Something under the radar, the world No 8 Andrey Rublev is having a hell of a year. Along with Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, he is the only player to have won three titles in 2022.
The 24-year-old from Moscow Triumphed in Marseille, Dubai and Belgrade, and reached the semi-finals of Rotterdam and Indian Wells, taking his record to 23-5.
In an exclusive interview with The Serbian Open, Rublev discussed various topics, including what his coach Fernando Vicente is an ideal fit for, why he plays doubles sometimes, how he likes to be coached, why he considers clay-court tennis to be “the real tennis ”.
Note: This year’s event from Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarussian players about Rublev talks about the day after the interview. The world No 8 said everything he wanted to do about it at the press conference.
“I can’t allow myself to waste time and energy on the nonsense. 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 have been some glowing moments and other moments less so.
“The Covid, which was the first year that I went to Australia, was not easy. Also, I felt pressure and handled it poorly, so I was not able to perform well. From then on, things took a turn for the better and I had a great run of four tournaments. The Miami loss (to Kyrgios 6-3 6-0) was disappointing, but stuff like that happens occasionally. For me, the most important thing is to keep working and to keep the right attitude and practice in mind. ”
You have mentioned pressure. How do you deal with it
“Actually, I don’t know how to deal with it. Novak, Rafa and Roger, they are the ones with the real pressure. ”
Still, you are No 8 in the world, it’s nothing like…
“That is true, but I still feel it is the Big 3 must be feeling. Pressure is part of our job and it will always be like that. For me, the best solution is not to think about it at all. Once I start to think about it, it just adds more stress. Under different conditions of the court: sometimes it is sunny, sometimes it is windy…
“You will find pressure and every part of the sport. For instance, when you are a high-ranked player and everybody expects you to win, sometimes you get a tight point because you feel that you have to win. Or when people think that winning is easy: ‘Oh, he is Novak Djokovic, of course he is going to win the title.’ ”
Since 2013, you have been working with Fernando Vicente. What is it that you look for in a coach, what do you like about Fernando?
“I like everything about him! Compared to some of the other coaches, what he knows is real tennis, he experienced it (Vicente was world No 29 back in 2000). He knows if I am making the smart decisions on the court, which many coaches don’t.
“Apart from that, he is super humble and fun to be around. He cracks jokes all the time and has a knack for relaxing the atmosphere, taking the tension out of the room. We have a great connection on a personal level. I respect him and I listen to him. Outside the court, we are like family, which I feel is only a handful of players can say about their coaches. ”
How do you like to be coached? For instance, after a tough loss, do you like to talk it over or wait for a day?
“Whatever suits Fernando best. I am easy maintenance – I can talk after the match or I can wait a day or two. With Fernando, each time it is different. I think that’s how pissed I am. If I am very angry, then he waits. If I am not, he can be straightforward right off the bat. Like I said, it’s different each time. ”
You’ve been playing doubles here and there, usually with a Russian partner. I’m curious if you play doubles for fun, for practice, for Davis Cup preparation, that kind of thing? And the second part of the question: Earlier this year, you won the title with Marseille (Ukrainian) Denys Molchanov. Have you known him for a long time? How did that come about? And do you have a good relationship with him? This question was asked by a press conference Ana Mitrić on Tennis Majors)
“There are many (reasons) why I’m playing doubles. One of them, from, I think, the Olympic games until 2019 or 2020, I was playing with Karen (Khachanov) to prepare (for Tokyo), as much as we can to play better together. Also, (that preparation) is the Davis Cup for the same time. Then, sometimes, when I’m at a tournament and it’s not a Grand Slam — let’s say, like here — sometimes I’m playing doubles to practice, to get used to the conditions, especially if it’s grass. Let’s say my first grass tournament, I would like to have one extra match in my main match. So, in this type of situation, I play doubles. In general, sometimes I just don’t feel well with volleys or serves. If it’s one week I can play doubles just to try and work on it, to improve — it’s just a matter of practicing one thing and playing a whole other thing.
“And about Denys, I’ve known him for a long, long time because when I started my career, I was playing Futures or Challengers, and he was also playing there. There was a group of us and I was the youngest one, and they took me. So, I was there with them, practicing often. We won, actually, even before – I think 2015 – we won one challenger together. And this year, we played doubles together and we won the tournament; And I feel really, really happy for him because I know that it means a lot to him. We have a great connection and friendship, because like I said, I’ve known him since the beginning of my journey in tennis and they (him and other guys) have always taken care of me — because they were quite (a lot) older than me. They were kind to older brothers. ”
You have started playing tennis. Do you ever watch your videos yelling or biting your hand? A lot of people find it funny and they love it for you.
“Hopefully, it’s not the only thing people love about my game, haha. Yes, sometimes I watch videos and I think ‘what am I doing?’ I am trying to eradicate those things from my game. I want to be more professional and more positive on the court. I feel like that is what I am missing in order to reach the next level. ”
That’s exactly what I wanted to ask. The next step to take, especially in the Grand Slams, is what is it that you need to work on?
“The mental aspect of the game. What we just mentioned – I can’t let myself waste time and energy on the nonsense I sometimes do, it’s better to focus on the game itself and fight for the ball.
“Game-wise, there are details I need to work on. I need to develop a better so that I can get more balls in the court, slicing for instance. Some players do not play aggressively, but they give you balls that are pretty difficult to attack – sometimes, I lack those kinds of shots in my game.
“Furthermore, I need to have more confidence coming forward. There are a lot of rallies where I get a shorter ball and I don’t come to the net because I’m uncertain. Or I do 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 that way.
“Also, I need my second serve to be faster. It would be a huge advantage, since it would be hard to break. In part, that is mental as well, because in practice I hit second serve and I rarely make double faults. But in the match, when I feel pressure, sometimes I am afraid to go for it, when it is 30-30 or break point or advantage. Then I just push the ball to the starting point. I just need to say ‘just do it’. “
You’ve had success both on clay and hardcourts. On which surface do you consider yourself the best player?
“I am not sure, I have had great results on clay and hard, I have even played one last year on grass. I like indoors too, so it is a positive that I can play well on all surfaces. Still, I consider clay court tennis to be a real tennis because you need stamina and fitness, and you need to be tactically smart. On clay, if you do things the right way, usually you win. On the grass, sometimes you can do things the right way and still lose because the opponent is serving the tremendously and making a crazy return or two of the key moments. Something like that can’t happen on the clay, so I feel that on the results are more just, in a way. ”
What are your goals until the end of the year?
“I just want to fix all those things we have spoken about.”
So, no goals in terms of results?