When it comes to entertainment value few can top Alexander Bublik – but did he take it too far in the Moselle Open final?
The 24-year-old, who is known for not taking the game too seriously at times, had reached the final after three successive three-set wins and a walkover in the semi-finals against Stan Wawrinka.
Up against Lorenzo Sonego, Bublik dropped a hard-fought opening set and was trailing 3-1 in the second and looking to save break point when he attempted an audacious trick shot.
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A powerful serve out wide from Bublik had Sonego sticking out his racquet and only managing to loop the ball back over the net. As the ball bounced in the service box, seemingly ready to be put away, Bublik turned his racquet around in his hands.
“No,” said Barry Cowan on commentary as he saw the movement.
Instead of hitting the ball with the strings, Bublik tapped it down with the handle. He managed to get the ball back over the net but didn’t get it past Sonego, who sliced down the line. The shot was good enough to win the point and break for a 4-1 lead as Bublik couldn’t return.
The laughs in the crowd from the initial trick shot turned to boos as the match slipped further away from Bublik.
“What is he thinking?” said commentator Mikey Perera as Bublik sat on his chair at the changeover with a grin.
“No wonder the boos come. This is the final of an ATP 250 event. He’s one break down, now he’s two breaks down.
"He is unravelling fast. Outrageous. What is happening here? I can’t believe he’s done that.”
Sonego soon wrapped up a straight-sets win to clinch his third career title. While Bublik was widely panned on social media for attempting such a shot at a crucial moment in a final, he didn’t seem to have any regrets as he later posted a clip of the point on Instagram along with the caption ‘don’t take it too serious’.
But were the boos from the crowd merited?
Those wanting to see a close match and perhaps a third set were probably within their right not to be impressed with the shot, which very few players would attempt at any stage of a match, let alone in a final. But that’s what Bublik brings to the table sometimes. Like with Nick Kyrgios in the past, there are moments when trick shots can come across as a lack of effort. Had Bublik put it away, rather than telegraphing it so Sonego could reach it, then the crowd might well have been cheering instead of booing.
Bublik has history in this department.
In Miami earlier this year he pulled off the same shot against Casper Ruud, only this time he won the point.
Sonego, who is back into the top 50 in the world rankings after the victory, said: “I improved my tennis every day, and I’m really happy for this match and this tournament.
“It’s really tough to play against Alexander, because he is an unbelievable player with an amazing serve, good talent, and it is always tough to play him.”
“This is an emotional moment for me, because I had a tough year. Now I’m going to enjoy this.”
Bublik is one of the more colourful characters on tour.
As well as throwing in the odd trick shot he is also an exponent of the under-arm serve. He is also often outspoken - earlier this year he said the ATP were trying to put players into "cages" by enforcing stricter conduct rules.
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He gave an insight into his mindset after beating Alexander Zverev to win his first career title in Montpellier in February.
“I don’t think I’m super confident. I can beat anybody or lose to anybody. I don’t really care, to be honest with you. I’m here to make fun, make matches, live my life, you know? That’s how I live and that’s what I like to do, for now.
“For me, if I win, it’s good. If I lose it’s good as well. You probably would never see me so upset after matches. I’m always happy because I mean, that’s part of life.
“You know, if you choose this path and you play tennis, how many titles – I mean, I’m not talking about the greats – but usually, guys who were in the top five, they had maybe 20 titles over their career and they played maybe 500 tournaments. So you still lose every week. And taking life so serious I think is just for me, it’s just the wrong, wrong path. That’s how I handle things.”
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