Most elite athletes exude great confidence, their self-esteem—justified or not—serves as a source of inspiration to achieve what seemed impossible.
Andrey Rublev is different. For any fan who has seen the 26-year-old’s affable demeanor, this will come as no surprise. But Rublev also has his own hallmark on the court.
This season, when he won his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo, he fought back from 1-4, 0/30 down in the third set to defeat Holger Rune in the final. What was going through his head when he saw the Dane so far away?
“That it was over,” Rublev acknowledged to the ATP Tour camera at the beginning of this season. “That it was over, but at least I would try to play, not give up. You never know, maybe an opportunity to come back will arise and maybe you’ll get lucky and make it.”
In the end, Rublev found a way, although luck had nothing to do with it. After two previous defeats in ATP Masters 1000 finals, his victory on the clay court in Monaco brought tears to his eyes after winning the coveted trophy.
And the title had an added meaning, after his recent team changes. While Fernando Vicente, Rublev’s main coach since 2016, maintained his role, there was a major reorganization to deal with this season.
“At the beginning of the year, I felt like I was doing things well in training. But he didn’t win big things, so he kept having strange feelings,” Rublev warned about his new staff in a recent interview with ATPTour.com.
“And Monte Carlo gave me confidence that the job I was doing was the right one. Then a few results later and Shanghai [llegó a la final] They confirmed that the team I have, the training I do, is the path I was looking for and I have to do it with even more confidence.”
Rublev has proven many times that he can defeat the best in the world. He has 23 wins against Top 10 players, including the win against current world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. In November at the Rolex Paris Masters, he came close to beating the Serbian for the second time, but narrowly lost in a high-quality semi-final duel.
“Rublev choked me like a snake chokes a frog for most of the match,” Djokovic confessed after his dramatic 5-7, 7-6(3), 7-5 victory. “He played at the very high level that he has, but today he was unleashed, honestly. I don’t think he would have faced such a good Rublev before.”
Before that match, when asked what it would take to defeat the Serbian at the Nitto ATP Finals, he maintained his humble outlook.
“I need to play my best game and for him to play his worst,” he said, after repeating the same answer when asked an identical question in front of Carlos Alcaraz.
There is no doubt that Rublev will have to give it his all in his fourth appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he will be one of the champions who meet among the top eight on the ATP Tour. But beyond his low expectations, he is prepared to face what could be the biggest title of his career to date.
“That takes the pressure off me,” Rublev said. “It is clear, if I play with Djokovic or Alcaraz, I will give everything to try to compete against them and have the opportunity to win. But it is very difficult, and they are better than me and have proven it for many years. So we’ll see. To do this I need to play my best tennis.”
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That was exactly what Rublev did last season in Turin, when he reached the semifinals by coming back from a set down to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas in an all-or-nothing match. As in the final in Monte Carlo, Rublev was overwhelmed by a strong start from his rival and left little room for hope. But he didn’t stop fighting and that attitude gave him another of the biggest victories of his career.
“It was a great moment to be in the semifinals in one of the best tennis tournaments,” he said a year later. “Being a part of it was special. I remember when I won, the emotions were incredible.”
But instead of letting the memories feed his ego, Rublev downplays them by pointing out how he was feeling after the victory.
“It’s not going to happen often,” he said of the possibility of another big performance in Turin. “It is clear that I will do everything to be able to feel that sensation again. But we will see.”
“There are the best players in the world. “Everyone wants to win and everyone plays amazing.”