November 25, 2020

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Rublev

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Just three years ago, Stefanos Tsitsipas was a year past his semifinal defeat to eventual champion Denis Shapovalov in the Wimbledon juniors.

Andrey Rublev was 18 – less than a year older but he’d spent less time in the juniors. He had tried twice to qualify at Wimbledon, losing in the second round both times (to No. 772 Marcus Willis the previous year).

But on that late-June day in 2017, both were competing in the final round of qualifying, playing best-of-five.

They were playing at the same time. Most of the fans on hand would never have predicted that they were watching two future stars.

Tsitsipas was into a fifth set against Joris de Loore. Rublev was in the fourth set against Paul-Henri Mathieu, a 35-year-old former No. 12 who was playing his final Wimbledon.

They both made it.

Here’s what it looked like.

Rublev makes it count in main draw

Rublev was ranked No. 95 (his arrival in the top 100 came just too late to squeeze into the main draw; he was seeded No. 5).

He beat fellow qualifier Stefano Travaglia in five sets in the first round, and came close to upsetting No. 22 Albert Ramos-Vinolas before falling in five in the second round.

After Wimbledon, after going from the qualifying to the title in Umag, he leaped into the top 50 for the first time.

Tsitsipas, still just 17, was ranked No. 192.

He lost in straight sets to No. 79 Dusan Lajovic in the first round of the main draw.

A few months later, after going from the qualifying to the semifinals at the ATP Tour event in Antwerp, Belgium, he jumped into the top 100 for the first time.

Three years later, they’re both in the top 10.

And Rublev is going for his fifth title of the abbreviated 2020 season Sunday in Vienna.