Australian Open 2021: Red-hot Andrey Rublev ready to go the distance in Melbourne


Melbourne: Andrey Rublev says he was been working on his stamina so he can go the distance with the top names over five sets as he eyes a deep run at Australian Open.

The Russian seventh seed has been in sizzling early season form, which continued Tuesday with a straight-sets drubbing of Yannick Hanfmann.

The 23-year-old, one of the hottest players on tour since last year’s US Open, came through the match 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, but said he knew it would get tougher as the tournament progressed.

“I like to play best-of-five,” he said, adding that he had been focusing on how to better stay in long rallies and show consistency over three or four hours.

“It’s not about even the players who shoot hard, with them I feel comfortable,” he said.

“It’s more about with the players who play long rallies, like (Daniil) Medvedev, like (Diego) Schwartzman, like (Novak) Djokovic, like Rafa (Nadal).

“Because to play against them you need to show your best level for three, five hours and that’s why you have to be physically strong to be able to keep this level for a long distance.

“So it’s more about this, because many players can play one set amazing but then after one hour and a half or something, they are dropping the level.”

Rublev started slowly against Hanfmann, losing his opening service game, but thereafter was barely troubled, breaking twice to take the set comfortably.

He broke early in the second as Hanfmann struggled with the power and accuracy of his groundstrokes, with the relentless Russian sending down 17 aces and dominating from the baseline.

“I was a bit nervous because it’s first match of first Grand Slam of the year, so I start a bit tight,” he said.

“But I could come back really fast and I started to control the match … so I’m really happy with this.”

After winning five ATP titles last year, more than anyone else, Rublev opened 2021 with four straight wins in helping guide Russia to the ATP Cup last week, making him a contender for a maiden Grand Slam title.

The last Russian man to win a Grand Slam was Marat Safin at Melbourne Park in 2005.

Rublev next plays Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro, who beat Slovak Andrej Martin.

In other early results on Day 2 on a sunny day with the temperature in the low 70s Fahrenheit (low 20s Celsius), 17-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz became the youngest man to win a Grand Slam match since Thanasi Kokkinakis was one day younger at the 2014 Australian Open.

Alcaraz eliminated Botic Van de Zandschulp, a 25-year-old from the Netherlands who is ranked 151st, by a score of 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.

(With inputs from AP)

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