Andrey Rublev played some of the best tennis of his career to start the 2020 season, winning his first 11 matches, including back-to-back titles in Doha and Adelaide.
“It’s amazing and it’s unbelievable,” Rublev told ATP Uncovered presented by Peugeot. “At the same time, I understand that it’s something unreal.”
The Russian came out firing from the beginning of the year, harnessing his massive baseline power to plow through opponent after opponent. The two-time Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier had long shown his potential to compete with the best in the world, but he slightly surprised himself with his incredible season-starting run, which ended with a loss against 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
“It was a little bit strange because during this pre-season, I was thinking, ‘I’m not working enough, I’m not working enough, I need to work harder, I need to work better.’ Every day it was like this. It was not enough,” Rublev said. “I was thinking, ‘What is this? If I want to be on a good level, this is not the game. I need to do something better, I need to work harder, I need to have a better attitude, I need to play smarter.’ The mood was never enough, never enough, never enough. But in the end, when I started the season, everything was good.”
Rublev earned a 38-19 record in 2019, finishing as No. 23 in the year-end FedEx ATP Rankings. But the 22-year-old was hungry for more, relentless in his pursuit of improvement. It wasn’t that he craved a certain milestone; he simply wanted to get better.
“I tried to work hard every day. I was not expecting nothing, I was not trying to think, ‘Oh, I hope I will start the season good.’ Of course I would like to start the season good, but I was not hoping, I was not expecting nothing, I was thinking like a machine, [that] I will work hard, I will try to do my best,” Rublev said. “If I lose first round, at least I know that I did my best and that’s it. If I do my best and I do third or fourth round okay, perfect, then it’s even better.”
The current World No. 14 did not lose a set at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, defeating #NextGenATP Frenchman Corentin Moutet in the final. Rublev’s third ATP Tour title left him with a decision to make.
“I remember when I won Doha, most of the members of my team were telling me to pull out, maybe it’s a better idea. But then I said, ‘Why not [play]? I’m having a bye there in Adelaide, I’m going to arrive there and still have two days. Let’s see how I feel. If I’ll be completely dead, if I feel that physically I am weak, I feel pain in some areas of my body, we have time to pull out. But at least let’s try, we never know,’” Rublev said. “I started to play better and better and in the end I won Adelaide. It’s something unreal, but of course it was amazing to start the season in this way.”
Rublev lost a set against Felix Auger-Aliassime and Daniel Evans at the Adelaide International, but he never panicked. Instead, he persevered. In the past, that might not have been the case.
“Everybody has his own problems that he needs to face and to learn how to face them strongly to grow up,” Rublev said. “I never even won two titles in one year, and now I won two titles in a row, so something is not real. I need to accept that it’s not going to be like that. That it happened is perfect, but I need to be in real life and understand that there are so many things to work on.”
The Moscow native has proven to himself and the world that he could compete — and win — on the world’s biggest stages. That is no longer in doubt.
“When I have bad days, bad weeks, how will I face them? This is now the most important thing for me,” Rublev said. “There is still a mental part. I think out of the Top 20 I am one of the weakest, so we’ll see. I am looking positively forward and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Rublev is not setting his gaze on a particular FedEx ATP Ranking goal. Instead, he’s working on his mental and physical game, and letting the effects of that pay dividends.
“You just need to be calm and positive, which is so simple and so easy. No matter what happens, be positive, do your best. It’s so simple. But this is the tough thing,” Rublev said. “The main goal for this year is every day to be mentally strong, to be mentally always positive.”