Andrey Rublev took a leaf out of the Cameron Norrie playbook Monday at the US Open, where the hard-hitting ninth seed produced a rock-solid fourth-round showing to down the Briton 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in New York.
Rublev struck consistently from deep and was clinical with his chances on return as he capitalised on an uncharacteristically wayward performance from the seventh-seeded Norrie to wrap a two-hour, 26-minute victory and reach his fifth Grand Slam quarter-final. The 24-year-old fired 30 winners and made just 17 unforced errors en route to beating a Top 10 opponent at the US Open for the fourth time.
“It was tough, especially when we’ve known each other for a long time,” said Rublev in his on-court interview. “Last time he beat me, so of course I was coming on court thinking I need to give my best, play really well, and I think today I played a good match.
“Cameron maybe was a bit tired, because in some moments he helped me, but this is the US Open, this is a Grand Slam and everyone is nervous, everyone is tight, everyone wants to win. So this is normal. In the end I was able to win in three sets and I’m super happy.”
The win moves Rublev into his third quarter-final at Flushing Meadows, where he now holds a 17-6 record. Should four-time champion Rafael Nadal prevail against Frances Tiafoe on Arthur Ashe Stadium later on Monday, Rublev will face the same opponent as in his quarter-final in 2017, when he lost to the Spaniard in straight sets. Yet Rublev is primarily focussing on his own game as he seeks a first Grand Slam quarter-final victory at the sixth attempt.
“I was not thinking about it until now, because I had to play today,” said Rublev. “If I have time, I will try to watch of course, because it is going to be Rafa or Tiafoe in my next match so I have to see how they play. But if I have no time, I will just prepare for the next match and that’s it.”
Rublev and Norrie had looked set for an encounter of fine margins after serve dominated the opening exchanges of their third tour-level meeting. Rublev stayed solid off both wings to pressure Norrie into a series of mistakes in the ninth game, however, as he converted the first break point of the match en route to the first set in gruelling humid conditions in New York.
Even the distraction of some inclement weather blowing into Louis Armstrong Stadium could not shake Rublev, who was made to wait by a short rain delay when leading 3-2 with a break in the second set, and then again a game later as the stadium’s roof was being closed. The ninth seed picked up where he left off upon resumption, consistently serving with precision to move two sets ahead.
Rublev finished the match having won 79 per cent (46/58) of points behind his first serve, a reflection of how confidently the 11-time tour-level titlist was striking the ball. The only drop in his level came in the third set, when Norrie regained his composure to reclaim a break and take a 4-3 lead. Rublev’s response was swift, as he reeled off three games in a row behind some trademark huge forehands to seal an impressive win.