Red-Hot Russian Rublev Roars Into Top 10
Entering the 2020 season, Andrey Rublev had never cracked the Top 20 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. But today, the Russian becomes the eighth player from his country to make the Top 10 by ascending to World No. 10.
"I’m happy, of course. But it was not about [making the] Top 10. If you are 11 or 12 or 10, it’s the same thing. I think the main goal for me [is to test] if my level is really Top 10; if I can stay there, if I can be there, if I can improve more," Rublev said. "It's one thing to be there for one week or two weeks. It's another thing to deserve to be there. For the moment I don’t feel that I deserve to be there, but I will do my best to be able to compete, to be a better player and to improve more and more and more. I hope I will be there because I deserve it."
Before Karen Khachanov cracked the Top 10 on 10 June 2019, a new Russian hadn't broken into the elite group for the first time since Mikhail Youzhny on 13 August 2007. With Rublev’s accomplishment, three new Russians — Khachanov, Daniil Medvedev and Rublev — have reached the Top 10 in the past 16 months.
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you for your Top 10 debut,” former World No. 1 and Russian legend Yevgeny Kafelnikov said in a message to Rublev. “We all know how difficult it is to break through, but it’s probably five times harder to stay there for a very long time. All I can say is that you’ve got the tools, you’ve got the energy to be there for a very, very long time, so keep up the good work. Well done.”
The 22-year-old is second on the ATP Tour this year with 29 tour-level wins, including titles in Doha, Adelaide and Hamburg. Rublev became the first player to triumph in the first two weeks of the season since Dominik Hrbaty in 2004. Before 2020, the Russian had only captured two ATP Tour trophies.
Rublev began his campaign with two fourth-round Grand Slam appearances in his young career. He made at least the Round of 16 in all three majors this year, including his second and third Slam quarter-finals at the US Open and Roland Garros.
In 2018, Rublev missed three months due to a lower back stress fracture, sending him as low as World No. 115. The Russian was frustrated during that time off, spending three hours per day at a clinic doing magnetotherapy, eating lunch and not doing much else.
“They were on tour and I was there on the sofa doing nothing,” Rublev said of his colleagues at the time. “It was a really tough moment… hopefully it’s never going to happen again.”
Rublev came back firing. Despite missing six weeks due to a wrist injury, he quickly regained his level, triumphing in Moscow last year to gain momentum leading into 2020.
“It was a little bit strange because during this pre-season, I was thinking, ‘I’m not working enough, I’m not working enough, I need to work harder, I need to work better.’ Every day it was like this. It was not enough,” Rublev told ATP Uncovered presented by Peugeot earlier this year. “I was thinking, ‘What is this? If I want to be on a good level, this is not the game. I need to do something better, I need to work harder, I need to have a better attitude, I need to play smarter.' The mood was never enough, never enough, never enough. But in the end, when I started the season, everything was good.”
Now, Rublev is among the 10 best players in the world. The Russian reached junior World No. 1 at 16 and in 2017 showed his professional potential by becoming the youngest US Open quarter-finalist since Andy Roddick in 2001.
“If he improves his quickness and footwork on the court as well as his first serve a little bit, he’s going to win many Grand Slams,” Kafelnikov said. “I have no doubt about it.”
Last year, six players broke into the Top 10 for the first time, the most since 2006. With today’s addition of Rublev and Diego Schwartzman to the elite group, there have been three so far this year. Denis Shapovalov accomplished the feat following his run to the Internazionali BNL d’Italia semi-finals.