WATCH: Bublik was in fine form to reach the Hall of Fame Open semifinals for a second time in a row.

Alexander Bublik was first into the Hall of Fame Open semifinals on Thursday, dismissing Jason Jung, 6-2, 6-4, to reach the final four in Newport for a second consecutive staging.

The Russian-born Kazakh surged into his first final at this very tournament two years ago, and has gone on to finish runner-up thrice more on the ATP level—including two showings in 2021 alone. As the top seed, he looked far stronger than he did against an always dangerous Ivo Karlovic in his opening round and needed just 76 minutes to defeat Jung on Stadium court.

“There were a lot of positives,” he told Blair Henley after the match. “I stayed confident and focused the entire match, especially against such a tricky opponent who runs around and plays very solidly. I kept my nerves together and served well, so that definitely helped.”

Notoriously averse to practicing, the 24-year-old has a busy summer itinerary that includes a scheduled Olympic debut, but made it a point to return to the site of the International Tennis Hall of Fame and play the final grass-court event of the season.

“It was my first final here, and I wanted to get back. Besides, I’m not a big fan of practicing, so for me, another week is better than practice!”


The serve is a complete motion and you’ve got to be always precise in what you’re doing in order to hit the ball very clean. For me, I’m not doing a lot of repetition, more talking about the serve and adjusting the little things on a daily basis. Today, one thing, and tomorrow, the other. That allows the serve to be more stable than it used to be. Alexander Bublik

Bublik, who goes by Sasha, has come a long way from the No. 83 ranking he held this time two years ago, now up to a career-high of No. 37 and in range to be seeded for the upcoming US Open, where he reached the third round in 2019.

“I think it’s been like a snowball where, you’re just working, doing your stuff, and I’ve been playing some good tennis, trying to stay in the moment,” he dryly intoned at Wimbledon after reaching the round of 32 with a win over former semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov.

Winning over fans with well-timed trick shots and quotable quips, Bublik has come into his own in a post-pandemic landscape and hopes to maintain that momentum into the hard-court swing.

“Whether it’s the tennis you see on the court that I produce, or the off-the-court interviews, I’m just trying to be myself. I’m just trying not to put too much pressure, thinking who is who. I just tell jokes, sometimes, and call someone a machine or a robot,” he added in reference to the nicknames he gave Jannik Sinner back at the Miami Open.

Standing between him and a third final of 2021 will be No. 8 seed Kevin Anderson, who rallied from a set down to survive Jack Sock, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4. It will be his first meeting against the 2018 Wimbledon runner-up, but Bublik remains his own first priority.

“I’ll definitely take a look at it, but my coach and I will be talking more about myself. If I play well, it’s good and I can beat many guys,” he told Henley with a wry grin. “I’ll definitely get information about the opponent, whoever wins, but I’m more focused on myself.”


Casper Ruud advanced into his sixth clay-court quarterfinal of 2021 in Båstad (Getty Images).

Casper Ruud advanced into his sixth clay-court quarterfinal of 2021 in Båstad (Getty Images).

Ruud halts Rune in Båstad blitz

While Bublik thrived on grass, Casper Ruud continued playing to his own strengths at the Nordea Open in Bastad, dropping just two games to defeat Holger Rune, 6-0, 6-2, and reach his eighth quarterfinal of the season.

Of those eight, six have come on clay and include semifinal runs in both Madrid and Monte Carlo, where he defeated Rune in similarly emphatic fashion. Advancing after just 65 minutes on Center Court, the 22-year-old Norwegian is just one of two seeds left in the draw, as No. 2 seed Cristian Garin also triumphed over Pedro Martinez in his opening round.

Ruud was on many a shortlist for Roland Garros success only to take a heartbreaking five-set loss to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who went on to reach the quarterfinals. Bowing out in another epic match to Jordan Thompson at Wimbledon, the top seed showed why clay will likely remain his most successful surface on Thursday, dropping just four points behind his first serve while converting five of six break point opportunities.

Up next for Ruud is Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen, who dispatched Swedish wild card Elias Ymer in straight sets to reach his first quarterfinal since 2019.

Around the Grounds…

No. 3 seed Fabio Fognini played a near-perfect second set in Bastad but ultimately bowed out to Spainiard Roberto Carballés Baena, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4. Carballés Baena has already reached two ATP quarterfinals this season—both on clay—and will next face Norbert Gombos after the Slovak upset No. 8 seed Emil Ruusuvuori in straight sets.

At the Hamburg European Open, the seeds enjoyed far more success as No. 2 seed Pablo Carreño Busta, No. 4 seed Albert Ramos-Viñolas, and No. 5 seed Dusan Lajovic all edged into the quarterfinals. Lajovic was the only one of the three to even drop a set, but nonetheless navigated past Alex Molcan, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-3.