But with a “nothing to lose” attitude, Rublev dominated the Briton in a 6-4, 6-2 win on Tuesday that allowed him to conserve energy during a hot week in the United States.
“To be honest, today I thought… certainly it was a tough match, but I thought most likely that I was going to lose the match,” he revealed after the win. “I had this feeling because he almost beat me in Madrid. Today I just wanted to go on the pitch to do my best and I said from the start that there was a high probability that I would lose the game.”
Draper made a lasting impression at her inaugural ATP Head2Head meeting at Mutua Madrid Open in May, when Rublev prevailed 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. But there would be no late drama in the DC Sun as Rublev controlled the second-round matchup throughout.
“In the end, I’m glad I was able to win in straight sets,” he said.
The top seed converted his seventh break point of the opening set and then secured an early break in the second. Draper scored his only two break points of the game as he struggled for an instant response, but Rublev cleaned up the errors that led to the opener as he held decisively to make it 3-1. He lost just three points on first serve in the hour and 23-minute contest, posting an 89 percent win rate (24/27).
Rublev’s respect for his opponent was evident as he remained on high alert throughout the stretch, showing his frustration at failing to extend his lead. He would eventually secure a second break to take the sting out of the competition before serving the match coolly.
When asked if his low expectations were the key to the win, Rublev wasn’t so sure. “I don’t know because sometimes I lose games when I think like that,” he said. “It’s better not to ask me. My mind is out of order,” he joked.
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The win improves Rublev to 33-11 on the season and 19-4 on hardcourts. He is aiming for his fourth title of the season (Marseille, Dubai, Belgrade), a mark that would draw him level with the Spaniards Rafael Nadal and Carlo Alcaraz for the most common of the year.
He next meets the winner of the all-American matchup between the 13th seed Maxim Cressy and jack sock. Sock fought back after two breaks in the opening set to defeat David Gofin 7-6(4), 6-4 on Tuesday.