Red-hot Rublev feeling ‘completely free’ ahead of Melbourne campaign

18 January 2020, by Reem Abulleil

Andrey Rublev has credited the work he has put in to improve his mental strength over the past few months for his current hot streak that saw him win a second title in as many weeks by easing past Lloyd Harris in the Adelaide final on Saturday.

A champion in Doha just seven days ago, Rublev became the first man to win two trophies in the opening two weeks of the year since Domink Hrbaty won Adelaide and Auckland in 2004.

The 22-year-old Russian, who has now won his last 12 consecutive matches dating back to last November, needed just 56 minutes to defeat South African qualifier Harris 6-3, 6-0 and secure the title of the inaugural Adelaide International.

Rublev had a quick turnaround from his three-hour semi-final tussle against Felix Auger-Aliassime, which ended at midnight the day before. He fought back from 3-0 down in the final set against the Canadian teenager and admits it was a sign of just how far he’s come with regards to his mentality on court.

“I think half a year ago I would have lost 6-0,” admits Rublev.

Projected to rise to a career-high ranking of No.16 on Monday, Rublev could not have dreamt of a better start to his 2020 season.

“It’s amazing, I don’t even know how I did it. But I’m really happy that these two weeks were so amazing for me, I enjoyed them a lot,” said the powerful Russian.

“It’s amazing feeling. Of course it’s amazing feeling. Doesn’t matter when. When you just win a title it’s always amazing feeling. It’s not about first weeks or not first weeks. I’m really happy. I hope I keep working. I hope I keep improving, and we’ll see what’s gonna happen.”

Rublev played a clean match against Harris, who was contesting the first ATP final of his career. The No.3 seed fired 16 winners against just seven unforced errors, and saved all four break points he faced.

“To be honest, I was quite tired. But I was still having enough energy. I I was feeling well. Anyway, after tough yesterday’s match, of course I was not fresh as before but was enough to fight,” said Rublev.

“I was just thinking, okay, keep fighting. Let’s try. This is the last game. We need to give everything. You were fighting till, I don’t know, 12:00, not to cry now in the finals. So just keep fighting, keep fighting, and we’ll see in the end.”

The pep talk he gave himself did the trick and Rublev now heads to the Australian Open high on confidence. Rublev will be seeded No.17 in Melbourne and begins his campaign against Australian wildcard Christopher O’Connell. While he doesn’t feel that he has hit his best level yet, he is particularly pleased with how stable his performances have been.

“This is what we are working for, to be more consistent, to be more mentally strong. This is what we’re working for. And I’m happy that these two weeks went this way. I got two titles. It’s amazing. I never had this before,” added the 22-year-old.

“We’ll see now what’s gonna happen in Melbourne. I go there completely free because I did already amazing.”

Rublev has been working hard to try and control his emotions on court and while there is no basic formula to getting mentally stronger, he has found a way to make significant improvements in that department.

“It’s easy and it’s not easy. If you think logically, every player will understand why he lost this match, because I show emotions. It’s like two plus two,” he explains. “But in the end, not everyone can change it. Because you understand, yes, I show emotions, it was wrong. But then you go on exam, you do the same.

“And this, to understand it, it’s easy. But to correct, you need to be really strong mentally. It takes time. It’s just pushing yourself, okay, I did this wrong, I need to do it. And maybe next day you do a little bit less. Then next day you do a little bit less. It’s little by little by little like this you improve.”

Meanwhile, the 22-year-old Harris walks away with lots of positives from his milestone week in Adelaide, where he posted six wins in a row through qualifying and main draw en route to the final.

“After a great week in Brisbane last week, I built up a lot of confidence. It was not easy to play so many matches but day after day I grew in confidence and I played better and better. Today Andrey was just too good but what a fantastic week for me,” said Harris, who faces Diego Schwartzman in his Australian Open first round.

“I’m looking to improve. Last year was a little bit of up and down, I struggled with the body a little bit. I’m looking to just keep improving my game, just fight for it every week. I’m trying to break some ranking barriers, get my first trophy as well. Today I came pretty close but not close enough, so still another step to go and still more I want to achieve in 2020, so I’m looking forward to that.”