Rublev Cracks Kukushkin Code In Doha

DOHA, January 8, 2020

Andrey Rublev will join top seed Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. The second favourite of the ATP 250 hard-court event opened his season with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Mikhail Kukushkin from Kazakhstan on Wednesday afternoon in Doha.

Rublev converted four of his nine break point chances to advance in one hour and nine minutes.

“I expect it’s going to be a really, really tough match because I know Mikhail since a long time,” said Rublev, who earned his only ATP main draw win over Kukushkin in four previous meetings following a retirement from the World No. 66 at the St. Petersburg Open in 2016. “I’m really happy that I could win in straight sets today.”

Rublev with successful 2019 season

Rublev clinched his second ATP Tour career title in his home town of Moscow last year. He was also part of the Russian squad, which made it to the stage of the last four teams at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid.

“Even when you finish the season well and you don’t play for a while, you lose a little bit [of the] rhythm of playing… If you win the first match, you feel like you’re back in the rhythm,” Rublev said. “And if you lose, you feel I’m not in the rhythm; I need to win match to feel this feeling, to bring the confidence back. And that’s why I think it’s important, the beginning of the season.”

Moreover, the 2018 Doha runner-up always seems to feel comfortable with the on-court conditions in the Qatari desert.

“I feel every year a little bit different,” Rublev stated. “The first year I remember when I did the final here, it felt quite slow here. This year the surface is a little bit faster than usual. But anyway, I like the atmosphere here and I always enjoy to compete here.”

Rublev will next take on Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert in their first ATP Head2Head meeting. Herbert, last year’s doubles champion alongside David Goffin, dismissed No. 5 seed Laslo Djere of Serbia 6-1, 6-3 in 62 minutes.

Kecmanovic knocks out Tsonga

Later in the evening, Miomir Kecmanovic caused the upset of the day by knocking out third seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. The 20-year-old Serbian sent down nine aces, winning 89 per cent of his first-service points to secure a 7-6(9), 6-1 victory.

“It feels good to be able to play at this level consistently,” said Kecmanovic, who reached the stage of the last four at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan last year. “Just to be in this environment, it’s really special for me. I’ve always wanted to compete at the highest level. And to see it come at such a young age, it’s really amazing.”

The Belgrade native had a strong finish and won five straight games in the second set to oust the 2012 champion in one hour and 14 minutes. “I’ve had some exciting wins last year. And to start the year off with such a big name, it’s definitely motivating me and giving me a lot more confidence to keep going.”

Up next for Kecmanovic will be another in-form player, as Hungarian qualifier Marton Fucsovics eased past Turkish wild card entry Cem Ilkel 6-1, 6-4 in 73 minutes.

In Thursday’s fourth quarterfinal Fernando Verdasco will take on French young gun Corentin Moutet. The Spanish veteran and Doha resident overcame No. 6 seeded Serbian Filip Krajinovic 7-5, 4-6, 6-0 after two hours and five minutes. Moutet, who battled through the qualifying, played two fabulous tie-breaks to knock off fourth favourite Milos Raonic of Canada 7-6(4), 7-6(4) in just under two hours on court.