© Tessa Kolodny

Andrey Rublev battles into the semi-finals at the Irving Challenger.

Rublev On The Rise: Russian Teen Surging Towards Top 100

#NextGenATP discusses his recent progress as he pushes towards the Top 100

Andrey Rublev is a man on a mission. One of three surging Russian #NextGenATP stars – with Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev – Rublev is setting his sights on joining his countrymen in the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. Competing at this week’s ATP Challenger Tour event in Irving, U.S.A., he is into the semi-finals as a qualifier, reeling off an impressive six wins in five days.

The 19 year old, who is working under the tutelage of former World No. 29 Fernando Vicente, is less than two months removed from reaching his third ATP Challenger Tour final in Rennes. His run on French soil came just weeks after battling World No. 1 Andy Murray in the second round of the Australian Open. ATPWorldTour.com caught up with Rublev at the Irving Tennis Classic.

Andrey, you are at No. 134 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. How do you see your recent progress as you push towards the Top 100?
I’m trying to focus more on the things I have to do on the court. If I do that, the ranking will come. I know that if I do that, getting to the Top 100 is just a question of time. I’ve improved a lot since last year, because I changed my team and the work now is absolutely different than before. I’m improving a lot every day and it’s a good feeling. I just need to keep fighting.

How has coach Fernando Vicente helped improve your game this year?
He tries to get the maximum from me as possible to improve my game. He explains to me how I have to play with my forehand and which balls to hit. That is, which are right to hit and attack with and which balls to defend with. Also, how to use my movement and then what I have to do between the points. He tries to give me everything to be better. Before I wasn’t even thinking about these things and now I see a big improvement.

How have you developed your game since winning your first Challenger title in Quimper a year ago? If you compare me now and last year, it’s another level. I just try to keep going and we’ll see. It’s all about understanding how to play and that it’s not just about hitting the ball. It’s a tough game and if you start to understand how to play the game, you will improve and start to feel these things.

You have had some great results in Challengers recently, reaching the final in Rennes and Mouilleron le Captif and semi-finals a few weeks ago in Quimper. How is the competition at this level helping your confidence?
You start to get confidence when you win more matches. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Challengers or ATP level. It depends. You can win one match against one really good player and it gives you more than if you win a tournament and beat the guys at your level. Of course, it’s hard to play Challengers because it’s really hard to win here. The level is really high and most of the time you play good players in the first round of ATP events, but sometimes it can be first round of a Challenger. For example, here in Irving I was playing second round of qualifying against Peter Gojowczyk and last month I was playing him in the semi-finals of a Challenger. And he was just playing second round of Indian Wells last week. It’s tough when he’s just playing in the main draw of a Masters 1000 and then I have to play him in qualifying at a Challenger. You just have to go through it. That’s it.

What did you learn from facing Andy Murray at the Australian Open to start the season?
It was a great experience for me. Now I can imagine how the top players are and for sure the next match against him I will play even better. From that match I could see the way he’s defending and how he places the ball where he wants to, even if he’s not in a good position. He’s always trying to make me feel uncomfortable. And how he served in the important moments, how he served close to the lines and how he hits so close to the baseline. It’s very impressive. That’s why he’s one of the best players.

You, Karen and Daniil are doing great things for Russian tennis. How does seeing them break into the Top 100 and reach ATP World Tour finals drive you to do the same?
Well, it’s not just them. Even when I see other young players have good results, it gives you motivation and you start to think that if they win, then I also have the chance to win. That helps you push yourself.

How often do you check the Emirates ATP Race To Milan standings and does that also motivate you?
Everywhere I go, I hear a lot about playing in Milan, but first I have to qualify. If I do the right things, then I’m going to have good results and have chances to qualify for Milan. If not, then it’s ok. It’s just the first year. Of course it’s great to try something new and play a tournament between teenagers and young players. We’ll see what happens.