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World No. 8 Andrey Rublev says he plays tennis like he plays chess, “take a Queen, or a forehand in tennis, and dictate”. It’s helped him get off to another strong start in 2021.

Ahead of his second appearance at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the chess fan said, “Chess can help tennis, maybe strategy wise. It gives you more patience, but I play chess like I play tennis. I try and take a Queen, or a forehand in tennis, and dictate. I prepare to attack.”

Only time will tell if the Russian can capture his fifth straight ATP 500 tournament crown this week at the Aviation Club in Dubai. Last year’s quarter-finalist expects the conditions to be tricky once again for his aggressive game.

“It’s always tough conditions to play here as the balls fly and it doesn’t suit my game style,” said Rublev. “It will be a great challenge for me, as I will need to find other ways to play matches.”

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Rublev, who picked up five ATP Tour titles in 2020, has gotten off to a 13-2 start this year. Last month, he joined Daniil Medvedev, Aslan Karatsev and captain Evgeny Donskoy to help Russia capture the ATP Cup crown (d. Italy) and he also reached the Australian Open quarter-finals (l. to Medvedev). Earlier this month, he captured the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament trophy (d. Fucsovics).

“It’s tough to know what you need to do to produce good results,” admitted Rublev. “I’ve focused on myself to accept the things that I can’t change and do the best I can [each] today. This is the direction I am moving in and what has helped me. It also helped me to be better mentally.

“I feel like I am doing some things better than last year… I’ve always worked hard, it’s been a long journey of improvement. No one has ever told me to work or [needed] to motivate me. I was always doing things at 100 per cent and enjoying it. I then had some injuries [lower back stress fracture and right wrist] and stressful problems off the courts.”

“Little by little, things began to fix themselves. I knew I needed to focus on myself, be in the moment and just play tournaments. In the end, the puzzle came together and from last year, I have started to play better and better.”

Rublev, the second seed in Dubai, will face Australia’s Jordan Thompson or Finnish qualifier Emil Ruusuvuori in his opening match.


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