The 21-year-old Moscow native has qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals, joining Alexander Zverev of Germany, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov of Canada, Aussie Alex de Minaur and Americans Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz as players to have qualified for the 21-and-under event, to be held 6-10 November at the Fiera Milano. (Zverev will not play in Milan because of his Nitto ATP Finals qualification.)
Eight players will compete next month, with the final spot reserved for the winner of an all-Italian qualifying tournament to finish on 4 November. Rublev fell in last year’s Milan final to Hyeon Chung of South Korea. Here are five things to know about the fiery Russian:
1. He Played In A ‘One Direction’ Tribute Band
Rip forehands, record singles – Rublev does a bit of everything. Years ago, he and childhood friends Ivan Juravlev, Slava Naumkin and Vlad Naumkin formed the band “Summer Afternoon”. A few years ago, they released their first music video, a cover of One Direction’s “Steal My Girl”.
Not Just One Direction For Rublev
But don’t expect Rublev to drop his racquet in favour of a guitar anytime soon. He said in September 2015: “For sure in the future I would like to release some music… But tennis comes first and we’ll see what happens later. The band will do more music, but I don’t know if I’m going to be part of it or not. Right now, tennis is the most important thing for me.”
Watch: “Summer Afternoon” Covers “Steal My Girl”
2. It’s His Second Time In Milan
Last year Rublev was one of the leaders of the #NextGenATP group. The Russian not only qualified for the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals; he was the tournament’s top seed and was dominating the final until Chung reversed momentum.
“I understand that I have to change, and I agree. I will try to do my best,” said Rublev, after losing despite leading by a set and 3-1. “I think even if you compare me in the beginning of the year, still I’m much better. Mentally I’m much better. I’m controlling better my emotions. But still, there is long way to go. If I want to compete with good players, it’s not enough.”
3. He Made History In Umag
Rublev was done. He had lost his final match in qualifying at the 2017 Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag and was thinking about his next tournament. But then Borna Coric withdrew, Rublev became a lucky loser, and the Russian enjoyed one of the best weeks of his career.
Rublev beat third seed and defending champion Fabio Fognini in the quarter-finals and home favourite Ivan Dodig in the semi-finals before knocking out Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi in the title match. Rublev became the seventh lucky loser to win an ATP World Tour title and the first since Rajeev Ram at Newport in 2009.
Watch Highlights: Rublev Wins Maiden Title In Umag
4. He Gets His Fight From His Dad
Rublev is an emotional player on the court, shouting and pumping himself up throughout the match. He gets that tenacity from his father, who was a boxer in Moscow.
Watch: At Home With Rublev In Moscow
5. In New York, He Was The Youngest Since…
Last year, during his second US Open, Rublev upset two Top 15 players – No. 9 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 14 David Goffin, who would later compete in the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals title match – en route to the quarter-finals, where he fell to No. 1 Rafael Nadal. Rublev became the youngest US Open quarter-finalist since Andy Roddick in 2001.
“The main thing now is to try to keep working harder and harder, to improve, because I still have a lot of things to improve,” Rublev said after losing to Nadal. “This match told me how far I am and how much I need to improve, so now it is time to try to be better and become stronger.”