On either Friday or Saturday, after the mandatory ten minute warm-up, Australia’s world #33 Nick Kyrgios will play his first competitive point of the 2019 Miami Open. Across the net will stand Alexander Bublik, a player with more than a few similarities to Kyrgios, in both style and temperament. Bublik will be playing his 512th point in Miami and will surely be thrilled to do so. Such is the fate of the climbing qualifier at a Masters 1000 on the ATP Tour.
For whilst Kyrgios had time to prepare and practice for some time in Miami, Bublik has been rather busy. The Kazakh only gained entry to the Miami Open as one of the 12 survivors of the 48 man qualifying draw. And he then had to battle through the first round of the main draw, while the 27th seeded Kyrgios enjoyed a bye.
Three close contests
As mentioned above, just to reach the second round, Bublik has had to win three matches. He first knocked out Ricardas Berankis, once the top-ranked junior in the world, 7-5 6-2. After a day off, Bublik then took out world #97 Daniel Evans, recently the finalist in Delray Beach, in two tight sets, 6-4 6-4, to reach the main draw. Rain then washed out most of Wednesday’s play.
Nonetheless, Bublik was able to savour his place in the main draw for less than a day. By noon Thursday, he was back in action, playing the first match of the day on the Grandstand court, facing off against American Tennys Sandgren. The fresher, and higher ranked, Sandgren took the first set 7-5 with a late break. But despite his weary legs, Bublik kept in the fight, winning the second set 6-4. Then having already played 74 games in just a few days, Bublik stared down Sandgren in a third set tiebreaker, narrowly prevailing by seven points to five.
Kyrgios has the advantage, but….
Despite solid success at Challenger level so far in 2019, the Miami Open marks Bublik’s first ATP Tour outing of the year. The more seasoned Kyrgios brings a 7-4 season record, highlighted by his run to the title in Acapulco. He should also be well-rested having not taken to the court since losing in the second round to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the Californian desert nearly two weeks ago.
But for all that Kyrgios holds the advantage in terms of experience, Bublik is on a roll. He has already fired 42 aces in Miami and will surely back himself to continue to serve big against the Australian. He has also played the important points extremely well, something he will need to do again against Kyrgios, who possesses plenty of power. To combat Kyrgios’ formidable arsenal, the 21-year-old Kazakh will need to rely on his young legs, a big serve and the hot hand. That and the valuable 511 points worth of Miami experience he has already accrued.
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