At the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itau, Andrey Rublev was at a low point. The Russian was the No. 99 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings and he had to go through qualifying after struggling with a lower back stress fracture the year before. He wasn’t dreaming of how quickly he could climb towards the top of the sport.
“I stopped thinking how it’s going to be and what to expect, because I was doing this maybe a bit before. The previous year I was thinking, ‘Oh, if it’s going well, maybe soon I’m going to be Top 20 or soon I’m going to be even higher’. In the end, no, I was injured, [and I fell] outside of the Top 100,” Rublev said. “Since that moment, I stopped thinking how it’s going to be… I’m thinking now about what to do to be better and that’s it.
“Because of injuries and all these situations, it helped me to be completely clear.”
Two years later, Rublev is one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour and firmly inside the world’s Top 10. Perhaps what makes Rublev stand out is that no matter how many titles he wins — the 23-year-old has lifted six individual trophies since the start of last season and helped Russia to ATP Cup glory this February — he is constantly searching for ways to improve.
“I want to be better and better. It’s not about what I’m doing now or what I did. It’s about that I want to keep doing this for a long term. I want to keep being better,” Rublev told ATPTour.com last week. “I’m afraid that I’m just maybe lucky, that maybe I’m not good enough. So that’s why I want to keep working to be able to see if I can keep playing the same way, on the same level for a while.”
It is clear that Rublev’s success has not come because of luck — his 57-13 record since the start of 2020 speaks for itself. So why does the Russian fear he is not good enough?
“It’s this kind of fear that it’s not enough,” Rublev said. “Fear that I’m not going to make it or fear that I’m not going to be good enough for a while. In the end, this fear helped me to improve, and that’s why I want to improve and improve. Also maybe because… if I do one mistake, I want to repeat to make it perfect. I need to have everything perfect. This is a bit of a sick mentality, but in the end, for the moment, it [has] helped me.”
Some players have grown to fear playing Rublev, since they know it will take a tremendous effort to beat him. When Marton Fucsovics walked off Centre Court in Dubai last week following his loss against the eventual semi-finalist, he told Rublev, “I hope I don’t play you anymore this year.”
Watch Rublev Train:
Ironically, Fucsovics is the first seeded opponent Rublev could play in Miami, if they both advance to the third round. The fourth seed will try to maintain his momentum at the season’s first ATP Masters 1000 event. The World No. 8 has a big opportunity at this level this year to gain points in the FedEx ATP Rankings, as he has only reached the last eight once at a Masters 1000 tournament.
Rublev, however, is not putting extra pressure on himself.
“I cannot control if I’m going to lose [in the] second round or not. In the end, it doesn’t matter which pressure you have, you cannot control it,” Rublev said. “If you win, you’re going to win it anyway. If you lose, it doesn’t matter what you’re going to do, or how much you’re going to think about it, you’re still going to lose. In the end, it’s just [important] to try to focus on yourself, on the things that you need to improve to do your best and that’s it.”
The fourth seed will begin his run against two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren or Spaniard Pedro Martinez. No matter what happens, Rublev isn’t going to overthink his result.
“Even if I don’t do well here, I still have in a couple of weeks Monte Carlo. After Monte Carlo I have Rome, Madrid and Roland Garros. I will have chances and we’ll see,” Rublev said. “Even if I don’t do well in all of them, I still have next year, I still have the end of the year. In the end, all of us have pressure. We feel pressure. In the end, it’s a nice feeling to see how you deal with this.”