Rublev On Rafa: 'He Is The Best Athlete In History'
After Andrey Rublev won his fourth title of the season on Sunday at the St. Petersburg Open, the Russian spoke about how he wants to continue improving. The 22-year-old, who turns 23 on Tuesday, knows there are always parts of his game he can enhance.
The Russian has been motivated by Rafael Nadal, who one week ago won his 13th Roland Garros title.
“I cannot imagine how — I’m not even talking about [just at] the Grand Slams — it is possible what he is doing,” Rublev said. “To be mentally that strong all your life and all your career, I don’t know how it is possible.”
Rublev is in awe of Nadal’s focus and discipline. The Spaniard had plenty going against him in Paris, from difficult conditions — it was cool and wet throughout the fortnight — to tough opponents, led by World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who entered their championship clash with a 37-1 record on the year. Nadal still captured the Coupe des Mousquetaires without losing a set.
“Every player, even Roger [Federer] or even Novak [Djokovic], they had one moment in their career when they were mentally a little bit down or they could get a little bit emotionally down during the match and, if something happens, they could lose or something,” Rublev said. “Rafa is the only one player in history that it doesn’t matter how he feels, bad or good. In the end he always finds a way to win.
"If he is not winning, he is losing in three sets after three hours if it is not [at] a Grand Slam. If it is [at] a Grand Slam, it is going to be five hours and [against] the players that are really good… I don’t know how it is possible to be this strong mentally during all his career.”
Something Rublev has learned from following Nadal is how important it is to push through bad days and find a way to win.
“Even if you take other sportsmen or athletes, they can have bad days. But because maybe the team is good, they are still winning,” Rublev said. “In tennis, if you are having a really bad day… it is really tough to find a way [to win] and compete like nothing happened. He has done this during all his career. For me he is the best athlete, not even in tennis, the best athlete in history.”
Rublev is having the best season of his career, climbing to a career-high No. 8 in the FedEx ATP Rankings thanks to his triumph in St. Petersburg. The Russian has won four tour-level titles this season, matched only by Djokovic, who also has four. No other player has more than two.
But even though he is flying higher than ever, Rublev will continue pushing for more.