WATCH: Two games from defeat, Bublik pulled off an improbable comeback by most standards, including his own.

A born entertainer, Alexander Bublik would not play second fiddle to main event Stan Wawrinka on Monday, halting the former world No. 3’s comeback from a set down, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 to advance at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.

Bublik overcame some vintage form from the 2014 Monte Carlo champion—along with his own animus for clay-court tennis—to close out the Swiss veteran in two hours and five minutes on Court Rainier III.

All were entertained, that is, except the man himself.

“I hate clay, let’s put it this way. That’s a statement, guys. I hate this surface,” a blunt Bublik said on what is, in fact, the first day of the clay-court season. “The only thing I can say is to wish Stan a speedy recovery because if he would have been in shape, I wouldn’t be standing here. I wish the clay ends soon and we’re going onto grass. That’s the only thing I can say—nothing about the match, nothing about the performance, because there was no match from my side.”

A three-time major champion, Wawrinka famously carved himself from a perennial underdog into the Big 4’s greatest challenger by the mid-2010s, coming within a Wimbledon victory of a Career Grand Slam with triumphs in Melbourne, Paris, and New York.

Knee and foot injuries largely kept him from his brutal best in the five years since, the latter requiring multiple surgeries and sidelining him for a full 12 months.

“I thought I would be only a few weeks out,” the wild card explained before the tournament began. “It lasted a whole year with many moments of doubts. It was extremely long and tough.

“I really needed to have the willpower to come back, to have the strength to go through rehab and everything, and I'm very happy to be here now.”


I hate clay, let’s put it this way. That’s a statement, guys. I hate this surface. Alexander Bublik

Now 37, Wawrinka played his first match of the season at an ATP challenger in Marbella and acknowledged rust was a factor in his straight-sets defeat to Elias Ymer.

“I only started playing again at the end of February, so I don't have a lot of tennis under my belt. I have to go through this. My level is pretty good in practice, but of course I need to find also my game during matches. The puzzle is a bit complicated.”

Things were decidedly less complicated on the outset against Bublik who, in contrast to the former French Open champion and despite his own runner-up finish in men’s doubles last year, has never expressed great affection for clay. Quite the opposite: the 24-year-old can often be heard colorfully denigrating the surface in his native Russian.

Playing just his second clay-court match since 2020 Roland Garros, the former world No. 3 rallied from an early break to sweep the opening set with nine winners—evenly distributed across both sides—to six unforced errors, winning just under 80% of points played on Bublik’s second serve.

Smiling through his frustration, Bublik set about improving a paltry 38% first serve percentage from the first set early in the second—striking his first 10 aces of the match—and dug out of a marathon fifth game with inimitable impishness: an underarm serve into a drop shot-lob combination.


Wawrinka replied with some vintage all-court tennis to save three set points at 4-5 but a missed forehand handed Bublik a fourth opportunity two games later. The Kazakh gamely converted from there, drawing a f send the match into a final set.

Despite kicking of the decider with a pair of break point chances, errors crept ever more steadily into the Wawrinka game as Bublik broke first and won 13 of 15 points en route to a 3-0 lead.

Though Wawrinka got on the board, the hits kept coming from Bublik, who feathered a drop shot to find himself serving for the match at 5-1. In a brave last stand, the popular wild card saved a match point and broke the Kazakh from his ostensibly insurmountable lead, but overpressed on a forehand to put his young rival over the finish line.

Though the win featured 46 winners and was his first in Monte Carlo, Bublik wasn’t confident more were on the way.

“I hope I don’t stop at 10 for the next 10 years, but it’s probably very highly likely,” he said in a foreboding preview of his second-round against Pablo Carreño Busta, who defeated Sebastian Baez in three sets.

Even at his most tortured, Bublik can't help but entertain, and even if his next match is the disaster he predicts it to be, it's sure to be a hell of a show.