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Match of the Day: Andrey Rublev vs. Jannik Sinner, Vienna
Take a glimpse into the future as two of the game’s most promising talents face off for the first time.
October 28, 2020
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Strap in, tennis fans, because this second-round clash between Andrey Rublev and Jannik Sinner is liable to knock you off your feet. Could there be a more exciting matchup between any two players not named Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic? We certainly don’t think so.
Thursday’s tussle will provide a fascinating glimpse into the future of our sport, and what to expect when the Big 3 finally hang up their sneakers. Spoiler alert—things might not be as bleak as they seem.
In terms of pure, unadulterated ball-striking, Rublev and Sinner are in a league of their own when compared to their peers. While they aren’t the most multi-dimensional players at this stage in their careers, there are few players who hit groundstrokes any bigger, or any better, than Rublev or Sinner. Just don’t confuse Andrey with Jannik, he doesn’t like that.
Medvedev: Andrey always gets angry when he is called Jannik, because he looks like Sinner a bit (because of hair!). During USO, when I said to him “hey, Jannik! how are you?”, he got angry and went away, then came back 10 minutes later, and said “you’re Davydenko!!” ????.@atptour pic.twitter.com/6hMDKuAlyF
— 井蛙堂 (@seiadoumogera) July 18, 2020
Aside from his subpar comebacks, Rublev has been a wrecking ball in 2020. One of the sport’s most diligent workers, Rublev was recently voted as the player Alexander Bublik would least like to be trapped on a deserted island with.
“I definitely don’t want to be there with Rublev because he probably wants to practice every day. I think he’s going to grind so hard. That probably in three weeks I’m dead because he’s practicing 17 hours a day.”
All jokes aside, the Russian’s work is paying major dividends. He’s tied with Djokovic for most ATP titles (4) on the season, and sits just behind him in total matches won with a whopping 35. On a quick, indoor hard court, Rublev arguably has the world’s most effective forehand. No matter the surface, nor the opponent, he has been outstanding all year long.
But so has his Thursday opponent, who earned his sixth Top-30 win of the season with a straight-set defeat over Casper Ruud on Wednesday. The only teenager in the Top 50, Sinner recently became the youngest player since Rafael Nadal to reach the Roland Garros quarterfinal in his first appearance. Though he’s just 19-years-old, Sinner plays with a fearlessness and long-term perspective that most coaches can only dream of.
“[It’s] just about improving day after day,” Sinner told ATPTour.com. “I felt ready playing against [Rafa], I went on court with the right attitude, which I’m trying to do every match and trying to improve day after day.”
In most first encounters, there is often a feeling-out period in the early stages as the competitors poke and prod to determine the best plan of attack. That will not be the case on Thursday, as both players push the pedal to the metal from start to finish. Rublev owns the advantage in forehand-to-forehand rallies, while Sinner definitely has the better backhand. This match will likely boil down to point control and court positioning.
The Russian inflicts the bulk of his damage with his ad-court forehand, which he can blister both inside-out and inside-in with equal devastation and consistency:
It’s not easy to change direction off of an 80+ mph forehand, but Sinner possesses the necessary talent and timing to do so, therefore he must take his backhand down the line early and often. When an opponent has a weapon as powerful as Rublev’s forehand, you have to attack it in order to expose the rest of their game.
A few of these open-stance zingers will go a long way on Thursday:
At -235, the oddsmakers believe Rublev will outclass the Italian, who, at this stage in the season, is likely to be feeling some fatigue. Rublev is certainly the favorite, but Sinner has thrived all year long playing as the underdog. Regardless of the outcome, Thursday is a very bad day to be a tennis ball in Vienna.
The Pick: Andrey Rublev