Thwack. Crack. Pop. Bweh.
Those sounds often make up the soundtrack of Andrey Rublev’s matches. The 25-year-old is one of the biggest ball-strikers in the sport, putting everything he has into nearly every shot. His powerful game has led to a lot of success, including 14 ATP Tour singles titles, a career-high No. 5 Pepperstone ATP Ranking, 22 Top 10 wins and three appearances in the Nitto ATP Finals.
When you think of watching Rublev play tennis, you think of intensity, for better or worse. When things are going well, the three-time US Open quarter-finalist overwhelms opponents with his fierce offensive game. Rublev wears his heart on his sleeve and in difficult moments, he is never afraid to show his emotions on court, sometimes agonising over his performance.
But in recent years, fans have come to know a different side of Rublev — call it a softer side. In social media videos, he often breaks out into fits of laughter, jokes with colleagues and shows sensitivity, whether to fans or otherwise. On an ATP Tour YouTube video titled “Andrey Rublev reacts to your YouTube comments 🥰”, the top comments are:
Petition for ATP Tour to do more of this!!
ANDREY CONTENT IS WHAT WE THE PEOPLE WANT.
The video gets ten times better with him in it.
Andrey is the most adorable and honest person that needs to be protected at all costs.
Among the fans, Rublev has become not just a favourite, but a beacon of light. It is difficult to speak with him or watch a fun video of his without cracking a smile. But the quickest way to make Rublev blush is to remind him of his ever-growing fanbase.
“I would say obviously it’s something special that you cannot get somewhere or buy somewhere because of feelings. Of course in those moments you feel special. I don’t know. Even myself, I want to say big thanks to these [people] who are writing these things,” Rublev said at Indian Wells earlier this year. “Maybe with this stuff, you feel a bit more responsibility that you need to always improve in a better way.”
Rublev is much quicker to be self-deprecating than he is to give himself credit. He openly dislikes saying positive things about himself.
“Yeah, yeah. I have this problem,” Rublev said Thursday evening, cracking a smile. “I don’t know. Maybe some complexes, I don’t know why.”
His actions speak louder than words, though. Whether around his practices, walking around the grounds or after matches, Rublev signs as many autographs and takes as many selfies as possible to make the fans happy. To him, it is an easy way to make people feel validated in their decision to spend their hard-earned money and valuable time to watch tennis. It is a humble attitude for a player who has plenty to do, from working on his game to off-court commitments.
But according to Rublev, he was not always embarrassed to say nice things about himself or listen to others do the same.
“When I was younger I think I was the opposite. Too much, a bit cocky when I was quite young, and then I realised how stupid I was,” Rublev said. “When I was a kid I was playing really well and I was winning a lot of tournaments. I was thinking maybe I was cool or whatever or everything will be like this in life. I don’t know, a typical kid with not really much brains and then with some things I realised that I was just stupid and that’s it.
“Then I turned out completely the opposite way.”
Rublev explained that he was still a good friend when he was younger and was “very loyal” to those around him. But there were some immaturities that he took time to get over. But he was made to grow up quickly as he embarked on his professional career and had already become close to the person he is now by his late teens. At the age of 19, Rublev made the US Open quarter-finals, at the time the youngest man to accomplish the feat since Andy Roddick in 2001.
“I remember that was a miracle, just out of nowhere. No one expected and it was obviously like a miracle because game-wise, body-wise, I was not ready,” Rublev said. “I was just lucky that I was playing some great tennis every day and I was shooting the ball and most of the time everything was going in and I was able to do the quarters.
“I realised it was a miracle because obviously I beat players like Grigor, Goffin. Grigor, he just won that year Cincinnati. Goffin was a Top 10 player. And obviously, if I would play them again, the feeling was they were much better players. It was just they never played me. They didn’t know who I was.”
Following his initial breakthrough, Rublev did not directly soar to the top, struggling through a period of injuries. But since cracking the Top 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on 12 October 2020, he has spent just three weeks outside of it.
“Inside the feeling is completely opposite,” Rublev said. “In the end, you said now this number and I feel ‘Wow, that’s great.’ So maybe there’s something that I’m doing well, but I don’t know, I don’t want to focus on this. I was focussing on the things that I need to improve so I want to keep focussing on them.”
A three-time US Open quarter-finalist and eight-time major quarter-finalist, Rublev is trying to make his biggest breakthrough yet at a Grand Slam tournament. Earlier this year in Monte-Carlo, he claimed his maiden ATP Masters 1000 trophy.
The locker room would be pleased to see Rublev enjoy success. Frances Tiafoe, another 25-year-old who has gotten on well with his colleague since the juniors, had only positive things to say about this year’s eighth seed.
“He’s a super solid dude, man. Nicest dude. If you see him after practices and after matches win or lose, signing autographs forever. The dude is solid man and he’s a pro’s pro,” Tiafoe said. “He’s super professional, gets the most out of his game, has been in the Top 10 for years. I like him a lot, man.
“He’s always cracking jokes. He’s always fun. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and he’s just one of the genuine real dudes.”
As much as he is becoming known for his personality, Rublev is fully focussed on chasing his biggest goal: discovering his potential.
“This is what I’m looking for. For the moment I don’t know. I feel that still in everything there is a huge room [for improvement] and that’s it,” Rublev said. “I just want to see what is the limit.”