In a third round between two of the most charismatic men in tennis, Alexander Bublik will aim to outfox Frances Tiafoe and make good on his massive potential by reaching the second week of Wimbledon.

The 25-year-old would not have even had that chance were it not for a decision in 2016 to switch allegiances from Russia to Kazakhstan, under whom he has played the majority of his pro career.

Once in the draw, the fun-loving Bublik—armed with a powerful serve and an improv sensibility—was always going to be among the most dangerous floaters. Through two rounds, he’s yet to drop a set ahead of a rematch with Tiafoe that ended in his favor last week in Eastbourne.

Get to know the world No. 39, a guy who is equal parts human highlight reel and joke-a-minute quote machine:


The Basics

Bublik served notice from his first major outing, during which he qualified for the 2017 Australian Open and upset No. 16 seed Lucas Pouille en route to the second round.

“I was an entertainer as a kid, from when I was born,” he told the New York Times that week. “I was running on my hands through the school. I was always like this. I just put it inside of my tennis.

“When I was maybe 14, I was really stuck because of this—I couldn’t play tennis, I was only doing some jokes and stuff. Then I found a balance between being serious and being entertaining—a clown, or whatever.”

The self-styled clown prince of tennis has certainly made his matches memorable in the five years since, and is among the few to attempt something as audacious as an underarm tweener serve last summer in Eastbourne.

But is Bublik is more talented than the sum of his undeniably impressive parts? Signs point to yes: he reached his first major final in doubles on clay, something he himself acknowledged as farcical during the championship coin toss.

“I wasn’t supposed to be here!” he said, getting a rare laugh from umpire Marijana Veljovic. “This is a comic situation.”

The Latest

Indeed, Bublik’s more serious tennis has come on quicker surfaces, making all five of his ATP finals on hard courts and grass. In his fifth final, he finally struck gold indoors in Montpellier, upsetting Alexander Zverev in straight sets to reach a career-high ranking of world No. 30.

“The more experience you have, the easier it is to handle,” he told the ATP. “Of course, four finals gave me a little boost to say, “Whatever is going to happen, I’m fine with it,” that’s how I approached this match.”

Bublik’s musings cannot be confined to an interview setting—much as he shines in those scenarios. The loquacious Kazakh has become notorious for his (multilingual) running commentary, typically culminating in the tennis equivalent of a tight 10 at net.


“I’m so lucky you’re 10 years older than me,” he told Andy Murray in Indian Wells.

“You’re not human, man!” he exclaimed after a defeat to Jannik Sinner. “You’re 15 years old, and you play like this?”

After an especially joyless clay-court swing, Bublik slowly reacclimated to the grass, on which he upset Tiafoe in that aforementioned Eastbourne clash—which featured a final-set bagel—to reach his first quarterfinal since winning his Montpellier title.

Why It Matters

In fact, it hasn't all been fun and games for Bublik, who got caught up in the mini-wave of mid-match walkouts this spring. But what ultimately makes Bublik so magnetic is his unpredictability: will he redline to an unbelievable upset, or will he become so overwhelmed by the moment that he devolves into, for want of a better word, clownery?

The Kazakh is a year younger than good friend Daniil Medvedev, whose unorthodox style is also sometimes undercut by poor emotional management. Should Bublik bring a similar focus to his unbridled creativity, he could capitalize on the unbelievable opportunity in front of him.

As the fourth-highest ranked man left in his quarter, might he have a surprise semifinal run in him? Whether or not he gets the last laugh this fortnight all depends on what’s between the ears.