Bublik Garners 100th Career Tour Victory In Florence With An Eye To Improve

Aleksander Bublik (photo: Giampiero Sposito/UniCredit Firenze Open)

FLORENCE/WASHINGTON, October 11, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Seventh-seeded Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan fired 20 aces, hit 37 winners and saved all three break points he faced from No. 81 Cristian Garin of Chile during his 87-minute 7-5, 6-2 victory – his 100th career on the ATP Tour – at the UniCredit Firenze Open in Florence, Italy, Tuesday.

Bublik, ranked 43rd, converted three break points and won for the 14th time indoors this season, best on Tour.

“I played a good match, I stayed solid, I served well,” Bublik said during his on-court interview. “The conditions fit me well, the court is quite fast, so I’m pleased with my game and let’s see what goes on after.”

After winning his first ATP Tour title earlier this year at Montpellier, which lifted his ranking to a career-high No. 30, Bublik has continued to work hard on all facets of his game. Twice he’s been a finalist, on grass at Newport in July and last month on an indoor hardcourt in Metz.

“I do believe you must improve every day, and improve everything. So, I wouldn’t find a specific thing that I need to improve,” Bublik said. “But I think the overall game, if I can stay solid, stay disciplined, I think we can talk about something bigger.”

Next, the 25-year-old Bublik will face No. 69 Corentin Moutet of France, who saved two second-set match points and recovered nicely to beat 164th-ranked Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, late Monday evening. Moutet converted seven break points and outpointed Cobolli 94-89 to set up the second-round tussle against Bublik on Wednesday evening.

Sonego is fourth Italian to fall in Florence

Unheralded Bernabe Zapata Miralles of Spain upset recent Metz champion Lorenzo Sonego, 6-4, 6-4, in an hour and 33 minutes in the featured match of the afternoon session.

The 51st-ranked Sonego, a native of Turin, became the fourth Italian to lose in the first two days of the main draw. Sonego’s loss followed a trio of opening-day defeats suffered by wild cards Francesco Maestrelli and Giulio Zeppieri, and qualifier Flavio Cobolli on Monday.

Meanwhile, it was Zapata Miralles’s first career tour-level indoor victory in five tries – and he achieved his triumph by breaking Sonego’s serve three times, including the opening game of the first-round match. Zapata Miralles outpointed his opponent 65-53. The victory by the 25-year-old Valencia resident avenged a straight-set loss to Sonego last month at Sofia. The 74th-ranked Spaniard is a four-time champion on the ATP Challenger Tour, including earlier this year at Meerbusch.

“I played so good today,” said Zapata Miralles, who won 82 percent of his first-serve points. “I think this is one of the best matches I’ve played all year. I’m very happy.”

Next, Zapata Miralles will face another Italian, No. 3 seed Lorenzo Musetti, on Thursday.

Around the Firenze Open

• Sweden’s Mikael Ymer needed less than an hour to reach the second round after blitzing No. 116 Tim van Rijthoven of the Netherlands, 6-1, 6-2, in a matchup of qualifiers. The 99th-ranked Ymer, who was impressive in two weekend victories during the qualifying draw, dropped just six points on his serve and did not face any break points from his Dutch opponent. He outpointed van Rijthoven 54-26 to advance against No. 5 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia on Wednesday with an eye toward reaching the eighth tour-level quarterfinal of his career.

Oscar Otte of Germany rallied from a set down to beat No. 91 Marton Fucsovics of Hungary, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, in their first tour-level meeting. The 55th-ranked Otte converted all three of his break-point chances and outpointed his opponent 81-66. Next, Otte will face the tournament’s top seed, World No. 13 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.

• No. 8 seed Brandon Nakashima of the United States, who is sixth on the Pepperstone ATP Live Race to Milan to qualify for 2022 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals for the second consecutive year – and was a recent titlist at the San Diego Open – served a perfect game with four straight aces in the fifth game of the opening set and coasted to a 6-2, 6-2 first-round victory over No. 83 Richard Gasquet of France in their first career meeting.

The 21-year-old Californian, who struck 12 aces overall, hit 25 winners and faced no break points, won for the 28th time on Tour this season – in an economical 64 minutes – and advanced to play 230th-ranked qualifier Altug Celikbilek of Turkey on Thursday.

• Italian wild card Francesco Passaro, 21, earned the biggest career victory of his young career – and it was his first tour-level win, too. With World No. 58 David Goffin withdrawn earlier in the day due to illness, the 126th-ranked Passaro faced 110th-ranked lucky loser Zhang Zhizhen of China. He pulled off a brilliant 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6) upset that ended after two hours and sent the capacity crowd that filled intimate Palazzo Wanny home happy.

Passaro is No. 9 on the Pepperstone ATP Live Race to Milan and hopes to qualify for the upcoming Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. A deep run this week in Florence will help his cause. The Perugia native struck 22 winners to just four unforced errors and fought off all three break points he faced from Zhang. He outpointed his opponent 79-66. Next, after a day off, Passaro will face an American in the second round, either No. 6 seed Jenson Brooksby, ranked 42nd, or No. 79 Mackenzie McDonald, who play Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday’s UniCredit Firenze Open results

Wednesday’s UniCredit Firenze Open order of play

By the numbers

With his win against Tim van Rijthoven, Sweden’s Mikael Ymer improved to 2-6 versus players ranked outside the Top 100 on tour-level this season. Since last month’s US Open, Ymer earned biggest career win over World No. 11 Jannik Sinner at the Davis Cup and reached his seventh career tour-level quarterfinal at Metz (losing to Stan Wawrinka).

“Quotable …”

“Florence is very special for me as my grandfather is from this wonderful city. It’s always a great pleasure to play in front of the Italian fans.”

Matteo Berrettini of Italy, who gave a tour of the city of Florence to his off-court friend and on-court foe Felix Auger-Aliassime on Monday. The second seed Berrettini will face Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain in Wednesday afternoon’s featured match.