He played a great match even though he had not competed in any of the tournaments over the past three months. Understandably, he was slightly off his game, which is why his win last night is no small feat.
Even if he had lost, nobody would have held it against him, as this was his first tournament appearance after such a long time. Plus, the pressure was on him as the title defender. Fortunately, he showed us he was cut from a different cloth. He is one of the NextGen players, a group of up-and-coming players who should be running the game of tennis in just a few years’ time. Still, I believe Rublev is already an accomplished player. Not just because he won Umag or because everyone knows about him, but because earlier this year he played in the final of Doha and, had it not been for that injury of his, he would have been ranked higher than his current position of no. 35.
At the same time, Felix Auger-Aliassime has shown us that he fully deserved the invitation to the tournament and that he truly is the future of tennis. I like his game very much. He has a good serve and moves well for his height. Also, even though there are things that he could improve, playing like this at 17 is really very good. I have seen him before as he played against Milos Raonic in Indian Wells. And, let me tell you, it was no innocent match. Felix attacks constantly and does not respect anyone, in the positive sense of the word. He plays his own game and just keeps hitting.
He is now ranked 144th but I don’t think it will take him much longer before he reaches the Top 100. More precisely, he will soon no longer need these invitations. I do hope that he will be back in Umag one day. If he keeps improving at this rate, in a few years’ time, he will definitely be in the Top 30 or 20, as his talent is undeniable.
Robin Haase and Martin Kližan also had a good match. They are both talented players but can often complicate things for themselves, and sometimes that can prevent them from achieving big results. This time it was Haase who advanced further in the tournament. I feel a bit sorry that Marton Fucsovics wasn’t able to do the same, as I believed he could go all the way this year.