AO Spotlight: Andrey Rublev

  • Matt Trollope

No player won more matches or titles on the ATP Tour in 2020 than Andrey Rublev.

The young Russian debuted at last month's ATP Finals with a career-best ranking of No.8, and will now look to replicate his ATP-level dominance at the Grand Slams – beginning at Australian Open 2021.

On court

Not that Slam success has eluded Rublev; in 2017, aged 19, he became the youngest player since 2001 to advance to the US Open quarterfinals.

This year he reached the second week at all three majors, following his fourth-round run at AO 2020 with quarterfinal finishes at the US and French Opens, after which he cracked the top 10.

But he was stopped each time by contemporaries – Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas – in straight sets. 

"Inside I was feeling … a little bit happy that finally I'm here, I'm playing, I'm enjoying. From that time I start to play better and better every week.”
Andrey Rublev

On the ATP Tour, Rublev thrived. He won his first two tournaments of the year in Doha and Adelaide, and following a second-round loss in Rome won 20 of his next 21 matches, a run delivering titles in Hamburg, St Petersburg and Vienna.

These results prompted The Tennis Podcast to consider the Russian a candidate for Player of the Year, while The Guardian’s Tumaini Carayol described him more specifically as “breakthrough player of the year”. 

Notable stat

Rublev opened 2020 by winning his first 11 sets – until Dan Evans won the second set of their Adelaide quarterfinal – and 11 straight matches before Zverev handed him his first loss of the year in the AO 2020 fourth round.

Off court

In between his breakout 2017 results and stunning 2020 season, Rublev struggled with injuries; a stress fracture in his back confined him to his home, and limited his activity, in mid-2018.

He has since discussed his struggles with depression stemming from this. “Mentally … I was not on the court, not on the practices, I was somewhere else,” he reflected. 

Rublev is the youngest of a trio of rising Russians – the others being Medvedev and Karen Khachanov – who are all great friends from their junior days.

Medvedev revealed he ribs Rublev for his likeness to Italian young gun Jannik Sinner, to which an enraged Rublev once responded: “you are Davydenko then!”

Rublev, a basketball fan, supports the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and also loves boxing, no doubt a passion inherited from his father, a former professional boxer also named Andrey.

Rublev Jr. also loves music – even once appearing in a One Direction cover band

X-factor

But tennis is his primary passion.

This is obvious from his social channels, where the majority of posts show him training, playing and, increasingly, winning. 

This relentless dedication and focus shines through when he competes; he launches himself into shots, plays at an incredibly high intensity and emits plenty of emotion. 

At the same time, he is competing with a better appreciation for the game, perspective he gained after a wrist injury in 2019.

These elements have combined to boost him on court and in the rankings.

He said…

“After the wrist injury, I start to see some things little bit different in tennis. (Coming back) in the beginning was even worse (than the back injury). Actually I lost my first match, it was in Halle, I was 7-6 in the third. (But) inside I was feeling … a little bit happy that finally I'm here, I'm playing, I'm enjoying. From that time I start to play better and better every week.”

Experts are saying…

“I’ve actually practised with him a lot. I get on well with him. Unbelievable power. Huge hitter. And he hits the ball at that pace from the first ball of every practice session. It’s just constant, going for every single shot, he’s got great intensity. He loves the game.”
- Andy Murray