By Sharada Iyer, Tennis With An Accent
In the opening two months of the 2021 tennis season, all eyes were on a Russian player who was on a noteworthy winning streak. Daniil Medvedev posted 20 wins in a row that ended in the final of the 2021 Australian Open in February against Novak Djokovic. Now, in March, merely weeks after Medvedev’s streak came to be halted, it’s emerged that all this while there’s been another Russian who’s on a 20-match winning run.
Since the 2020 Hamburg Open, Andrey Rublev has won 20 consecutive matches in the ATP 500 tournaments. This has translated to him picking four ATP 500 titles, from the aforementioned Hamburg Open to the St. Petersburg Open and the Vienna Open and most recently, the ABN Amro Open in Rotterdam.
This number puts Rublev in the third-place right below Roger Federer’s 28 match wins and Andy Murray’s 21 match wins in the same event’s category.
In many ways, then, this construction of wins by Rublev, predate Medvedev – whose victory chain began at the 2020 Paris Masters – as much as they are in tandem with his compatriot’s laurels. On the other hand, the time it took for attention to flow to the results he had been stacking raised an intriguing point. The threading of inconspicuousness in Rublev’s run was a repetition of the theme that has marked the flow of his career – steadiness imbued with unobtrusiveness.
This professional progression of Rublev’s has endured despite his highs, whether it was handing Roger Federer his quickest defeat in a match in nearly 16 years at the 2019 Cincinnati tournament; at the Majors – when he became the youngest since Andy Roddick to reach the quarterfinals of the US Open, as a 19-year-old in 2017; or after raking a career-best – thus far – haul of five titles in the pockmarked year of 2020.
These reiterations, however, only make it harder to pinpoint whether such restraint is of his own volition or the product of a status quo that emerged without his awareness, but to which he has become accustomed. For the moment, Rublev appears to be taking his low-key persistence in stride without preoccupying himself about its causes. The 23-year-old’s statements, made after his win in Rotterdam, reflected this attitude aplenty.
“I feel happy. It has been a really great week. It has been a great past year and a half. We will see if I can keep going, if I can keep this level of competing [and] being a Top 10 [player]… I was not even thinking [about the streak] until [the media] were starting to put on the internet 16 matches, 17 matches, 18 matches. Of course, it is a great number, but I was not even thinking about it… It is a great feeling to know that I did something that not many players did,” Rublev said.
Tucked inside these words of the Russian was an attempt to compartmentalise all that had transpired in the Dutch city throughout the week now that the final result had been settled. It seemed Rublev was trying to push the conversation about his match wins to another day – until the next event when he could un-pause his win count and potentially add to it – and retain his focus on the immediate tournament he would play next.
The ability to prioritise in this manner presents an intriguing talking point about Rublev’s personality as a tennis pro.
Not seeking to feed the expectations that have been clumped together for players of his generation, known colloquially as the ‘NextGen’, Rublev wants to lay out a path on which only he can tread.
Dotted with ambition – both in terms of tournaments to be won and ranking milestones to be achieved – Rublev uniquely approaches each objective. An avid chess follower (and player), Rublev is mentally channeling his strengths from a game he likes to a sport he is passionate about.
The individuality of this approach has managed and reduced the pressure Rublev has to face in his career, since his rise as a prominent future prospect in 2017. Likewise, albeit inadvertently, Rublev has also succeeded in retaining – and controlling – the narrative about the movement of his career even as his less consistent ‘NextGen’ peers have struggled to keep themselves afloat.