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Red-hot Rublev keeps calm to carry on

  • Alex Sharp

In most interviews or social media clips, Andrey Rublev can be seen with a mischievous grin. 

Off-court, the world No.6 doesn't take himself too seriously, messing around to stir up the repetitive nature of the tennis lifestyle.   

"I guess sometimes I'm feeling bored with the ATP, with some of the games that they are doing," said the 25-year-old, tongue-in-cheek.   

"So I'm behaving sometimes not maybe 'nice' or something, and in the end they use it in a funny way. In the end, everyone is laughing. That's the most important thing. 

"So sometimes you just answer in a different way just to, I don't know, to put (flip) a coin."  

Rublev has worked on relaxing off court to balance his on-court demeanor (Getty Images)

That's the key for the No.5 seed, constantly seeking calm or enjoyment in the fierce gauntlet of Grand Slam tennis. 

"Relief" and "confidence" have been the buzz words from a morale-boosting opening week in Melbourne. 

MORE: AO 2023 men's singles draw

Rublev arrived in Melbourne following two first hurdle exits in Adelaide tournaments. Fast-forward to Saturday, and he's now dispatched former finalist Dominic Thiem, upcomer Emil Ruusuvouri and top-30 talent Dan Evans with consummate ease.  

So far, it's all smiles from Andrey.

"Match by match I'm playing better. I'm feeling better, which is good. Game-wise, physical-wise I'm feeling also good because the beginning of the season wasn't good," mused Rublev.   

"I lost two matches against two players straightaway, and when I arrive here, I lost a bit confidence. So I didn't know how it's gonna be." 

Facing world No.30 Evans on Saturday, Rublev scorched 10 aces, 60 winners and dominated the Brit with 19 of 25 successful forays to the net.   

Evans was mightily impressed. 

"I think he's one of the highest seeds left. Obviously, I was hanging around to try and hopefully he would blow up a bit, but he didn't today," explained the Brit.  

"If he plays like that and sticks to that, he has a decent chance. He has a nice bit of the draw."  

Rublev is doing "nothing special" away from his usual routines, determined not to get distracted by looking too far ahead. 

He's mastered the opening weeks of Grand Slams, but is still seeking his major breakthrough beyond quarterfinals.  

"There were some moments before when I feel there is opportunity to go to semis or even final maybe, and in the end, nothing happened," admitted the fifth seed.  

"So, this time I just don't want to even try to think about opportunity or something. I have next match, and I will try to do my best. If not, nothing happen, I go home, practice and prepare for the next tournaments. It's just beginning of the season."  

It's become a persistent line of questioning for the 25-year-old, why he hasn't unlocked a late spot on the Grand Slam stage. It's obvious to him. 

"It's mental part. That's it. Because the game-wise, I think I have a good game to fight against top players, to play and compete," stated the AO 2021 quarterfinalist.  

"Sometimes I want it too badly, and then I cannot control myself. In the end, at this level it's all about mental. The top players, they are better at the moment in these things." 

Rublev will need his ruthless current form and plenty of mental fortitude to find a way past No.9 seed and teenage prodigy Holger Rune on Monday.   

The Dane dispatched Rublev 6-4 7-5 at the Paris Masters en route to lifting the Masters 1000 trophy.   

Rune beat Rublev last time, but the Russian says the pressure is on the Dane on Monday (Getty Images)

"He's a young guy, super talented. He have nothing to lose for the moment, because he was just going from underdog position all the time," added the world No.6.  

"But this year, we'll see. It's going to be challenging for him, and I have nothing to lose against him next time. He was the one who won our first match, so he will feel a bit pressure that he would like to win again. 

"I just need to go there, to do my best, and we'll see."