With so many of the top players either absent or struggling with injury, Grigor Dimitrov arrived at the US Open as one of the favourites, but the world No 9 fell victim here on Thursday to one of the emerging group of “Next Gen” players.
Andrey Rublev, a 19-year-old Russian who had lost in the first round on his only previous appearance in the main draw at Flushing Meadows, beat Dimitrov 7-5, 7-6, 6-3 in one of the biggest surprises of the tournament so far.
Dimitrov’s talent has long been recognised, but at 26 the Bulgarian is reaching the stage of his career where he needs to win some major prizes if his potential is to be realised. He appeared to have turned a corner earlier this month when he won his first Masters Series title at Cincinnati, but the US Open was an opportunity for him to make an even bigger mark. With Alexander Zverev having also gone out, the winners of both of this summer’s Masters Series hard-court tournaments have fallen early here.
Rublev, who was French Open junior champion three years ago, came through the qualifying tournaments of all three of the year’s other Grand Slam events but had built his world ranking sufficiently to go straight into the main draw here. He is already up to No 53 in the world and is set to climb further after reaching the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
Dimitrov went 5-2 up in the opening set, but Rublev then won five games in a row. For the most part the match was tight, but the Russian won most of the important points to claim his first victory over a top 10 opponent.
Rublev, who beat Britain’s Aljaz Bedene in the first round, said afterwards: “I know that Grigor is a much more experienced player than me. Before the match I was thinking that I would have to play the match at my rhythm and my speed, because I know that at my speed I can play with anybody and compete with the top players. The main thing was to try to find my rhythm and play my game and in the end I did that.”