By John Delong
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Aug. 14, 2017) – Andrey Rublev has long been known as one of several up-and-coming young Russians on the ATP World Tour.
But now, he’s more than just one of the gang.
The 19-year-old from Moscow served notice last month by winning his first career ATP World Tour singles title at Umag, getting into the tournament as a lucky loser and then storming through the draw.
The title vaulted him into the Top 50 briefly, and as he is ranked No. 55 as he prepares to come to Winston-Salem for next week’s Winston-Salem Open. He is fifth in the Race to Milan standings to determine the participants in the first-ever #NextGen ATP Finals.
Rublev says he is not focused on numbers so much as on continuing to improve, and he uses his success at Umag as the perfect example. Had fellow #NextGen standout Borna Coric not withdrawn with injury and allowed him to get into the Main Draw as a lucky loser, then he would still be looking for his first title.
“I’m just trying to do my job, trying to give my best every day,” Rublev said. “Trying to be more stable, trying to improve the things that I need to work on. I’m not trying to think about if I am having a good season or a bad season, because you can see as you can see, I lost in qualies and it should have been a bad week, and now everything is perfect. It’s not really good to think about if it’s a good season or bad season, because everything can change so fast. You can win one day and lose the next day. So the main thing for me is to do my best every day.”
Rublev was ranked No. 95 at the sign-up deadline for players for the Winston-Salem Open, which was below the cutoff for a spot in the Main Draw. But he will try to come through qualifying and get one of the four available spots, or it’s possible he could also get in as a last-minute wildcard.
He has been on the rise ever since winning the French Open junior title in 2014 and has won four Futures and one Challenger title in the time since. Before this year, his biggest moment on the ATP World Tour stage came when he won the doubles title at the 2015 Kremlin Cup along with Dmitry Tursunov.
He started 2017 by reaching the finals of a Challenger event in Rennes, then made semifinals of Challenger events in Quimper and Dallas. Then came a trip to the quarterfinals at Halle, followed by the surprising title at Umag when he beat Fabio Fognini, Ivan Dodig and Carlos Berlocq along the way and then beat Paolo Lorenzi in the finals.
He says that his game in general has continued to improve as he gets physically stronger and mentally more experienced. He is currently listed at 6-2 and 150 pounds.
“We were working really hard on my physique, to allow me to play much longer at the same level and at the same intensity,” Rublev said. “I think I’ve improved a little physically, and now I can play a little bit longer. But still there is a long way to go. Before, I used to play without sense and just hit the ball. Now I’ve started to understand more or less where you have to play, where are the better positions. Those things are really important in tennis.”
Rublev is one of three Russians who are in line to make the #NextGen ATP Finals in Milan in November, along with Karen Krachanov and Daniil Medvedev, and he is very proud of all their accomplishments.
“It’s something amazing,” Rublev said. “I’ve known Medvedev since we were maybe six or seven years old. Karen since maybe eight or nine years old. We were always playing the same tournaments and on the same team. They were a little bit older than me and they were always a little higher ranked than me, and I was always the third one on the team. So we were always together, and it’s amazing. And now all three of us are in the top 50 and we’ll see how things will turn out.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Winston-Salem Open has showcased great up-and-coming players throughout its history from Kei Nishikori to Grigor Dimitrov to Jack Sock to David Goffin. The trend is sure to continue this year with a large group of #NextGen players jockeying for position in the ATP World Tour’s Race to Milan. This is the ninth and last in a series featuring #NextGen players who could be on hand for the seventh-annual WSO Aug. 19-26.