Alexander Bublik was not the favourite to win the Terra Wortmann Open in Halle.
For the 30th anniversary of the tournament, the field included Daniil Medvedev, Stefano Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Jannik Sinner, Alexander Zverev and last year’s champion Hubert Hurkacz.
But Tsitsipas went out in the second round, losing two close sets to unseeded Nicolás Jarry. Hurkacz lost in the quarterfinals to Tallon Griekspoor, 8-10 in the third set tiebreak. Also in the quarters, Roberto Bautista Agut played as well as he ever has to put out top seed Medvedev in straight sets.
And Bublik himself beat Sinner in the quarters, aided by a walkover, when the Italian strained his abductor muscle while losing the first set; then Zverev in the semis in straight sets; before claiming the trophy against Rublev, 6-3 3-6 6-3.
Bublik’s inspired, unpredictable shot-making bamboozled his opponents. Perhaps the only predictable aspect of Bublik’s game is his constant use of drop shots and then, just the frequency, not the timing of when he’ll hit one.
The official reason given for Sinner’s abductor strain was his sliding, as if on clay, trying to reach yet another drop shot sliced from Bublik’s racquet.
Then there was Zverev, who was on the losing end of countless Bublik drop shots.
“There wasn’t much I could do,” he said. “Either he was hitting a winner or a drop shot. I talked to my team and there was only really one game in the first set I could have won and didn’t.”
Asked about his drop shot tactics, Bublik denied it was a game plan for the Zverev match.
“Drop shots are part of my game, it’s against every player I play I do a lot of drop shots, specifically against Sascha it was working today. It didn’t work in Monte Carlo when we played. So yeah, it’s part of my game – it was not a specific plan – but yeah, it worked out.”
Bublik’s serve can be erratic, but during the tournament he produced a remarkable number of second serve aces. Indeed, he won the title with one. Just one of his 21 aces for the final.
The victory at Halle gave 26 year old Bublik his first ATP 500 title and his second overall, following his straight sets win over Zverev at the Montpellier 250 last year.
The vanquished Rublev admitted that the match had been on Bublik’s racquet, and commented to the victor, “It’s more about you, if you want to play like this week, or not.”
After acknowledging the crowd, Bublik ran over to his box to kiss his mother, wife and baby.
Always a man of few words, his speech was succinct. “I played an unbelievable game, everything was working.
“It means the world to me, being champion against a good friend. I’ve nothing to add.”
He brushed aside a question about his prospects at Wimbledon. “I don’t know about Wimbledon, I would like to enjoy my time here.”
Title photo by Mathias Schulz
Andrey Rublev reversed the result at Wimbledon in their fourth round match, 7-5 6-3 6-7(6) 6-7(5) 6-4.