Andrey Rublev recently explained the reasons for his underwhelming performance at the ATP Finals, where he suffered a crushing defeat to Rafael Nadal. He also heaped praise on the Spaniard, Dominic Thiem and Roger Federer for their ability to admit their shortcomings instead of finding excuses upon losing.
The Russian came into the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals with a lot of expectations on his shoulders. Rublev had one of the finest performers in the 2020 season, with the joint-highest match wins as well as the most titles.
But the tournament debutant lost his opening two matches in London, to Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Rublev did manage to beat Dominic Thiem, but that match was a dead rubber given that the Austrian had already secured his spot in the semis.
The 23-year-old suggested that stress is a natural phenomenon and that you need to accept its existence, be it in sport or in other facets of life.
“We are people, it’s impossible,” Rublev said. “There is no such method that once - and you do not feel anything. Whoever says anything, squeezes everyone, everyone is afraid, everyone’s legs and arms are shaking. It doesn’t matter if its a sport or some kind of situation in life. And that’s okay. The question is: do you accept it or not?”
Rublev also pointed out that acknowledging the power of pressure is the first step towards learning how to deal with it. The Russian cited the example of players like Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Roger Federer, who are brave enough to admit the instances when they cannot handle the pressure.
"Someone begins to look for excuses: 'No, it's just the light or the wind blew, that's why I didn't hit'," Rublev went on. "Top players like Nadal or Dominic, Federer have the courage to say, 'I didn't win this match because I was pinched so I couldn't handle the pressure'."
In the match with Rafael Nadal, I couldn't cope with the pressure: Andrey Rublev
One could argue that Rublev’s poor ATP Finals campaign was partly down to his disastrous start against Rafael Nadal, where he was outplayed from start to finish. The 23-year-old not only struggled to deal with Nadal’s shot-making but also seemed unable to bring out his best tennis, handing the Mallorcan an easy win in just over an hour.
The Russian admitted that he couldn't handle the pressure on the day, and that his eagerness to prove himself against a player like Nadal led to him getting ‘overwhelmed’.
“In the match with Nadal, I again could not cope with the pressure,” Rublev admitted. “I understood that I was having a good season and that I had a good level of play. I wanted to show that I am ready to fight with players like Nadal. I got overwhelmed, reconfigured and could not cope with the pressure.”