It took two tiebreak sets in the middle of the match for the 23rd-seeded Frances Tiafoe to defeat Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan 3-6 7-6(1) 7-6(3) 6-4 despite the American suffering a barrage of aces – 25 in total – and a load of trickery from the Kazakh player to reach his first fourth round at Wimbledon.
I was very happy to get out of there, very lucky and played some good points at the end but, yeah, there is no game plan for it Frances Tiafoe
He was helped though, by a series of unforced errors on crucial points out on a packed Court No.2 to eventually triumph 3-6 7-6(1) 7-6(3) 6-4.
“It was definitely a tough one,” Tiafoe admitted. “At the end, when he was spinning in underarm serves and those antics, I was close to losing my head. I was glad I got through that. He’s a very good player, very talented. There is no game plan against that.
“Obviously you’ve just got to take care of your side of the court. It’s not easy because he can hit some crazy shots and before you know it, you’re back on serve.
“And he had a break point to serve for the fourth. I was very happy to get out of there, very lucky and played some good points at the end but, yeah, there is no game plan for it.”
But you would have thought that Tiafoe would have been aware of Bublic’s style of play having experienced it a week ago in Eastbourne where he lost to him over three sets in the first round with the Kazakh complaining bitterly at the conditions to lose the second set after winning a tight opener.
On this occasion Bublik was quick to stamp his authority on the match in the first set but then, like Eastbourne, lost his focus but unlike a week ago, he failed to get it back.
This time Tiafoe kept his concentration by brushing aside the first set and digging in deep to the second and third, twice having to break back before going on to win the second set tie-break and then the crucial one for the third.
That knocked the confidence out of the Kazakh who lost his serve early in the fourth and just avoided going down a double break. He did though get back on serve and nearly forced a third tiebreak only to drop his serve again, this time crucially whilst trying to stay in the match.