Bublik Sees Entertaining Fans As Part Of His Tennis Repertoire

Alexander Bublik (photo: ATP Tour video)

NEWPORT, R.I./WASHINGTON, July 15, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Alexander Bublik just wants to play tennis, to enjoy his life. Loathed by some for his attitude but loved by many for his quirky, off-beat personality, Bublik has become one of the great entertainers in the sport. Think Nick Kyrgios but without the controversy.

This week, the 42nd-ranked Bublik has entertained crowds at the Infosys Hall of Fame Open in Newport, R.I. With his circus-like repertoire of tricks at the ready, Bublik is through to Friday’s quarterfinal round against three-time major titlist Andy Murray of Great Britain, ranked 52nd.

After receiving a first-round bye, the third seed Bublik defeated 100th-ranked American Jack Sock, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, in an hour and 54 minutes on Wednesday, in a battle of powerful hitters.

The 6-foot-5-inch, 25-year-old Bublik, who is Russian born but represents Kazakhstan, wowed the Newport crowd with 22 aces against Sock. However, he he also committed 16 doubles faults. Regardless, Bublik managed to convert all five of his break-point opportunities and outpointed his opponent 94-80 by playing all the big points that mattered very well.

The last time Bublik faced Sock, he lost a tough five-setter in the second round of the 2021 US Open. This time, he turned the table and won in three. Bublik did so with an element of surprise that included underarm serves and in-between-the-legs returns – trick shots that have become synonymous with him.

While entertaining fans has become part of Bublik’s raison d’être, he’s also through to the last eight in Newport due largely to playing good tennis, too. Take his big serve, for instance. He’s hit more than 2,100 aces in his career, which currently places him around 145th on the all-time list.

After Bublik’s victory against Sock, which was his 20th of the season, he was asked during his on-court interview what kinds of adjustments he made during the match that proved the difference between winning and losing.

“I was pissed at the crowd, so I decided I had to take this match and win it,” Bublik said during his on-court interview in a serious tone of voice that turned friendly later on. “I was not happy with how they cheered against me. I put all the power into [winning].”

At last November’s Davis Cup competition, Bublik explained: “I think it’s all part of the big show.

“The same guy who boos you, 20 minutes later they ask for autographs. I have nothing against them. I think tomorrow they will be for me or against me. It’s a show. They come in. They’re enjoying the time. …

“I find it funny. I mean, trust me, these people will see me on the street, say, ‘Good play.’ I would be happy to see them as well. That’s part of our game, So, no hard feelings, I guess.”

Last year, Bublik posted a personal-best 35 wins and reached the quarterfinals of a pair of ATP Masters 1000 events, in Miami and Madrid. This year, in his fifth career final, Bublik finally won his first ATP Tour title at Montpellier, which lifted him to a career-high ranking of No. 30. However, he’s not been able to capitalize on his good fortune – losing seven times in the first or opening round of tournaments this season.

However, grass is a surface that Bublik has performed well on. He’s 7-4 on grass this season and 5-0 in opening-round matches with his best result being a quarterfinal at Eastbourne followed by reaching the third round at Wimbledon. Overall, he has an 18-12 career win-loss record on grass.

“I don’t know, I mean things have gotten together the last couple of weeks,” Bublik admitted. “I’m not having the best season so far in my opinion. I’ve lost something like seven first rounds. We’re working toward [improving] on hard courts. We’re pretty much going somewhere.”

Indeed, and while Bublik suggests he doesn’t do much game-planning before he steps out on the court, one thing he would like to see happen against Murray in their quarterfinal showdown Friday is “improving upon 16 double faults.” Against Sock, he won 82 percent (45 of 55) of his first-serve points, but his efficiency of winning second-serve points dipped to 27 percent (9 of 33) and his serve was broke three times.

