Tall, lean, just 23 years old, with a tremendously powerful game and a place in the world top 10, Andrey Rublev is a standout member of the Russian team that this year starts as one of the clear favourites for the Davis Cup title.
He remembers growing up among the rackets and on the courts as his mother took him to the tennis club where she worked as a coach. With his father, on the other hand, he experienced something totally different in boxing, but Andrey clearly opted for tennis. Born in Moscow, his love for the sport grew as he watched Russia's Marat Safin and Rafael Nadal, who is now one of his rivals on court and whom he could meet in Group A of the 2021 Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals. “Any time they were showing his matches I was watching. I was playing with a Babolat racket like him. I was buying all the collections of his Nike stuff so every tournament… I was saying ‘Mum, let’s go to Nike, there is a new collection of Rafa’. So, I was playing with the long pants, t-shirt without sleeves and at that time… they had only for men. So, I was... nine years old with a men’s S t-shirt that was double bigger than me,” he laughs. Professional since 2014, Rublev made his Davis Cup debut at the age of 16; he has now played 23 matches for his country and in 2019 came close to making the final.
How do you imagine yourself 10 or 15 years from now? What is your goal in tennis?
I think most... players would like to be number one… but in the end it’s only one player, so the main goal is to [achieve] my maximum potential and let’s see where it’s going to bring me. If it’s top ten then it’s top ten, if it’s top five then it’s even better. If my potential will bring me to number one then it’s perfect, but we’ll see.
And what does the Davis Cup mean to you? What do you like about it?
It’s always something special when you play for your country… you have teammates, always special. It’s a different feeling compared with when you play for yourself… I think every person is proud of his country, where he was born, and I think every person has special feelings for his own country that have a special place in his heart.
Considering the tremendous team you form together with Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov, what do you think the other teams see in you? Do you scare them?
No, no, I think they were making fun [of us] that we are one of the biggest countries and we arrived with only three players.
How about Daniil and Karen? What is your relationship with them?
I took a coach from Spain, Fernando Vicente, Karen was with Galo Blanco also here in the same club so… we started to travel to many tournaments together… in the end we were for maybe two or three years travelling every time together, seeing each other almost... five or six times a week because we’re most of the time practising together so yes, we are one of the best friends. [Daniil] is a top five player now, he’s put tennis in Russia a little bit back again on the high level because more people started to follow [him]. And of course Daniil is also a really nice guy… I’ve known him even longer than Karen, I think… since six years old. He is always one of the first ones who’s going to help.
"I think every person is proud of his country, where he was born, and I think every person has special feelings for his own country that have a special place in his heart".
How would you describe yourself on the court?
I try to play aggressively, it’s kind of my style. I’m the guy who likes to lead... who likes to control the point, who always tries to attack.
In the 2019 Finals you played one of the great moments by beating Serbia in the quarter-finals. First of all, what does Novak Djokovic mean to you?
He’s one of the best players in history, so… I don’t know what else to say. Djokovic is Djokovic.
And against him you were in the tie-break of that decisive doubles match that everyone remembers. What happened?
These are emotions that you’re never going to find anywhere else. These emotions are why we’re playing tennis. That's why we train – to feel those moments. It is a game that I am sure will remain forever as part of our memories. It will be part of our history even in twenty or thirty years. It will surely be one of the moments that I will remember.
"I try to play aggressively, it’s kind of my style. I’m the guy who likes to lead... who likes to control the point, who always tries to attack"
Don’t miss out! Learn more about Andrey Rublev and the Russian team in the documentary Break Point: A Davis Cup Story. Access it here