Carefree Bublik scores first Top-10 win over Monfils in Paris

Carefree Bublik scores first Top-10 win over Monfils in Paris

In the 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 upset, the 23-year-old surprisingly hit just one underhand serve and moved past an argument with the umpire, saying he's "growing up."

On Monday at Roland Garros, Alexander Bublik bundled hometown favorite Gael Monfils out of the tournament in the first round, 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. 

"Obviously playing Gael at the French Open, for me it was very emotional," Bublik said. "And this is one of probably the most important wins of my career."

It marks the 23-year-old's first-ever Top-10 win. Though normally buoyed by a loud patriotic crowd, Monfils would get the support of just a small smattering of fans. 

"I have no words to say anything, to be honest," the No. 8-seeded Frenchman said of the atmosphere. "Definitely was not a great one. Was I think the worse one 100 percent for sure that I had, but that's the condition."

Bublik is almost as famous as Monfils for his trick-shot and superhuman abilities on court, but there wasn't as much theatrics as expected across the 2.5-hour match, though there were a lot of drop shots. The level was high, yet subdued, maybe due to the lack of spectators and the presence of chilly temperatures. 

While Monfils was speechless, Bublik has quite a way with words.

"I was just hitting the ball," he said. "I came to the point where I really don't care, I just play tennis, hit the ball, whatever. If it doesn't go, doesn't go, you can't do anything."


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What was prevalent was a high amount of service breaks: 14 converted out of 40 chances. Both players are susceptible to distractions and Bublik could have gone off the rails in the second set when he got into a lengthy argument with the chair umpire over a ball mark and the shot clock. He'd go down 5-3 and pull himself together to win the next four games. Of dismissing the kerfuffle, the 6'6" Kazakh simple said he might finally be growing up and becoming a man. 

Bublik is quite famous for his love of the underhand serve though he would use it just once, on game point in the first game of the fourth set.

 

He said he doesn't put any thought into the unorthodox strategy and relies on instinct, luck and courage, while preferring the ad side as that angle suits him better. 

"A good underarm serve is very tough," he said. "I really practice," adding that it is 70 percent luck. 

The world No. 49 spares no time thinking about his opponent's feelings on the matter, focusing only on himself. Monfils had literally no reaction, while last week in Hamburg, Cristian Garin had a lot of thoughts. 

 

Bublik certainly seems very confident with himself, but he has been through his fair share of growing pains to get here. After a steady rise up the rankings throughout his young career, he experienced his first dip in 2018 to outside of the Top 250 after breaking his ankle at Indian Wells. 

The lower rungs of the pro tour do not interest him in the slightest, and that marked a turn in his perspective, not just in tennis but in life: He is absolutely not sweating the small stuff. 

"I felt like quitting tennis because I don't really want to play at [that] level," Bublik said. "And then I said OK, freak out, whatever, if it's not working, it's not working, I don't care."

He didn't quit. Instead, he made his Top-50 debut in February of this year, while making bigger headlines that same week for his proclamation that he hates tennis and only plays it for the money. 

With a guaranteed paycheck of $100,000 already in his pocket, he'll take on Lorenzo Sonego for a spot in the third round.