One thing that people might not realize about Bublik is that when he’s not on a tennis court, there’s few things he’d rather be doing than sleep. In his ATP Tour bio, Bublik lists sleeping as his best quality and says that he can sleep for 16 hours straight. Imagine that! When Bublik was asked during his on-court interview with Blair Henley Wednesday what factors into a good night’s sleep for him, he broke into a smile and replied this way:

It’s surprising that I always play good in Newport because it’s like four days since I [arrived],” he said. “I’m not really used to being in the zone yet, so that helps. Usually, when I’m in America, I can’t sleep late. I wake up at 6 o’clock because it’s sunny everywhere. It’s tough, really tough. I usually wake up at 12 [o’clock], 1 [o’clock] when I’m back home. It’s quite complicated.”

Around the International Tennis Hall of Fame

Steve Johnson, appearing in his fourth Newport quarterfinal and first on the ATP Tour this season, lost 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4 to Maxime Cressy, in an all-American tussle that beganThursday’s play. The 95th-ranked Johnson was aiming to reach his first ATP Tour semifinal since 2019 at Winston-Salem, while No. 41 Cressy was back in the Newport quarterfinals for the second straight year.

Cressy parlayed his serve-and-volley attack into his 17th victory of the season and third tour-level semifinal. He hit 27 aces against 12 double faults, won 86 percent (59 of 69) of his first-serve points and saved all three break points he faced. Cressy outpointed Johnson 103-95 during the two-hour and 25-minute match.

“It was actually a very tough first set, a lot of nerves. Playing on the centre court is incredible,” Cressy said during his on-court interview. “[Johnson] is a terrific player. He was extremely focussed and sharp on the serve in the first set. I had to stay focussed on my serve, what I can control, and I was really able to do it successfully, especially starting in the second set.”

• In Thursday’s second quarterfinal, No. 22 John Isner, a four-time titlist at Newport (2011-12, 2017, 2019), defeated France’s 48th-ranked Benjamin Bonzi, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), in two hours and 46 minutes to extend his Newport winning streak to 10 matches. He’s 25-5 lifetime at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Bonzi, who was 8-3 on grass this season coming in, saved seven match points before Isner finally won on his eighth match-point opportunity in the third-set tie-break. Isner struck 29 aces and saved both break points he faced. He outpointed Bonzi 121-114.

“I got off to a good start in the [final] tie-break and I needed every single bit of it, obviously,” Isner said after his victory. “Eventually I was able to win. That was a crazy match, for sure.”

• No. 1 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada completed his suspended second-round match against No. 102 Jason Kubler of Australia and was upset, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), in two hours and 53 minutes. The match began late Wednesday afternoon and was suspended by darkness at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday evening with the World No. 9 Auger-Aliassime leading 6-4, 3-6, 6-5, on serve.

When play resumed Thursday afternoon, Kubler saved a match point, then beat Auger-Aliassime in a third-set tie-break 7-4. It was his first career Top-10 victory. Kubler, who will break into the Top 100 next week, will face No. 8 seed James Duckworth of Australia in Friday’s quarterfinal round.

“I was pretty nervous, to be honest,” Kubler, 29, admitted during his on-court interview. “Luckily the last couple months I’ve been doing so much work on my serve. I was thinking about all the stuff I’ve done the last couple of months and that’s what gave me a bit of confidence.

“Just very fortunate to be in this position. Today could have gone either way. .. Fortunate that it went my way today, but I’m just happy that I stuck in and tried my best for the whole time.”

Thursday’s Infosys Hall of Fame Open results

Friday’s Infosys Hall of Fame order of play

By the numbers

John Isner now has 13,801 career service aces after hitting 29 in his quarterfinal win over Benjamin Bonzi Thursday afternoon.

“Quotable …”

“As [a] Tour, we’re going around the world. There are definitely efforts that we can keep on doing to make our world a better place, not just for now, but for the future. I would be happy to be a part of it to do the things that I can control the best that I can to make a good impact. And definitely I think as a whole we can make a difference.

“People like this are very inspiring in what they do. The effort, the courage it takes to do everything that they’re doing is very inspiring.”

– No. 1 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, who visited 11th Hour Racing Team’s boat in Newport on Monday to learn about ocean health and the organization’s sustainability efforts.