Andrey Rublev kept his cool in the face of a stern opening test from J.J. Wolf on Friday at the Miami Open presented by Itau, where the sixth seed earned a 7-6(3), 6-4 second-round victory.
Rublev was broken by home favourite Wolf in the opening game of the match and trailed for much of the first set on Grandstand, but his aggressive game ultimately proved too much for the No. 50-ranked American in fast conditions at Hard Rock Stadium. The 25-year-old Rublev fired 36 winners, including 16 aces, to notch a one-hour, 41-minute win and reach the third round at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Miami for the third time.
“It’s a great feeling, because I didn’t know what to expect and it was my first match here,” said Rublev after his win. “I didn’t have much time to adapt. I know he’s dangerous, that he can play really well and really aggressive.
“As soon as we started to play I was losing, so it was not easy. At the end I was happy that I was able to keep calm inside, and I was just waiting for my moment [in the first set]. As soon as I had the moment I was able to make it, and then I started to play a bit better and I started to feel more confident.”
Although Rublev made the worst possible start to his Miami campaign by dropping his serve in the opening game, he put those early difficulties behind him quickly. The World No. 7 stayed dialled in from the baseline and that persistence helped him crucially reclaim the break to level at 5-5.
Rublev carried that momentum through to dominate a first-set tie-break in which he regularly pulled his opponent around the court with some fiery forehand hitting, and he kept his composure impressively again in the second set to complete the win. The 2021 Miami semi-finalist saved all five break points he faced in the second set and claimed a decisive break in the seventh game to improve his record for 2023 to 12-7.
“I played him once [before] and he played completely different in that match,” said Rublev, when asked about the effectiveness of his down-the-line backhand against Wolf. “I guess he changed tactic, and the tactic was to try and play as much as he can with the forehand and to play everything to my backhand.
“In the end he was open a lot down the line, so as soon as I had a chance I was trying to go for it, because he was obviously too much on the backhand side.”
Rublev’s third-round opponent will be 29th seed Miomir Kecmanovic or Ugo Humbert. Rublev is a 12-time tour-level titlist, a tally which includes five ATP 500 crowns, but is chasing his first Masters 1000 title in Florida.
In other early-Friday action, Emil Ruusuvuori notched a straight-sets victory against Roberto Bautista Agut for the second consecutive tournament by prevailing 6-4, 7-6(5) against the Spaniard on Court 5.
The Finn backed up his win against Bautista Agut in Indian Wells two weeks ago by outhitting the 22nd seed by 28 winners to 20 in a two-hour, 12-minute encounter in Miami. Ruusuvuori will face Alexander Zverev or Taro Daniel next as he looks to reach the fourth round at Hard Rock Stadium for the second time.
The 24th-seeded Denis Shapovalov also enjoyed a second-round victory, but the Canadian was made to battle before downing Guido Pella 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. The 2019 semi-finalist Shapovalov held on in an all-lefty battle for his first Masters 1000 victory of the year. The 23-year-old next faces ninth seed Taylor Fritz or wild card Emilio Nava.