Young guns make their mark in Doha
Doha, Qatar: The 2020 Qatar ExxonMobil Open suffered a bit in terms of big names because of the ATP Cup and when it started, former world No.3 Stan Wawrinka, a former champion in Doha Jo Wilfried Tsonga and an old warhorse Fernando Verdasco were the biggest draws.
But at the end, 22-year-old Andrey Rublev walked off with the title while two 20-year-olds – Corentin Moutet and Miomir Kecmanovic announced themselves with some brilliant brand of tennis.
Moutet had to start in the qualifiers and gave Rublev a big scare in the final despite not being his best.
"I think I did some good stuff, but it's still not enough. It will never be enough, I think. I always have to work more and more because all the other guys are working as well," said Moutet who played beautifully throughout the week.
"I'm really far away from the top at the moment. So I think I still need to improve my game. And physically and in my mind, I still need to work hard on it to be able to compete with all the top guys in the future.
But his forehand, defesive play and his unconventional shots often put his rivals under pressure, and luckily for Rublev, he looked too nervy playing his first final and made a lot of mistakes.
Rublev despatched Kecmanovic, who was exceptional until then, in the semifinals and won his third ATP title without losing a set.
"It's my first experience at the start of a season with the trophy, and it's an amazing feeling," said Rublev, who received the Falcon Trophy from Qatar Olympic Committee President HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani.
"I always enjoy myself here. I always enjoy being here, to play here, to practice here. The conditions are always – I don't know.
I just always was waiting for the time to come back to start the season here because the organization always was so good. They were always doing everything for the players. So always amazing preparation for the Australian Open."
Rublev has been threatening to make his big mark for a while and it seems he is slowly making his move after having to suffer from injuries and loss of form in the past.
Rublev handled the pressure well when Moutet broke him back in the second set and threatened to come back, but he feels he needs to get tougher mentally and behave better.
I feel that the match was really close. Because what happened in the second set could happen also in the first set, and I was feeling it since the beginning. So I was trying to win every game, but in the end, it was tough.
And in the end, the moment when I was a little bit tighter, he played really well, and he broke me back and he went back in the game. And I showed a little bit of emotions. I could behave better. I start to show a little bit of emotions."
It won't be easy for Rublev at the Australian Open where a host of young guns are looking to topple the reign of the royal triumvirate – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer – and the Russian said he has no expectations.
"I don't expect nothing. I'm not waiting for nothing. I just want to go there. If I lose there first round and I did my best, I will be happy.
So in the end, it's not about me. If I do my best there every match and I will behave every match well, we'll see how far I can go."