Challenger #NextGenATP First-Time Winner: Alexander Bublik
Alexander Bublik fought past Nicolas Jarry 7-5, 6-4 on Saturday to claim his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title at the Morelos Open. The 19 year old became the youngest winner on the circuit this year and third #NextGenATP star to lift a trophy, joining Hyeon Chung (Maui) and Noah Rubin (Launceston).
Bublik's march to the title caps an impressive rise to the Top 150 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, ascending to a career-high World No. 137. Just four months ago, the Kazakh was sitting outside the Top 300, but a quarter-final result at the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow - his first ATP World Tour main draw - and a run to the second round as a qualifier at the Australian Open, set the stage for his biggest professional title on the hard courts of Morelos.
ATPWorldTour.com spoke to Bublik after his victory:
What was it like to win your first title?
It was a big win. The first title always means a lot. I'm very happy. It gives me a lot of confidence and I'm close to the Top 100 now, but I still need to keep working hard.
In the final, you needed five match points to serve it out. Take us through that and how you finally managed to get it done.
He (Jarry) was playing unbelievable. He passed me twice with incredible shots. I got a little nervous. I was struggling to get there and I said to myself that I needed to win it. I got a first serve and it was over.
You were feeding off the energy from the crowd all week. How did you use that to your advantage?
I was struggling at times and they helped me a lot. They loved me there since the first day, since my first match. They definitely helped me. That's the thing about tennis. When you have a big crowd, I'm in love with it.
You haven't played many Challenger events. This was just your 10th main draw and first final. How have you made the transition look so easy?
It's really not. When I played my first Challenger last year in Kazan, I got past the first round and I thought it was a big first step forward. Then I won a couple of Futures titles and I went back to Challengers and I got some more wins, reaching my first quarter-final. I wasn't rising very fast. I took little steps closer and closer and had a big experience [at the ATP World Tour event] in Moscow at the end of the year.
Having reached the quarter-finals as a qualifier at the VTB Kremlin Cup in October, did that experience give you a boost entering the 2017 season?
Moscow really helped me a lot. That was a big push for me, because I've been working hard for a while. At the same time the year before, I was playing qualies at a Futures event. I worked a lot for it and it showed me that I could compete with these guys. Then I had a great run at the Aussie Open (qualifying and reaching the second round) and I really believed it. This Challenger gave me the confidence that I can not only play well, but win a tournament.
Did you do anything different in the offseason to prepare you for your first full season on tour?
We worked on several things in the pre-season here in Delray Beach. We worked a lot on the physical part because I'm a big guy. That is, building up my strength with my serve. We also changed the way I train, which helped me a lot. Training in Delray is the best. I've been in America since I was 12 years old, living in San Francisco, so I love it here.
You are up to No. 7 in the Emirates ATP Race To Milan. What would it mean for you to qualify?
That's one of the main goals for me this season to qualify. It sounds like a great event and it will be very interesting to play there. I hope to stay healthy so I can make it.