The ATP next generation has seen it’s fair share of hype aimed towards a number of players with Alexander Zverev drawing much of it due to his performances over the past 18 months. Moving into the top 5 and winning 2 Masters 1000 titles in 2017 is fair reason for that although his slam performances have yet to match his obvious ability. Of those under 21, it is Andrey Rublev rather than Zverev or Canada’s Denis Shapovalov that find themselves in a grand slam quarter final first.
Winless in his first 5 matches against a top 20 player, Rublev has put together an excellent fortnight so far in defeating 2 to make it to the quarter finals. Even more impressively, his wins over Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin came in straight sets despite the pair both holding break leads in multiple sets during the match. It’s finally a breakthrough week for the former Junior No.1 who has been finding his feet during his first full year on the tour. Winning Umag on the clay finally saw him break into the top 50 but that didn’t quite convert into good results during the following North American swing.
However, the fearless youngster was not disheartened by this and has came out firing this US Open. The often temperamental Russian looks to have reined it in a little yet his game is still as flashy as previous. His forehand has looked top notch with 29 winners on the forehand side during his win over Goffin in the previous round. “This is going to be good challenge for me to see how far I am from top players, and how much more I need to work.” he said of the challenge ahead of him in the quarter finals.
It has been a stress-free tournament for Nadal so far, who has dropped just two sets on his way to the quarter finals. Some thought the World No.1 may be in for a tough time in his previous round against Alexandr Dolgoplov given the way the Ukranian had been playing this week but it was not to be as he eased to a 62 64 61 win, backed by a 79% win percentage on his serve which saw him remain unbroken. “Most important thing is more times I had the control of the time of the point, you know. Not many balls surprise me. I didn’t hit a lot of balls earlier than what I thought or later than what I thought, something that happened in the first couple of days.” he said post match.
Nadal was Rublev’s idol growing up but that shouldn’t mean that the Russian will be starstruck once he takes to the court. Nadal will be clearly be the best defender that Rublev has played so far and how he reacts to that should give some insight into how long the match remains competitive for. While many will be waiting for the Federer-Nadal matchup in the next round to finally materialise, underestimating both their attacking opponents could prove costly.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in four sets