When asked last year who among the Next-Gen would see a breakthrough in 2020, Roger Federer minced no words. “Andrey Rublev,” the Swiss had said matter-of-factly. “He’s going to be something special.”
It wasn’t for nothing that Federer took Rublev’s name, as the 22-year-old Russian had given several glimpses of his talent in 2019. He had bagged the ATP title at Kremlin, registered a win against Dominic Thiem on clay, and made a Round of 16 appearance at the US Open - on the back of a victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas.
But Rublev's biggest moment of 2019 came at the Cincinnati Masters, where the Russian outclassed Roger Federer in two unforgettable sets. Rublev put up a display of pure, uninhibited ball-striking in that match, giving Federer absolutely no room to breathe.
"He played great against me in Cincinnati,” Federer reminisced. “He impressed me a lot there."
Andrey Rublev, just 21 then, had announced himself to the world.
During the 2020 season, Rublev has gone about proving that Roger Federer has a real eye for talent. The Russian kicked off the season with back-to-back tour victories - first at the Qatar Open, and then Down Under in Adelaide.
His unbeaten streak stretched to the fourth round of the Australian Open, where he lost to Alexander Zverev. Rublev then extended his good run in 2020 with consecutive quarterfinal appearances at Rotterdam and Dubai.
The pandemic soon brought a halt to all tennis action, but that could only manage to slow down Rublev’s rise. It couldn’t stop it.
Entering the US Open as the 10th seed, Andrey Rublev was triumphant in his rematch against the number 5 seed Matteo Berrettini. He went on to advance to the US Open quarterfinals for the second time in his young career.
Rublev ended up losing to compatriot Daniil Medvedev in three tight sets, but he continued to roll despite that setback. A victory over Stefanos Tsistipas at Hamburg gave him his third ATP title of the season, and he followed it with a last-eight appearance at the French Open.
Andrey Rublev started the season as World No. 23, and yet here he was, just four months into the playing season, sitting at the number 10 spot.
But that didn't make him complacent. Entering the St. Petersburg Open as the number 3 seed, Rublev defeated second seed Denis Shapovalov in the semifinals before going on to capture his fourth title of the season by defeating Borna Coric.
With the Paris Masters yet to start and two spots at the year-ending finale at London up for grabs, Andrey Rublev’s meteoric rise in 2020 could get even more spectacular.
We heard you, Roger! Rublev definitely turned out to be something special.Published 19 Oct 2020, 22:22 IST