Former Spanish player Fernando Vicente has been voted Coach of the Year in the 2020 ATP Awards after guiding 23-year-old Andrey Rublev to a career-best breakthrough season.
The Spaniard has been working with Rublev for four years, with a front-row view to the Russian’s highs and lows: from ‘the toughest moment’ following the player’s 2018 spinal stress fracture, to his comeback and meteoric rise in 2020. Their hard work was rewarded as Rublev tore through the competition this year, winning a Tour-leading five titles and lifting his FedEx ATP Ranking to a career-high No. 8.
And for Vicente, it felt like a double victory as Rublev was also recognised with the 2020 Most Improved Player of the Year award by his ATP peers.
“These awards, both mine and Andrey’s, are just a consequence of the years of hard work and countless hours dedicated to a sport that gives us so many emotions – for better or for worse,” Vicente said, speaking exclusively to ATPTour.com. “We’ve gone through some difficult times during these last almost five years together.
“Having the recognition from his peers is something that makes him feel so happy and appreciated. They also see Andrey day to day, how hard he works and tries each day to become a better player.”
The first Spanish coach to win Coach of the Year since the award’s inception in 2016, Vicente retired from professional tennis in 2011 after a career that took him as high as World No. 29. He also won three ATP Tour singles titles and two doubles crowns. His partnership with Rublev began in 2016 when the Russian arrived at the 4Slamtennis Academy, which Vicente co-founded with fellow players Galo Blanco and Jairo Velasco, near Barcelona.
“I would say Andrey has made me a better coach,” Vicente reflected. “I’ve learned and continue to learn a lot with him. I think that on my end, he understands what I’m trying to impart on him and there’s a very good personal connection, too. If not, it would be impossible to stay together so long.”
— ATP Tour (@atptour) December 21, 2020
One of the qualities that Vicente highlights in his player is Rublev’s strong motivation and desire to continually improve as a player – something the Spaniard says makes his job “a pleasure”. It was this same quality that drove Rublev to new heights in 2020, despite the tough circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Tour’s resulting five-month stoppage.
The result was five titles from five finals for Rublev – including his first three at the ATP 500-level – a breakthrough into the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, and a debut at the Nitto ATP Finals. In addition to being the 23-year-old’s best season to date, it was also Vicente’s most successful year as a coach.
“At the end of the day, I’m the person who accompanies him and works in the best way possible to make sure that the dream he has and loves so much comes true in some way!” he said. “For me, it’s a pleasure to work with a player who is motivated all the time and works with such passion, always with the desire to keep improving.”
For Vicente, beyond the titles and accolades that Rublev achieved, the proudest moment of the season came away from the courts in the buildup to the Tour’s season-finale. Rublev was one of the last players to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in a battle that came down to the wire, and the Spaniard applauded the way his player handled himself through those pressure-filled moments.
“What I’ve been most pleased to see was Andrey’s steady mentality during the weeks where our objective was to reach the Nitto ATP Finals. Those were weeks with so much tension, and he managed to compete at a very high level.
“Of course, I’m pleased with almost everything. It was his best year in terms of [FedEx ATP] Ranking, he won the five finals he played and in general his entire game improved a lot. I would give him an ‘outstanding’ on the season.”
With a rollercoaster 2020 season in the books and a new award to adorn his trophy cabinet, Vicente made it clear that he refuses to rest on their laurels in the season to come. That same desire for continuous improvement that makes Rublev such a force on the Tour was evident as Vicente outlined his vision for 2021: to keep rising to new heights.
“We’ve been through very tough moments and now we’ve had a great year. The key is to keep working with passion and the work will bear fruit. So we have to keep going and not be satisfied, there is a lot to improve if we want to stay at this level!”
Fernando Vicente was selected as ATP Coach of the Year by fellow coaches from a shortlist that included Gilles Cervara (Daniil Medvedev), Juan Ignacio Chela (Diego Schwartzman), Nicolas Massu (Dominic Thiem), and Riccardo Piatti (Jannik Sinner).
“I don’t want to forget to give thanks to all the coaches and players who have voted for us. I know that there are many players and coaches who work equally hard or harder than us, but well, in this case Andrey had a year to remember! I wish them all the best in the upcoming season.
“I also don’t want to forget to give thanks to my wife and son for understanding what it means to be a professional tennis coach. It happens to all coaches, having to leave your wife and kids behind at home – they are the real champions! And to close, I want to thank and acknowledge all of the coaches that have been with Andrey from the start: Marina Marenko, Andrey’s mom, as well as the 4Slamtennis Academy: Galo Blanco, Abraham González, Marcos Pizzorno, Phillip Wessely and Marc Boada.” – Fernando Vicente