When we look around the upper echelons of the game, no one has made more strides among the men this year than the industrious Andrey Rublev. The Russian has just turned 23, and this deeply dedicated individual is playing the finest tennis of his life. He has captured four tournaments during an abbreviated 2020 campaign, a feat matched only by Novak Djokovic. He has displayed a consistency that heretofore was beyond his grasp. His sense of self, how far he has come, and where he may be headed is strikingly apparent to all seasoned observers who have followed the flight of his career.
Rublev just might be in the process of gradually surpassing Daniil Medvedev as the best player in Russia. Rublev strikes as a slightly more stable competitor than his more accomplished countryman, a better ball-striker off the forehand, probably a superior all-surface player, and clearly more sure of himself at the moment.
He took the ATP 500 title in Hamburg on red clay, succeeding in a spellbinding final-round duel with Stefanos Tsitsipas. Trailing 3-5 in the third set against the Greek stylist, Rublev captured four clutch games in a row. Tsitsipas served for the match at 5-4 in the final set, but Rublev ran out the match, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, to claim his first ATP 500 title.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Rublev said afterwards. “I realized it only when they called double fault [on match point.] A few seconds later I started to realize it was over and I won. I am so happy. “I was going on court with no fear. The match was such a thriller. In the third set he was twice up a break. I was a bit lucky at 5-4 when I broke back. I think that was a little bit mental. I think Stefanos got a little disappointed inside that he didn’t make it, and then at the end everything was so fast and I won.”
Now, Rublev has won two of his last three tournaments, and for the first time in his career he is ranked in the Top 10 at No. 8. His latest triumph in St. Petersburg was a prime example of the progress he has made. He recovered from a set down to oust Denis Shapovalov in the semifinals and then fought back from 2-5 down in the first set tie-break to overcome Borna Coric in a well-played final. Coric was unlucky to lose the last five points of that tie-break and eventually fall 7-6 (5), 6-4, but Rublev displayed remarkable aggression, excellent serving and magnificent defense to get the job done. Rublev should be able to make his debut in London at the Nitto ATP Finals. That would be more than he could ever have envisioned when the year began.
Be that as it may, whether Rublev makes it to London or not, he has set himself up for a career-changing year in 2021. He has a chance to reach the Top 5 next season, to perhaps reach a final at a major, and to make his presence known increasingly and persuasively in the sport’s upper regions. That would be befitting for a player who has worked so hard and steadily at his craft.
Surely Andrey Rublev is one top players to look out for in the future!