“Experienced Cool Sensations”: Andrey Rublev Recalls First Practice Session With ‘Idol’ Rafael Nadal

Published 03/27/2021, 9:29 AM EDT
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 06: Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after winning his Men’s Singles semi-final match against Matteo Berrettini of Italy on day twelve of the 2019 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 06, 2019 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)


Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev has revealed the tennis stalwart that he grew up watching. In a fun interview with Russian soccer ace Fyodor Smolov, the current World Number 8 named ‘King of Clay’ and 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal as his childhood “idol”.

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Andrey Rublev reveals when he had his first practice session with Rafael Nadal

The 23-year-old said that while he loved watching the Spaniard in action as a child, he also liked former Russian champion, Marat Safin.

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“I liked the way Marat Safin played, of course. As a child, Nadal was an idol – and now I periodically play and train with him,” Rublev said.

He added while he adored and admired Nadal growing up, he couldn’t have guessed there would come a day he’d turn up for his first practice session with the champion.

Tennis – ATP 500 – Erste Bank Open – Wiener Stadthalle, Vienna, Austria – November 1, 2020, Russia’s Andrey Rublev celebrates winning the final against Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Recollecting the day, Rublev said he was overcome by a mix of nervousness and motivation as she showed up for his first training session with the Spaniard as a 16-year-old.

“I experienced cool sensations and a surge of motivation, I immediately wanted to work even harder in order to somehow fight him,” the Russian said.

(Quotes have been translated via Google)

Andrey Rublev trails Rafael Nadal 0-2 in head-to-head record

Going by Rublev’s head-to-head record against the great man, he is yet to get a hold of his emotions when he finds himself on the opposite end of a tennis court against Nadal. The Spaniard holds a clear 2-0 lead in two head-to-head meetings with the Russian.

While he hasn’t managed to tame Nadal yet, the Russian has been on an unbelievable run on the Tour since last year. In what was a breakthrough 2020 season, Rublev picked up five Tour titles, the most by any player in the last calendar year.

He also racked up the same number of Tour wins as World Number 1 Novak Djokovic.

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The Russian has also emerged as an unstoppable force in ATP 500 events, winning four back-to-back titles, the last of which came at this year’s Rotterdam Open.

Before his unbeaten run at ATP 500 events was brought to an end by compatriot Aslan Karatsev in Dubai, Rublev went past three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray’s mark of 21 consecutive wins at such tournaments. However, he fell short of Roger Federer’s record of going unbeaten in 28 matches in ATP 500 events.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

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Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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