Giving predictions is always tough, especially ahead of the new season. Asked about a player to watch in 2020, the 20-time Major winner Roger Federer picked the 22-year-old Russian Andrey Rublev to shine and achieve something special.
The great Swiss could not have been more right when he said that, with Rublev scoring the Tour-leading five ATP titles in the season behind us, backed by two Major quarter-finals and the place in the year-end top-8 standings!
Speaking about Federer's prediction, Rublev said he was honored to hear something like that from a legend, although he wasn't convinced that would be the case, with so many young players in the top-30. Working hard and always giving his 100%, Andrey raised his game to a higher level, kicking off the season with back-to-back titles in Doha and Adelaide and continuing where he left at the Davis Cup Finals in November.
After the coronavirus outbreak, Rublev returned stronger in September, advancing into the US Open quarter-final and losing to a fellow Russian Daniil Medvedev. The Moscow native came from a verge of defeat versus Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Hamburg final, lifting the third trophy of the season and heading to Paris with no time for celebration.
Andrey emerged at the top in the Roland Garros first round after trailing two sets to love against Sam Querrey, scoring three more wins for the second Major quarter-final within a month. He lost that encounter to Stefanos Tsitsipas, switching focus towards an indoor season and lifting trophies at home in Moscow and Vienna, adding 1000 points to his tally and securing the top-10 berth.
Andrey made the ATP Finals debut against the 20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal, losing in straight sets before another clash with Tsitsipas, who saved a match point in a 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 triumph.
Andrey Rublev couldn't believe when he heard Roger Federer's words.
The Russian earned the first ATP Finals victory against Dominic Thiem, beating the US Open champion in straight sets to wrap up the year with 41 ATP triumphs.
In their only meeting so far, Rublev toppled the seven-time champion Federer 6-3, 6-4 in Cincinnati last August. The young Russian advanced to the first Masters 1000 quarter-final, outplaying the Swiss in almost every department and controlling the scoreboard for a career-best win.
Dropping 15 points in ten service games, Rublev fended off two out of three break points and stole 40% of the return points to grab three breaks that carried him over the top in just over an hour. Firing 17 winners and six unforced errors, Andrey tamed his shots nicely to leave Roger behind despite 20 winners and 19 mistakes from a former champion.
The Swiss couldn't find the rhythm on the return or from his backhand, missing another chance to lift the first Cincinnati trophy since 2015. Rublev took charge in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, outplaying Roger 43-34 and building a 16-10 lead in the more extended exchanges to seal the deal in style.
"It's incredibly nice when a legend like Roger Federer says things like that. Still, I realized that it was a little unrealistic. Many younger guys stood in front of me at the beginning of the season. I finished the last year outside the top-20, and there were at least two or three better-ranked young guns, also two or three who were a little older.
I knew the competition was mighty intense, with many rivals capable of winning tournaments. I felt there would not be enough places for all of us at the top of the ranking list. I understood that I needed to work hard and improve my game a lot to have a chance against them. In the end, it turned out that this is my best season, as everything went well," Andrey Rublev said.