Somewhat under the radar, scientist No. 8 Andrei Rublev suffers from one hell of a year. Along with Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, he is the only player to win three titles in 2022.
The 24-year-old has triumphed in Marseille, Dubai and Belgrade, and reached the semi-finals in Rotterdam and Indian Wells, taking his record this season to 23-5.
In an exclusive interview during the Serbia Open, Rublev discussed various topics, including what makes his coach Fernando Vicente a perfect fit, why he sometimes plays doubles, how he likes to be trained, and why clay court is considered “real tennis”.
Note: The interview was conducted the day after Rublev spoke about Wimbledon’s decision to ban players from Russia and Belarus from this year’s event. The number 8 in the world said all he wanted about it at that press conference.
“I can’t allow myself to waste time and energy on the bullshit I do sometimes, it’s better to focus on the game itself and fight for every ball.”
How would you sum up your season so far? There were some glowing moments and others less so.
“It was a tough start to the year because I went to Australia right after I contracted Covid, which wasn’t easy. Also, I felt pressure and dealt with it badly, so I couldn’t do well. Since then, things have gone for the better and I’ve had four championships in a row. Miami’s loss (to Kyrgios 6-3, 6-0) was disappointing, but such things happen sometimes. For me, the most important thing is to keep working and maintain the right attitude and mood in practice.”
You mentioned pressure. How do you deal with that?
“Actually, I don’t know how to deal with it. Perhaps it would be better if I asked this question to Novak, Rafa and Roger, they are the ones who have the real pressure.”
With that being said, you’re number 8 in the world, it’s not like it’s nothing…
“That’s right, but I still feel like it can’t be compared to what the Big Three feel. Stress is part of our job and always will be. For me, the best solution is to not think about it at all. Once I start thinking about it, it just adds more We have to accept it as we accept the different conditions on the playground: sometimes it’s sunny, sometimes it’s windy…
“You will find stress in every part of this sport. For example, when you are a higher ranked player and everyone expects you to win, sometimes you stress at a crucial point because you feel you have to win. Or when people think winning is easy: ‘Oh, it’s Novak Djokovic, of course he will win the title.”
Since 2013, you have been working with Fernando Vicente. What do you look for in a coach, what do you like in Fernando?
“I love everything about him! Compared to some of the other coaches, he knows what real tennis is, he’s tested it (Vicente was world number 29 in 2000). He knows if I make smart decisions on the court, which not many coaches see.” .
“Aside from that, he’s very down-to-earth and fun to be around. He cracks jokes all the time and has a knack for calming the atmosphere, taking tension out of the room. We have a great connection on a personal level. I respect him and listen to him. Off the court, we’re like family, which I feel like Only a handful of players can say it about their coaches.”
How do you like to be a coach? For example, after a heavy loss, do you like to talk about it right away or wait a day?
“Everything fits Fernando. I’m easy to maintain – I can talk after the game or wait a day or two. With Fernando, it’s different every time. I think he first sees how angry I am. If you’re really angry, he’s waiting. If I’m not, he can be straightforward. Like I said, it’s different every time.”
You’d play doubles here and there, usually with a Russian partner. I’m curious if you play doubles for fun, training, preparing for the Davis Cup, that kind of thing? And the second part of the question: Earlier this year, I won the title in Marseille with (Ukrainian) Denis Molchanov. Do you know him for a long time? How can this be achieved? And do you have a good relationship with him? (This question was asked at a press conference by Anna Metric On behalf of the Tennis Majors)
“There are many (reasons) for me to play doubles. One of them, I think, from 2019 or 2020 until the Olympics, I was playing with Karen (Khachanov) to prepare (for Tokyo), as much as we can to play better together. Also (that preparing) at the same time for the Davis Cup.Then, sometimes, when I’m in a tournament and not a Grand Slam—let’s say, like here—sometimes I play doubles to practice, and get a feel for the conditions, especially if it’s turf. Let’s say the first My herbal tournament, I’d like to have an extra match before my main singles match. So, in this kind of situation I play doubles. In general, sometimes I might not feel good with the balls or hits. If there’s one week I can To play doubles just to try to work on it, to improve it—because playing in practice is one thing and another whole thing is playing in the game.
“And about Dennis, I’ve known him for a very long time because when I started my career, when I was playing Futures or Challengers, he was playing there too. There was a group of us and I was the youngest of them, they took me with them. So, I was there with them, and I play sports a lot. We won. “Actually, even before – I think 2015 – we won one tournament together. And this year we played doubles together and we won the championship; and I feel really happy for him because I know it means a lot to him. We have a great relationship and friendship, because like I said, I know him.” From the beginning of my tennis journey they (he and the other guys) always cared about me – because they were (much) older than me. They were kind of like my older brothers.”
I’ve been emotional on the court ever since I started playing tennis. Have you ever watched your videos screaming or biting your hand? Lots of people find it funny and they like you for it.
“Hopefully that’s not the only thing people like about my game, haha. Yeah, sometimes I watch videos and think ‘what do I do?’ I try to eliminate these things from my game. I want to become more professional and positive on the court. I feel that’s what I miss him in order to reach the next level.”
This is exactly what I wanted to ask you about. In order to take the next step, especially in the major leagues, what do you need to work on?
“The mental side of the game. What we just mentioned – I can’t allow myself to waste time and energy on the bullshit I do sometimes, it’s better to focus on the game itself and fight for every ball.
“Game-wise, there are details that I need to work on. I need to develop a better feel so I can get more balls back on the court, for example. Some players don’t play hard, but they give you balls that are harder to attack – sometimes, I lack those Types of shots in my game.
“Besides, I need more confidence in the future. There are a lot of pools where I get a shorter ball and don’t put it in the net because I’m not sure. Or I come, but you can see I don’t feel comfortable. I need to break that barrier in My head because I feel I can get more points this way.
“Also, I need my second serve to be faster. It would be a huge advantage, because it would be difficult to break it. Partly, that’s my mind as well, because in practice I hit the second serve hard and I rarely double-fault. But in the match, when I feel pressure, Sometimes I’m afraid to go for it, especially when it’s a 30-30 or break point or advantage. Then I push the ball to start the point. I want to tell myself ‘Just do it.'”
It has had success on both clay and hard courts. On which side do you consider yourself the best player?
“I’m not sure, since I did great results on clay and hard, I played only one final on grass last year. I love playing indoors too, so it’s a positive that I can play well on all surfaces. However, I consider tennis on the Clay is the real tennis because you need stamina and fitness, you have to be tactically smart. On the mud, if you do things the right way, you usually win. On the grass, sometimes you can do things the right way and still lose because The opponent is sending massive and coming back insanely or two at the crucial moments. Something like that can’t happen on clay, so I feel the results on clay are somehow fairer.”
What are your goals until the end of the year?
“I just want to fix all those things we talked about.”
So, no goals in terms of results?