Upgraded Rublev reigns supreme in Monte-Carlo

The Top 10 star finally grasped Masters 1000 glory following a "fairy tale" week at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.

Andrey Rublev, finale Monte-Carlo 2023©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Andrey Rublev never shies away from showing his emotions.

He can be volatile, hilarious, he can be engaging, loud, he can also be very shy.

On Sunday it was all out in the open, the 25-year-old couldn't contain the tears, falling to the Monte-Carlo terre battue on Court Rainier III having clinched Masters 1000 glory for the very first time. 

Ever since his junior days a lot has been expected of Rublev, he won his first title on clay in Umag in 2017 and has since accomplished what most players would sign up for as a career.

Six years in the making, this was well worth the wait.

"Great feeling. After struggling so much, so many times, losing in the finals, semi-finals, losing even earlier, struggled so much to win first 1000 Masters and finally I did it," said a relieved Rublev.

"I did it in Monaco with the really historic tournament. It's a pleasure to be part of it.

"To win match like this, losing 4-1 (third set), Love-30, breakpoint for 5-1, and to be able to come back and to win a match is like a fairy tale."

Belief unlocked for Andrey

As the world No.6 revealed, it was quite the comeback in the 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 final with fellow Top 10 star Holger Rune.

The Dane, the first teenager to reach the Monte-Carlo silverware showdown since Rafael Nadal in 2006, was crushing the ball in a high octane final.

However, Rublev utilised his 33 winners to match the force and impact between the lines to reel in the youngster for his 13th and most prestigious title thus far.

Andrey Rublev & Holger Rune / Finale Monte-Carlo 2023©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

The final doesn't tell it all. Rublev navigated past long-time friend Karen Khachanov 7-6(4), 6-2, then in the semi-finals the 25-year-old dismissed American top charge Taylor Fritz from a set down, a feat he repeated in the final.

It was an enthralling week which has been a long time coming for Rublev, who lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas (Monte-Carlo) and Alexander Zverev (Cincinnati) in his previous two Masters 1000 finals back in 2021.

"I was hoping deep inside that at least maybe I would have one chance," said Rublev on Sunday.

"Maybe at least try to play until the end. Because I remember the previous finals mentally I was not ready.

"Today I was at least, 'Okay, if you're going to lose today at least please believe until the end', and that is what I was trying to do in the third set, hoping that maybe I would have one extra chance to come back or something and in the end I was able to do it."

Upgrade on and off court

One crucial factor in Rublev's burgeoning belief in Monte-Carlo was the evolution of his support team.

Alberto Martin is now pitching in alongside long-time coach Fernando Vicente inside the Rublev camp.  

"They are good friends, so it's really, really nice to work with them, because both of them are super humble," explained the world No.6, with Martin also focusing on the mental skillset.

"For me it is important to have connection outside the tennis, to be able to work, because it doesn't matter how good is the coach, but outside the court we have no connection, I'm not this kind of person who will keep still working.

"It's like, in the end, like a girlfriend. You don't find often this connection, you know. It happens once in a while.

"Berto, he had diploma, sports psychologist, so he can explain some things in the more easier way in some stress moments, and it's helping also a lot.

"Then I have a new fitness coach, new physio, new agent. So completely upgrade. Only Fernando is still the main one who was since the beginning."

Rublev is one of the most consistent performers on tour, with seven Grand Slam quarter-finals to his name. It's already been some journey for the 25-year-old, packing in plenty of 'oh so close' heartbreak.

Away from the spotlight, Rublev has never doubted his ability to perform on the main stages. Now he's chalked off Masters glory, a major move must be on the radar for Rublev.

"I feel that I'm doing really good things outside the court on practices. I like how I'm working now with my new team fitness-wise, treatment-wise, tennis-wise, mental-wise. I feel that this is the right way," stated the ambitious 25-year-old.

"I feel that I can improve a lot. I feel that on practices I'm doing this. The thing is like I don't know when and where it will appear also on the tournaments. In the end, I win this title.

"The goal is still the same: to work hard in this right direction that I'm doing now and to try to improve as much as I can while I have this time."

The patience, the perseverance are paying off and with his "upgrade" Rublev is rolling towards Roland-Garros to play a major role.

Andrey Rublev et Holger Rune, finale Monte-Carlo 2023©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT