Novak Djokovic vs. Andrey Rublev Preview, Odds and Pick: Rublev Capable of Pushing Djoker
Credit: Clive Brunskill, Getty. Andrey Rublev hits a forehand against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Novak Djokovic vs. Andrey Rublev
|Time||Wednesday, 8 a.m. ET|
|Head-to-Head Record: 0-0|
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook. For tips on watching tennis matches, click here.
The second round of matches for the green group will get underway on Wednesday as Novak Djokovic faces Andrey Rublev.
It will be the first meeting between the pair of top five players, and each has a chance to put themselves in pole position to win the group.
Both Djokovic and Rublev won their opening matches — against Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas, respectively — and they did so in straight sets.
Read on to see the key factors impacting each player as they head into the pivotal group stage match and my best bet for the contest.
Djokovic Firing Upon Return to Tour
There were questions surrounding how the world number one would look in his return to the tour after a lengthy post-US Open break, but those questions have been more than answered.
On a slow Paris Masters court, Djokovic was able to get through some tough competition that included Daniil Medvedev, Hubert Hurkacz and an in-form Taylor Fritz to raise the crown. On the lightning fast court at the ATP Finals, Djokovic has already adapted well, beating a solid Ruud in straight sets while showcasing some of his trademark defense.
Resolute in defence ✨@DjokerNole#NittoATPFinalspic.twitter.com/NXBGY0OKQI
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) November 15, 2021
Though he hasn’t faced Rublev before, the Russian doesn’t pose a major threat to the general game style that Djokovic plays. The year-end and world number one is obviously an all-around superstar, but there’s nothing that Djokovic does that is better than his return ability.
Against a player in Rublev that can struggle with a modest second serve at times, Djokovic should excel in return games and be able to put an immense amount of stress on Rublev. Breaking Djokovic isn’t impossible, but when he’s serving as he did against Ruud, it is.
Djokovic hit 10 aces, zero double faults and converted 91% of the points behind a first serve that he made 75% of the time. If he serves in that manner again, he’ll give Rublev a finite amount of chances at cracking his serve.
Rublev Looking to Follow-Up Immense Tsitsipas Win
The world number five’s win against the Greek was more important than the purpose it had in securing a group stage victory.
Rublev had lost four-of-five matches in the lead-up to the year-end finals, but he found a key performance against Tsitsipas. Even more important, Rublev looked to be hitting the ball with extreme confidence, something he hasn’t done in months.
Another key component to Rublev’s performance on Monday was his serving, which is one of the few limitations to his game. When struggling on his first serve, he can find it extremely difficult to get easy holds, particularly against excellent pace-absorbing returners.
If Rublev can serve in the manner that he did against Tsitsipas, he’ll actually be capable of contending with Djokovic. His first serve and first ball will be crucial, just as it was against Tsitsipas, but the proof of his possible success is in the pudding.
Against Tsitsipas, Rublev was able to convert on 90% of his first serve points (with a 68% first serve rate). That’s the best percentage of points won behind his first serve since beating Feliciano Lopez with a 93% clip… in February.
Just as I did in Djokovic’s first match with Ruud, I have to begrudgingly bet against the world number one.
Considering Rublev has struggled in the past with elite players that have world class backhands (Medvedev, Zverev), this is a risky selection, but I feel that this iteration of Rublev is one that can rise to the occasion and perform well against anyone.
If the Russian can keep Djokovic off of his second serve, this is a surface that is perfect for the matchup, and if Rublev’s ball-striking is at the level that it was against Tsitsipas, he can thrive in forehand-to-forehand rallies.
Back Rublev to surprise many in this contest.
Rublev to Win a Set +120
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