Russian tennis ace Andrey Rublev is eyeing a whopping paycheck for winning just two games at the Qatar Open in Doha after making the semi-finals without even appearing on court – but the great Roger Federer could stand in his way.
The world number eight is a couple of wins away from the $103,070 top prize despite being yet to play a single game.
As the third seed, Australian Open finalist Rublev received a bye in the first round and was set to start his title defense at the second stage of the competition.
That failed to materialize after his scheduled opponent, Frenchman Richard Gasquet, withdrew from their match, and Rublev’s subsequent meeting with Marton Fucsovics also fell through after the Hungarian pulled out citing a lower back injury.
Andrey Rublev in DohaR1: bye R2: walkover QF: walkoverAt least he played some doubles.
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) March 11, 2021
That means ATP Tour Finals winner Rublev has become the first player in tour history to reach the final four of a tournament without even hitting a ball.
As well as Rublev’s unwitting record-breaking run, the tournament has also attracted attention for the highly-anticipated comeback of former world number one Roger Federer, who has returned to action after a year-long break.
The Swiss legend did not have a walk in the park, edging past Briton Dan Evans in his comeback match.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner won the first set tie-break before losing the second 3-6. He then managed to seal victory with a late break at 6-5 in the decider.
“It feels good to be back,” Federer said afterwards. “I am happy to be standing here regardless of if I won or lost, but obviously winning feels better.
“It was a good match. Dan played a good match, too. He has been a wonderful training partner as well. Over the past two weeks, we played over 20 sets and it went on [tonight].”
Elsewhere, top seed Dominic Thiem of Austria earned revenge over Russian sensation Aslan Karatsev, who knocked him out in the fourth round of the Grand Slam last month.
Thiem inflicted a three-set turnaround defeat on the Melbourne semi-finalist, winning 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 to reach the semi-finals, where he will face fifth seed Roberto Bautista, of Spain.