Andrey Rublev: It’s all about the mental side against Alexander Zverev

The young Russian player had an almost memorable week in Cincinnati, barring the final when he was comfortably beaten in a one-sided clash.

Andrey Rublev with his runners-up trophy in Cincinnati; Credit: [email protected]

Andrey Rublev’s memorable week got extra special when he defeated his compatriot Daniil Medvedev in the Western & Southern Open semifinals on Saturday. However, a repeat of the same feat against Alexander Zverev proved a bridge too far in the final on Sunday. The German captured his fifth ATP Masters 1000 title with a commanding 6-2, 6-3 victory over Rublev and took his ATP Head-2-Head record to 5-0 against the Russian. Coming into the final, the 23-year-old was full of confidence after beating his much-fancied countryman and top seed Medvedev. However, the Russian was unable to match the Olympic gold medallist’s level in a one-sided final on Sunday.

The 23-year-old had lost all 10 sets against Medvedev and all nine against Zverev coming into Cincinnati. While he managed to turn the tide in the semifinals, Rublev admitted that there is still work for him to do in order to solve the Zverev puzzle. “Maybe you need to win at least once… to find this key,” Andrey Rublev said. “Sometimes when you’re losing match by match, in the end it’s not easy. And you can see that the way I lost a couple of times to him [did not feel] real, because it’s a bit too easy, the score is much easier, and the match is much easier than it should be.

“We play in practices, and it’s always… tough sets. You can see that we play a similar level. And then when you go [into the] match and you’re losing like today, 2 and 3, it’s more mental. It’s not about game. It’s all about [the] mental [side] that you need to find the key how to behave inside of yourself in these matches. Because the game is there, so it’s not about the game.”

‘I couldn’t save my serve’

Earlier, Andrey Rublev reached the second ATP Masters 1000 final of his career, following a runner-up showing to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in May. However, Rublev made a nervous start as he lost his opening two service games. Zverev never looked back after that moment as he extended his winning streak to 11 matches, following the Tokyo Olympics gold medal run.

“In the end that was the key to the beginning that I couldn’t save my serve. I said then you feel a bit more down that he’s serving so good, and it’s going to be super tough to break him,” Rublev said. “Even if he [makes] some mistakes, he still has [the] advantage. Plus he’s now on super confidence after the Olympic Games, winning some great matches here. When you start a break down – even I know by myself when I break someone in the first game – it’s double easier to play after. So that was, in the end, the key.”

With the US Open on the horizon, Alexander Zverev will be heading into the final Grand Slam of the year as one of the favourites for the title. “The US Open is a week that everybody is looking forward to. I think Novak [Djokovic] will be back. He’s obviously going to be the favourite, as well. But I think other guys are going to be in great shape,” Zverev said after this match.

“I’m looking forward to the week. Let’s see how it goes. But there is still one week to go. I still have a lot of work ahead of me. I have to find my rhythm in New York, as well.”

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