Rublev wins in Dubai, joins criticism of ranking system

DUBAI (AFP) – Andrey Rublev has added his voice to criticism of the current ATP ranking system with the Russian world eighth suggesting after winning his opening match in Dubai on Tuesday night that it does not work in his favour.

Alexander Zverev, the German world number seven, recently described the revised system as “absurd” because he is ranked lower than Roger Federer even though the Swiss missed an entire year due to knee surgery.

The system was introduced to protect players who are unable to travel and compete because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While players can add points to their tally, they do not drop the points accumulated from the previous season.

“If we would have the normal system, I would be like fourth in the world I think. So what do you think is better for me, to be eighth or fourth?” said Rublev when asked if he agreed with Zverev’s statements.

“With the system that we’re having now, for me, it’s much tougher to be fourth, so here is the answer.”

Rublev extended his winning streak at 500-level tournaments to 21 matches after he beat Finnish qualifier Emil Ruusuvuori 6-4, 6-4 in the second round in Dubai.

The second-seeded Russian, who has won his last four events at this level dating back to Hamburg last September, will next tackle American 15th seed Taylor Fritz in the last-16 stage.

Meanwhile, reigning US Open champion and Dubai top seed Dominic Thiem crashed out of the tournament to a rock-solid Lloyd Harris, who earned the first top-10 win of his career with a 6-3, 6-4 result against the Austrian.

The South African qualifier, who recorded his maiden top-20 victory last week over Stan Wawrinka in Doha, continues to hit new heights in the Middle East as he set up a third-round meeting with Serbian 14th seed Filip Krajinovic.

The 81st-ranked was unstoppable on serve, dropping just one point behind his first serve throughout the 72-minute encounter.

Thiem will skip the upcoming Miami Open and said he needs some time to “regroup” ahead of the clay swing in April.

“I just need to reset myself a little bit to really go fresh into the clay season. Obviously right now I’m in a tough period and just it wouldn’t be the right thing to go to Miami,” explained the world fourth-ranked.

“Just make a little reset, regroup and hopefully have a good clay season. After these tough weeks, that’s my main goal now.

“Right now I’m not in the greatest shape in any way.”

Canadian third seed Denis Shapovalov said he plans to compete in fewer tournaments this season if the tennis tour continues to operate under strict coronavirus bubble conditions for players.

Shapovalov, who enjoyed a winning debut in Dubai thanks to a 6-1, 6-3 second-round success over Jan-Lennard Struff, said being confined to a hotel room at every tournament due to COVID-19 restrictions can take a mental toll on players.

“I definitely don’t want to play too much this year if it’s going to be a bubble life because it is extremely difficult mentally to be locked up like this,” the 21-year-old said.