Why Heavy-Hearted Rublev Is As Motivated As Ever
Nobody on the ATP Tour is hotter than Andrey Rublev. With his Erste Bank Open triumph on Sunday, the Russian lifted a Tour-leading fifth title in 2020 and he is now tied with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for the most victories this season with 39.
Judging by his on-court efforts, you’d never know he’s playing with a heavy heart. Last month, his grandmother passed away.
"This tournament is really special for me because my grandma was also Austrian, so I have Austrian blood," Rublev said during the trophy ceremony. "It's a really special title for me."
Rublev spent a lot of time living with his grandparents growing up, especially during his school years. His grandmother was one of the most important people in his life.
“The school was right next to the house of my grandparents. I was always living with them,” Rublev said. “Grandpa was always driving me to tennis practice and then my mom was coaching me during the tennis practices. Then grandpa was driving me back home and grandma was always preparing the food, doing homework with me. She was one of the main people in my life.”
Rublev was born in Russia and his grandmother moved out of Austria when she was young. But his family connection, especially given her recent passing, made triumphing in Vienna even more special.
“We were thinking to [get] Austrian passports, but when we realised I am able to do it, it was too late, 20 years later, something like that,” Rublev said, cracking a laugh. “In the end it’s nice because my grandma has a sister and they are living in Vienna. It’s a nice story.”
It’s extra motivation for Rublev, who has enjoyed the best season of his career. The 23-year-old began the year with two ATP Tour titles and now he has seven. With his Vienna victory, he guaranteed himself a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals, to take place from 15-22 November at The O2 in London.
“Of course I would not believe it [at the beginning of the season], but in the end it happened and I’m really grateful for that,” Rublev said. “I’m really grateful to all the people who are around me, to my team, all my friends who are always surrounding me because at the end they make me who I am and without them for sure I would not be able to do it.”
The World No. 8 is the fifth Russian singles player to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in the event’s 50-year history.
“I’m happy that I will compete in London for the first time. I’m really looking forward [to it],” Rublev said. “There are still so many things I need to improve and it’s going to be a really good challenge for me to see what exactly I need to improve to be at that level, to be able to compete against the top eight players. It’s going to be a great experience for me.”
Rublev has shown he belongs amongst the sport’s elite this season. Just this week, the Russian defeated World No. 3 Dominic Thiem in straight sets at the Austrian’s home event. While he has big dreams like many players, Rublev won’t stray from the formula that has gotten him this far.
“Of course I think for all of us the goal is to be No. 1, to try to win Grand Slams,” Rublev said. “But of course I try to be realistic and now the main thing for me if I want to be a better player is to improve the things I am missing, [the things] that I can do better and I should do better. If I want to be on the next level, I need to improve them.”
The right-hander consistently speaks more about how much he needs to improve compared to discussing the success he is having. Rublev knows that to stay at this level and continue ascending the FedEx ATP Rankings, he cannot rest on his laurels.
“I’m not expecting nothing. I just want to do my job as best as I can, to enjoy tennis, because this is what I really love,” Rublev said. “Of course these results give me confidence that I’m on the right [path], that I’m doing more or less the right things. Of course I can do better and I should do better, but it gives me confidence that me and my team and my friends are moving in the right direction. We’ll see what’s going to happen next. I’m really looking forward [to it].”