Round of 16. Nikoloz Basilashvili

Sports Host Andy Taylor. Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2019. Day 3. Round of 16. Match 3. Nikoloz Basilashvili
Sports Host Andy Taylor | Voice of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open | Photo: Paul Zimmer

[5] Nikoloz Basilashvili -21- (GEO) def Andrey Rublev -68- (RUS)

Wednesday’s third Round of 16 clash on center court featured last year’s “Cinderella Story” versus Nikoloz Basilashvili’s fearless felt-pounding.

Last year, as the World #39 making his Doha debut, Andrey Rublev took full advantage of Novak Djokovic’s pre-tournament withdrawal, reaching his second career Tour-level Final. While he fell to Gael Monfils in the championship match, it was a tremendous start to the season for the 20-year-old. He’d eventually climb to a career-high ranking of World #31, before injuries sidelined him for 3-months of the season. This week, he starts the new season ranked just inside the top-70.

Basilashvili’s 2018 trajectory was quite different. He too started the year in Doha, where he fell in the Round of 16 to Borna Coric. He lost seven straight between the Australian Open and Miami. But in July, he broke through – capturing his first Tour-level title in Hamburg. He dazzled US Open fans during an impressive four set battle with World #1 Rafael Nadal, then upset World #4 Juan Martin Del Potro to win the China Open. This week, he starts 2019 ranked just outside the top-20.

The contrasting momentums were transparent Wednesday night in Andrey and Nikoloz’s first career meeting.

Frustrated often in the first, Andrey Rublev used his inner disgust to earn a pair of retaliatory breaks, but Basilashvili was relentless. He had a beat on Andrey’s serve and secured a straight sets victory behind four breaks.

Sports Host Andy Taylor. Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2019. Day 3. Round of 16. Match 3. Nikoloz Basilashvili def Andrey Rublev

Up next for Basilashvili: [1] Novak Djokovic -01- (SRB)

It’s a huge opportunity for Nikoloz, who proved he can hang with the best during his US Open dogfight with Nadal back in August.

Basilashvili and Djokovic last met on clay, 8-months-ago in the 2nd-Round of the Rome Masters. At the time, Nikoloz was starting to climb out of his early season slump. Djokovic was ranked World #18, struggling to rediscover his rhythm after elbow surgery. Novak won easily 64 62.

Round of 16 Biography | Nikoloz Basilashvili -21- (GEO)

Six-months-ago, this 26-year-old got red hot. At the ATP-500 event in Hamburg – as an 81st-ranked Qualifier – he won 7 consecutive matches to become the first player from Georgia ever to capture an ATP Tour-level title. At the US Open, he reached the Round of 16 at a Major for the first time, where he took World #1 Rafael Nadal to 4-sets. He then earned the biggest win of his career, defeating World #4 Juan Martin Del Potro in the Beijing Final, capturing his second ATP-500 title in just 3-months. Those two titles in the second half of the season catapulted him to a career-high ranking of #21 in the World. Competing in his 4th Qatar ExxonMobil Open, he’s through to the Round of 16 for the 3rd time. From Georgia, please welcome Nikoloz Basilashvili.

R1 def Albert Ramos-ViƱolas -65- (ESP) 61 16 61

Round of 16 Biography | Andrey Rublev -68- (RUS)

Last year, at just 20-years-old, this ATP Next Gen Star reached his second career Final right here in Doha, defeating Fernando Verdasco, Borna Coric and Guido Pella en-route to the championship match. A month later, he climbed to a career-high ranking of World #31, then teamed with comrade Karen Khachanov to reach his first Masters Doubles Final in Miami. Injured during the clay swing, he missed 3-months of the season, but battled back on the hard-courts, reaching the Semifinals in Washington DC, and at the year-end Next Gen ATP Finals. At the 2017 US Open – at just 19-years-old – he scored the biggest win of his career, defeating World #9 Grigor Dimitrov en-route to his first career Grand Slam Quarterfinal. Competing in his second Qatar ExxonMobil Open, from Russia – please welcome last year’s Finalist, Andrey Rublev.

R1 def Andreas Seppi -37- (ITA) 75 61