Rublev: 'I Have No Patience, That's Why I Need To Learn'
Russian is hitting back after injury setbacks
A loss in the first round of qualifying may not be a memorable experience for many players on the ATP Tour, but it was for Andrey Rublev in June 2019. After his lower back stress fracture, and soon after a right wrist injury, the feeling of competing far outweighed his deciding-set tie-break setback at the Noventi Open.
“You’ll come back stronger, don’t worry,” the Russian was told after his Halle experience. “You have to understand you haven’t played for a long time, you’ve been out of competition.”
Rublev gave the goodwill messages short shrift. He didn’t realise coming back to top form was a long process, until recently when he finished 2019 strong and compiled a 15-match winning streak that ended at the hands of Alexander Zverev at the Australian Open last month.
“I appreciated everything I had after the second injury,” Rublev told ATPTour.com at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament. “I didn’t play for a while and I played my first match back in Halle. I lost in the first round of qualifying, a dramatic match 7-6 in the third set [to then World No. 223 Mats Moraing]. I was up with a break. I was playing so badly. I remember after that match I was a little bit disappointed, but not as much as before.
“But I said, ‘Finally, I’m playing’. Even though I was playing badly, I enjoyed that moment. Even playing like that, I wanted to play. After that I appreciated what I had, I won one round at Wimbledon and took steps forward. Little by little. I finished the season well.
“Because I had had that moment, I realised that I was playing better than before. I did not think that at that moment, rather ‘Let’s do my best and enjoy it’. It’s only recently that I realised.”
Rublev the person is energetic, occasionally moody, but also very kind and loyal. He struggles with patience, but he is learning to take his calm exterior off the court onto a tennis court. It helped last month with back-to-back ATP Tour titles at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha and at the Adelaide International.
“I have no patience, that’s why I need to learn,” says Rublev, who has risen from No. 81 in mid-June 2019 to his current career-high of No. 15 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. “These kind of things always take a lot of patience and you have to accept that even if you don’t like it, you need to start all over again and try your best.
“You’re not going to come back stronger. Maybe it will help you later, if you get back to the same level, and maybe you can take some experience from it. But until the moment you arrive at the same level, you’re not going to be stronger. It’s a long process.”
Central to his tennis development has been Fernando Vicente, the former World No. 29 and Rublev’s coach since 2016, who, alongside Galo Blanco and Jairo Velasco, taught the 22-year-old how to be a professional. “The way I see things is the way they see things and we’re on the same wavelength,” says Rublev.
“With Fernando, it’s amazing, because I never had a coach like that before. I’m so close with everyone from my team, especially Fernando as he was with me from the beginning. It’s so tough to be with one person for 24 hours. Imagine if you spend 24 hours for three years with some of your friends, you’ll get tired. But with one or two, you’ll say, ‘He or she is so good.’
“We’ve been together almost four years and there hasn’t been one moment when I’ve been a little bit stressed, mad or tired with him. I feel that I can spend every day with him.”
Rublev realises that his 11-match winning streak at the start of 2020 was “unreal”, but it’s about how he performs and improves throughout the season that matters the most. He had dinner with his team last week, prior to flying to Rotterdam, to discuss his recent experiences, but he freely admits that his goals haven’t shifted because of one great month. It’s just shown him how mentally tough he has to be in the future.
“I want to be strong mentally every day, always positive and accept that if things aren’t going well, I still need to be positive and still do my best,” says Rublev. “If I can do this every day, then it will be my goal for the year. I may still get mad when I’m not hitting the ball as well, but if I want to improve to the next level, I have to cast the doubts aside.
“In life, it’s tough to make me mad. I’m energetic, but inside I’m calmer. On court, I’m completely different and can start to get mad or upset. When I need to compete, I show a different mad, a negative side. I need what I have in normal life, on the court. Everyone understands you need to be calm and positive to do your best, but in the end you have to be strong and smart enough.”
Rublev takes an 11-1 record on the season into his first-round Rotterdam match against Nikoloz Basilashvili on Tuesday.
Editor's Note: This story was updated 11 Feb. 5pm ET to correctly identify Adelaide as the second title Rublev won in January.