Rublev: ‘I was Rushing, Overthinking’
Russian reflects on the mental challenges of his first meeting with Djokovic
Rublev opened his Nitto ATP Finals campaign with an impressive 6-4, 6-4 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas on Monday. But despite recording an early break of serve, the World No. 5 found himself increasingly outpaced by Djokovic, who finished the match with flair to win the Green Group.
“I don’t know how nervous I was because I was not thinking about it. Today was still a lot of emotions and I could feel it during the rallies,” Rublev said.
“Because it looks like everything is fine, it looks like I’m playing some good rallies, but then suddenly I’m making so many unusual mistakes, easy, from positions that normally I’m playing well and hitting hard from. Today I was missing a lot… It means I was rushing too much today.”
Djokovic’s relentless defence was on full display at the Pala Alpitour on Wednesday, with Rublev frequently pulling the trigger too early in rallies throughout the 68-minute match.
“I was rushing a bit, overthinking a bit,” Rublev admitted. “Because every time I was thinking ‘OK, now I have a chance to attack, now I have a chance to lead the point’. You think through the next two, three, four shots and then in the end you don’t even make this one, you know? And normally you just shoot and you don’t think.”
Rublev counts wins over Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Roger Federer among the 13 Top 10 victories of his career so far. But curiously, both his previous matches against players ranked World No. 1 – against Andy Murray at the 2017 Australian Open and Nadal at the US Open the same year – have seen him net just five games, the same number he won against Djokovic today.
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“This is normal, I have to pass through this experience. I’ve been through this when I was playing my first meeting against Andy, against Rafa, and it always takes time,” Rublev said.
“You need to play a couple of matches like this to feel your opponent and feel that you can compete with the best players. It takes time… Now is the time to take a lesson from this match and to give my best for the next match.”
The mental and emotional challenges Rublev will face in his next match should be of a different order. Friday’s opponent Casper Ruud is a player against whom Rublev has every reason to feel confident – the Russian has won all four of their previous meetings. But with a place in the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals on the line, the stakes will be high.
“I expect it’s going to be a physical match, a mental match, because Casper, he is really strong physically,” Rublev said. “He plays really aggressive, he is really great from the baseline. You need to play long rallies with him, you need to run a lot, so it’s going to be this kind of match.”