubled the Wimbledon winner’s net points.

The typically net-averse Rublev won 18 of 26 trips to net compared to 9 of 14 net points won from Alcaraz.

A sliding Alcaraz backhand pass crosscourt kissed the sideline for break point in the fifth game. Rublev tried playing behind the speedy Spaniard but sprayed a forehand as Alcaraz broke for 3-2.

Serving for the set at 5-4, Alcaraz double-faulted to fall to 15-30.

The two-time defending champion rapped a high volley then drew an error for a third set point. When Rublev’s return drifted long, Alcaraz snatched the 41-minute opener.

The second-seeded Spaniard won eight of nine second-serve points in the opener.

In the second game, Rublev drove some deep forehands to gain triple break point.

Alcaraz answered with a drop shot, an ace and a forehand drop volley, erasing all three break points. Alcaraz denied a fourth break point, drilling a serve down the middle, only to yank a framed forehand wide to face break point No. 5.

This time, Rublev made it stick banging a backhand down the line to draw the running error and go up 2-0.

A dialed-in Rublev rapped his fourth ace wrapping a love hold for 4-1. Rublev reeled off seven points in a row gaining triple break point. Alcaraz stood firm with a five-point run of his own holding in the sixth game.

After a brief tiff with chair umpire Fergus Murphy, who rejected Rublev’s request to challenge in the eighth game, Rublev started the ninth game with a bang.

Rublev ripped an ace, smacked a slick forehand swing volley and whipped the wide serve sealing his second set point to level the match after one hour, 24 minutes.

The blast of the ball off Rublev’s racquet strings serves sonic reminder of how hard he hits his forehand.

In this match, Rublev made some timely backhand drives down the line including a bold line strike to break the champion to start the final set. Rublev fended off a couple of break points, confirming for 2-0.

Pushed well outside the doubles alley by a serve, Rublev spun a backhand return down the line for double break point in the fifth game. Alcaraz saved the first, but played a shoddy dropper on the second. Rublev raced up to it and knocked a winner down the line, scoring his third break for 4-1.

In their lone prior meeting at the ATP Finals in Turin last November, Rublev looked like a man trying to punch out his own shadow lunging at the Alcaraz first serve without making much clean contact. Festering frustration erupted in Rublev, the son of a boxer, who basically beat the crap out of his own knee with his Head racquet after dropping serve to start the second set in Turin.

Today, a resolute Rublev had no self-inflicted wounds and continued unsettling Alcaraz with unpredictable variety.

Serving for the match, Rublev gave Alcaraz a dose of his own drop shot medicine going up 30-love. Alcaraz floated a return long giving the red-haired Russian double match point.

One final wide serve sealed an excellent effort from Rublev, who beat a Top 3 ranked opponent for the first time since 2022.


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