Rublev shrugs off travel fatigue to advance to Dubai Tennis Championships second round

Russian second seed impresses with straight-sets win over Dan Evans

Andrey Rublev during his first round match against Dan Evans at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Reuters
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Andrey Rublev knows all about the hectic schedule of the tennis circuit. Fresh from winning his ninth career title at the Marseille Open on Sunday, the Russian was on a plane to Dubai and arrived at 2am Tuesday morning. Later that evening he was back out on court, getting his Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships campaign underway.

If the second seed was feeling travel weary, he did a fine job hiding it. Facing a tough opening round opponent in Great Britain's world No 28 Dan Evans, Rublev produced a solid display to advance 6-4, 7-5 in 97 minutes. It was a seemingly confident display by Rublev but he insisted it was anything but.

"I was really afraid I had no chance to win," said the world No 7, who takes on South Korea's Soonwoo Kwon in the second round. "I didn't want to think about it, because it's like 'he just won a title and already he lost in the first round; he's not in the right mood.'

"I did a really long warmup today. I practiced for one hour and a half, which is not normal. I was just trying to adapt as much as I can.

"I didn't start fast, but in the end somehow the match was quite good. There were some good rallies, many good points. I won the match and now I'm really happy."

While Rublev had plenty of reasons to be happy, the same could not be said of compatriot Aslan Karatsev, who saw his title defence crumble at the first hurdle.

Karatsev won his first ATP Tour title in Dubai last year, weeks after making history at the Australian Open as the first male player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final on debut.

But it was a different story on Tuesday afternoon as the 28-year-old Russian was beaten 7-5, 6-3 by American Mackenzie McDonald, who exacted a measure of revenge for his defeat to the world No 22 in Melbourne last month.

"I'm pleased with how I battled today," said McDonald, who set up a second round clash with Serbia's Filip Krajinovic. "[Aslan] is a super tough player, especially on these fast courts. Australia was fast, too, and he really took it to me. Same thing here. I just had to be patient and see where I could press. I was lucky I got some errors from him today and I took advantage."

Aslan Karatsev saw his title defence ended at the first hurdle. Reuters

Another player who will be out for his own slice of revenge will be Jannik Sinner after the Italian fourth seed booked a second round meeting with Andy Murray having survived a mighty scare against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Sinner was down a set and a break and faced three match points before grinding his way to a 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory in two-and-a-half hours. The Italian lost his only previous match against Murray, at the Stockholm Open last year, and he is prepared for another big test against the former world No 1.

"It's going to be very difficult for me," Sinner, 20, said. "Everyone knows how great he is as a champion. Obviously he's a big fighter. I'm expecting a very tough match tomorrow, so I'll try to be ready for a long match."

Jannik Sinner faces Andy Murray in the second round. Reuters

Over on Court One, Karen Khachanov ensured a second round encounter with top seed and five-time Dubai champion Novak Djokovic after edging past Australia's Alex De Minaur 6-3, 6-7, 7-5.

The Russian world No 26 won the biggest title of his career by defeating Djokovic in the 2018 Paris Masters final, but that has been his only taste of success in seven meetings against the world No 1.

Meanwhile, 2018 champion Roberto Bautista Agut carried on straight from where he left off after winning the Qatar Open title last week with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 win over France's Arthur Rinderknech.

Updated: February 22, 2022, 6:33 PM