Thanks to his 13th win at Roland Garros almost two weeks ago, Rafael Nadal crowned Roger Federer's long chase to the record by equaling him to 20 Grand Slams. Both are very valid contenders for the title of best ever, including in the lot Novak Djokovic stopped at 17 Majors.
The Serbian phenomenon has concrete possibilities to overtake Roger in the ranking of the weeks at the top of the ATP ranking. Andrey Rublev, one of the most in-form players of the moment and author of a splendid season, had the opportunity to confront both Federer and Nadal.
The victory over the Swiss last year in Cincinnati gave a turning point to his career, as he himself has reiterated on more than one occasion. In a long interview granted to the Russian website Sport Express, the young Muscovite praised the qualities of two authentic legends of modern sport.
Rublev on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
"For me, Rafael Nadal is the best athlete in the world in terms of psychological preparation," Andrey Rublev said. "In terms of natural talent, Roger Federer is the number one player I've ever seen.
He was super clean. Defense, offense, serving well," Roger Federer had said of Rublev after his loss. "Didn't give me anything. He was everywhere. It was tough for me, but an excellent match by him." The Russian was yet to break into the top 20 back then, and had only won one career title.
"It's incredibly nice when such a great player compliments you," Rublev said. "But at that moment, I was not ranked so high. Many of my peers were much higher than me, and even younger guys, such as Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex de Minaur, came close.
And Stefanos Tsitsipas was already firmly established in the top 10 then. So I realised that I still had to work and work to try to get closer to the top 10," he added. "I understood the level of Tsitsipas, Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime...
It was hard for me to play with them. Even when I played good tennis, I could easily lose to them in two sets. Now I am confident that if I can play my game, then I will have many chances to win, to control the course of the match.
Last year, I did not feel this way." Something Rublev has learned from following Nadal is how important it is to push through bad days and find a way to win. “Even if you take other sportsmen or athletes, they can have bad days.
But because maybe the team is good, they are still winning,” Rublev said. “In tennis, if you are having a really bad day… it is really tough to find a way [to win] and compete like nothing happened. He has done this during all his career. For me he is the best athlete, not even in tennis, the best athlete in history”.