An opening retirement
More or less, the Qatar ExxonMobil Open’s first match reflected the sorry luck we’ve had leading into the 26th anniversary of the tournament. The day after Christmas, 2012 Champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrew, still suffering from a late-season wrist injury. Then on Sunday, 2-time defending champion Novak Djokovic stepped aside, citing the continuing elbow pain that’s kept him off-court since last year’s Wimbledon Quarterfinals.
In Monday’s first match, Germany’s Cedrik-Marcel Stebe – who has made a remarkable return to the top-100 after being away from the sport for over 2-years – was forced to retire before set-2, due to an elevated heart-rate. It’s a frustrating start for the German who battled through Futures and Challengers last year to battle his way into the ATP’s Top-80. See Cedrik-Marcel’s full story below
Rublev into the Round of 16 in his Doha debut
After the match, Rublev congratulated Stebe for his inspiring return to the top of the sport and spent a moment reflecting on his own phenomenal 2017. His confidence has rocketed after winning his first title in Umag, earning his first top-10 win at the US Open, defeating Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin to reach the Quarterfinals, and making a year-end finalist run at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
One of the future stars of the Qatar National Team, Abdullah Mahmoud then took the court to have a hit with the World #39, and the two rallied for about 5-minutes. Honestly, it’s the first time most have seen Rublev smile…ever.
Up next for the 20-year-old Next Gen star?: Last year’s Semifinalist Fernando Verdasco, who defeated Israel’s Dudi Sela in a dominant 3rd-set. Rublev and Verdasco have played twice before. Andrey won their first match in Barcelona when Rublev was just 17-years-old. Verdasco won their next clash a few months back at the Paris Indoors…in two tie-break sets.
Andrey Rublev. A Break-through 2017
AT 20-YEARS-OLD, THIS ATP NEXT-GEN STAR HAD A BREAK-THROUGH SEASON IN 2017. HE STARTED THE YEAR AT THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN, AND PLAYED THROUGH QUALIFYING TO REACH THE 2ND-ROUND OF A GRAND SLAM FOR THE FIRST TIME. HE WENT ON TO REACH HIS THIRD CAREER ATP CHALLENGER TOUR FINAL AT THE RENNE OPEN, MADE HIS MAIN-DRAW DEBUT AT ROLAND GARROS, HIS SECOND-ROUND DEBUT AT WIMBLEDON; THEN AS A LUCKY LOSER IN UMAG, CAPTURED HIS FIRST CAREER TOUR-LEVEL TITLE, DEFEATING PAOLO LORENZI IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH. HE WASN’T DONE PILING-UP THE CAREER-FIRSTS, REMARKABLY – AT THE US OPEN IN NEW YORK – HE EARNED HIS FIRST CAREER WIN OVER A TOP-10 PLAYER, DEFEATING GRIGOR DIMITROV, THEN WORLD #14 DAVID GOFFIN, BECOMING THE YOUNGEST PLAYER TO REACH THE US OPEN QUARTERFINALS SINCE ANDY RODDICK IN 2001. HE STARTED 2017 RANKED OUTSIDE THE TOP-150, AND ENDED THE YEAR INSIDE THE TOP-40, AFTER BATTLING THROUGH TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH AT THE ATP NEXT GEN FINALS IN MILAN. MAKING HIS QATAR EXXONMOBIL OPEN DEBUT, FROM RUSSIA, PLEASE WELCOME – ANDREY RUBLEV
Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. A resolute return to the top-100
REMARKABLY, THIS 27-YEAR-OLD HAS RETURNED TO THE SPORT’S TOP-100 AFTER INJURIES KEPT HIM AWAY FROM THE GAME FOR OVER TWO YEARS. IN 2012 HE CLIMBED TO A CAREER-HIGH RANKING OF #71 IN THE WORLD, BUT WENT UNRANKED IN 2014 AND 15 WHILE REHABBING FROM SURGERY. FINALLY, IN 2016, HE RETURNED TO FULL-STRENGTH – DETERMINED TO BATTLE-BACK AND REGAIN HIS FORM. RESOLUTE, HE PLAYED CHALLENGER AND FUTURES EVENTS, BOOSTING HIS RANKING WITH EVERY WIN; AND LAST MAY…EVERYTHING CLICKED. AS A LUCKY LOSER IN GENEVA, HE REACHED HIS FIRST ATP WORLD TOUR QUARTERFINAL IN 5-YEARS. HE’D GO ON TO COMPETE IN 4 ATP CHALLENGER TOUR FINALS (WINNING THREE TITLES), AND RETURNED TO THE 2ND-ROUND OF THE US OPEN FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2012. IN DAVIS CUP PLAY, HE DELIVERED A 4-SET WIN OVER PORTUGAL’S JOAO SOUSA TO KEEP GERMANY IN THE 2018 WORLD GROUP. INCREDIBLY, HE STARTED THE SEASON RANKED #471 IN THE WORLD, AND BY SEPTEMBER…CRACKED THE ATP’S TOP-80. HIS INSPIRING COMEBACK CONTINUES AS HE STARTS THE NEW YEAR BY MAKING HIS QATAR EXXONMOBIL OPEN DEBUT…FROM GERMANY, PLEASE WELCOME – CEDRIK MARCEL STEBE