Just over a year ago, Andrey Rublev was ranked outside the top-100, struggling to find the form after a nasty back injury suffered in Monte Carlo in 2018. The Russian improved his ranking position following the final run in Hamburg last July, stunning Roger Federer in Cincinnati en route to the quarter-final and advancing into the last 16 at the US Open as well.
The Moscow native won the title in his hometown, closing the season with four victories at the Davis Cup Finals for Russia and hoping for more of the same at the ATP Cup at the beginning of January. Instead of Rublev, Russia opted to play with Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov, with Andrey choosing Doha as his first stop in 2020, beating all four rivals to lift the trophy and repeating the same in Adelaide in the following week to wrap up 500 points and 15 straight victories before Alexander Zverev ousted him in the fourth round at the Australian Open.
Determined to improve his game, the Russian had been working hard during the offseason and that paid off for him, standing as one of the players of the season so far and hoping for more of the same once the season resumes, currently halted by a coronavirus at least until June.
Andrey would love to improve his mental game and challenge the rivals from the top in that segment, not thinking about some big goals and trying to keep the pressure off his back as much as possible. "I made an amazing start of the season; it's unbelievable," Rublev told ATP Uncovered presented by Peugeot.
"It was a little bit strange because, during this pre-season, I was thinking, 'I'm not working enough, I need to work harder and better. If I want to be on a good level, this is not the game; I need to do something better and harder, have a better attitude and play smarter.'
The mood was never enough but in the end, when I started the season, everything was more than fine. I tried to work hard every day, expecting nothing. Of course, the goal was to achieve the best possible results but I wasn't thinking about that, just working hard regularly.
If I lose first round, at least I know that I did my best and that's it. If I do my best and I do third or fourth round, that's even better. I remember when I won Doha, most of the members of my team were telling me to pull out of Adelaide.
Still, with no opponent in the first round, I wanted to arrive there and see how I feel, having enough time to pull out if there were any physical problems. I started to play better and better and won the title in the end.
Everybody has his own issues that he needs to face and learn how to challenge them actively to grow up. I never even won two titles in one year before and now I grabbed two trophies in a row, although I have to accept it will not always be like that, as there are many things I have to work on.
The most important thing for me is to find a way to handle bad days and weeks and improve the mental part of my game; I think I'm the worst top-20 player in that segment. I am looking positively forward and we'll see what's going to happen.
No matter what happens, be positive, do your best; it's so simple. The main goal for this year is to be mentally strong and positive every day."