WATCH: Andrey Rublev overcomes a surging Richard Gasquet in a fascinating three-set battle in the second round of 2022 Marseille.

Even as his opponent, 35-year-old Richard Gasquet, served for the match in the third set, Andrey Rublev never changed his game plan. And while that might have ultimately gotten him over the finish line as he rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) victory at the Open 13 Provence, it also exposed some major issues for the big-hitting Russian along the way.

The second-round win in Marseille should have been a confidence booster for world No. 7 Rublev, who was looking to bounce back strongly after falling in the semifinals in his Rotterdam title defense last week. But instead, he found himself in danger of an early exit against Gasquet, a crafty but out-of-form veteran who was looking for just his second Top 10 win in the last three years.

“I think the match was unreal… the level of RIchard, the way he played today, I think it’s amazing. He deserved to win, but I was a bit more lucky,” Rublev said afterwards. “I kept fighting, kept believing, and I turned around the match. I’m very happy because not many times you win the matches when you’re losing with a break in the third set and your opponent is serving for the match.”

Riding a wave of French support on Court Central, Gasquet didn’t seem fazed by Rublev’s signature firepower and he used his strong first serve to great effect, keeping his opponent on the back foot. Rublev quickly found himself down a break in the first game of the opening set, and was left to play catch up for the rest of the match.

All the while, Rublev was honed in on the Frenchman’s vulnerable second serve, dialing up the aggressive returns and winning 57 per cent of those points in the first set. By the time Rublev finally got his explosive game up and running, Gasquet was rolling back the years, playing full of confidence and swinging for the fences.


Andrey Rublev improved to 6-2 on the season after seeing off veteran Richard Gasquet in Marseille.

Andrey Rublev improved to 6-2 on the season after seeing off veteran Richard Gasquet in Marseille. 

To his credit, Rublev never stopped fighting for every point or deviated from his game plan—and for a player with Rublev’s high-risk, high-reward style of tennis, self-confidence is half of the battle. But if there’s something that defines a Top 10 player, it’s the ability to come up with a Plan B when the A Game isn’t working or find a higher level when the opponent is peaking; and that’s something that Rublev continues to struggle with as he regularly finds himself up against players with nothing to lose.

It’s hard to say if Rublev has temporarily hit his ceiling, or if we may be seeing the beginnings of a sophomore slump brought about as his opponents begin to figure out his big-hitting game. After all, Rublev is now 6-2 on the season after missing part of the Australian Swing due to COVID-19, and he was in the last four of an ATP 500 event just last week. He is a title competitor in every tournament that he plays.

But there was a sense of deja vu in this win: at the Australian Open, Rublev was eliminated by an inspired Marin Cilic, who played some of his best tennis in years on his way to a 7-5, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3 victory, and in Rotterdam, Felix Auger-Aliassime turned around a 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2 win on his way to his first ATP Tour title. Both times, Rublev kept the encounters close but faded away in frustration as they went the distance and his opponents’ self-belief grew—Cilic and Auger-Aliassime found another level, Rublev didn’t.

Rublev willed himself over the finish line in Marseille, rallying from 5-2 down in the decider and narrowly escaping in the tiebreak. But at times, he seemed lost on Court Central as Gasquet imposed his game. The fact that he struggled to close out an off-form World No. 76 across two and a half hours in the second round of an ATP 250 should be setting off alarm bells in the Russian’s camp.

Rublev awaits the winner of French wild card Lucas Pouille and Moldova’s Radu Albot in the quarterfinals.