Rublev relishing the fight to make up for lost time

 - Alex Sharp

The 22-year-old Russian has been resolute at Roland-Garros having booked a maiden quarter-final.

Whether it is challenging conditions, inspired opponents or fighting fatigue, it doesn’t matter, Andrey Rublev has the hunger and the drive to capture glory.

That isn’t being questioned, the Russian has 29 wins in 2020 (only Novak Djokovic has more on 35) and he warmed up for Roland-Garros by lifting the trophy in Hamburg. Some might say he's creating an aura.

The No.13’s grit and determination have been exemplified in his opening four rounds in Paris, and are precisely why he's currently on a nine-match winning streak.

The 22-year-old overhauled Sam Querrey from a two-sets-to-love deficit, before he fended off the promising Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and two-time major finalist Kevin Anderson.

On Court Suzanne-Lenglen on Monday, Rublev chalked up his first ever Roland-Garros last-eight spot 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(3) facing Marton Fucsovics, the man who sent fourth seed Daniil Medvedev packing at the first hurdle.

In each set, Rublev was down on the scoreboard, even saving three successive set points towards the finale. It’s this concrete resolve, fierce focus and ability to find answers which makes the Russian such an enthralling watch.

Even in such a pressure cooker, with the matches fluctuating, Rublev “enjoys” tussles like this as he’s able to see the big picture.

“In general, I think we showed great level. Was a lot of long rallies, a lot of great rallies,” stated the world No.12, having prevented opponents serving out sets on seven out of eight possibilities in Paris.

“These kind of matches are really important. You understand why you are working, why you're giving everything every day in practices. These matches really, really counts, and really important.”

Rublev, the 10th Russian man in the Open Era to reach the quarter-finals here, was forced to miss the 2018 and 2019 editions of Roland-Garros through injuries and he’s thrilled to be making up for lost time on the terre battue. 

“For sure I appreciate in general much more things now inside the court, outside the court. If you take lesson in the right way, you always become mentally stronger no matter what happened, if it's injury or even if you don't have injury but you had something else,” explained the former Roland-Garros junior champion. 

“Of course in my case it helps me. But if you ask me I would prefer to don't have these injuries, yeah. But in my case, it helps me.”

There is a particularly nice symmetry for the Russian’s quarter-final. Rublev arrived late after edging fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in the Hamburg final eight days ago.

They’ve survived the first week and are reunited in Paris.  

"Yeah, it's funny. Both of us had tough, tough week in Hamburg, tough final. Then both of us was down in the first round with two sets to love. Both of us come back. Now we are here and we're going to play each other in quarters. It's like a nice press story of the match,” mused the 22-year-old, leading 2-1 in their previous encounters.

“I hope it's going to be interesting. I hope we're going to show a good level, good match, and I hope people will enjoy.”

Back-to-back Grand Slam quarter-finals sandwiching a third title of the season in Hamburg, Rublev is certainly turning heads on tour. He also started the year with a bang, winning 11 consecutive matches, including title runs in Doha and Adelaide.

“I feel great with my performance for last couple of weeks, in general with my season. I'm really grateful. I think physical-wise I feel like the same like all the rest because we play the same matches. Even Stefanos, he play all week in Hamburg. We play exactly the same matches. I will not say that I'm more tired than the rest, so don't look like I am,” added Rublev, stating he has plenty left in the tank.

“Of course it's nice feeling, to play these matches. It's nice feeling to be able to win that many matches in a row. We'll see. I will try to do everything to be ready for quarter-final.”