The wholesome pairing of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev captivated all of tennis fans' hearts this past week at the Tokyo Olympics with their quirky and delightful antics. And they ended their exciting campaign on a high, by winning the gold medal in the mixed doubles event.
Representing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), the duo of Pavlyuchenkova and Rublev beat their compatriots Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev in a thrilling all-Russian encounter which went down to the wire.
The match was decided in a match tiebreak instead of a deciding set, after the two teams split the opening sets between them. And the fourth-seeded pair of Rublev and Pavlyuchenkova narrowly came out on top 13-11, even saving a match point along the way.
The win marks a maiden Olympic gold medal for both Pavlyuchenkova and Rublev. The latter in fact is tasting glory in his debut Olympic participation.
Andrey Rublev later spoke to the Olympic Channel's Trenni Kusinerek, describing the many emotions that went through his mind as he fell to the ground after an hour and 53 minutes of struggle. The 23 year-old claimed, first and foremost, that he felt a sense of relief.
"It’s like a relief, you take all the s**t away and you feel complete relief," Rublev said.
Andrey Rublev also spoke about realizing his childhood dream by winning the gold medal. The 23-year-old revealed that he and Pavlyuchenkova didn't believe they could get it done until they actually did.
"To make it for us the gold medal is something we could only dream about and we did it," Rublev said. "It’s like all your life since you were a kid you were watching Olympics and after this shot everything passed since you were a kid watching and now we’re here winning gold for ROC, for us, it’s something unbelievable."
Rublev went on to compare the experience to a "movie", and revealed how all of his growing up years came back to him in the winning moment.
"It was impossible to come up with a better scenario for us, as a country," Rublev said. "This is like a movie that Nastia and I will have with us for the rest of our lives. We won in this ending, it's beyond words. At that moment, your whole life flashes before your eyes; how you grew up, how you trained, how you watched the Olympic Games on TV. And now it's happening to us. A total euphoria."
"We fought like crazy" - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on her partnership with Andrey Rublev
Prior to this week, Andrey Rublev had never played mixed doubles in professional tennis. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, meanwhile, had lost all six mixed doubles matches she had played.
But the two gelled together insteantly in Tokyo and complemented each other's game like a seasoned doubles team.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova took time to reflect on how big their achievement was given the fact that neither she nor Andrey Rublev is a regular on the doubles tour.
"We are not doubles players," Pavlyuchenkova said to the Olympic Channel. "Of course no one expected us to win the gold medal here so it’s just an amazing feeling we proved to ourselves as well."
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev did have a lot of fun, as they intended to while launching their mixed doubles campaign. But they also fought their hearts out in every match; all four of their wins in the tournament came in match tiebreaks.
The 30-year-old Pavlychenkova, who reached the Roland Garros singles final two months ago, was elated at bagging the biggest title of her life so soon after missing out in Paris. She spoke of how proud she was of the duo's belief and fighting spirit.
"I have to say we fight like crazy every match so that helps a lot. We believe. We fight. We try to enjoy," Pavlyuchenkova added.
It is worth mentioning that the fun Anastasia Pavlychenkova and Andrey Rublev had as a team didn't end with the match point; it continued on the podium as well. After Rublev helped Pavlyuchenkova with her medal, she feigned wearing his medal as well before embracing him as the two shared laughter.
The week that started as "something fun" for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev ended with them winning the biggest honor of their lives. Their fans would be hoping they get to see the duo even at the Grand Slam mixed doubles events, continuing to entertain everyone with their cuteness and amusing rapport.