By Jane Voigt
Andrey Rublev became the youngest male to enter the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open today since Andy Roddick in 2001. The Russian 19-year-old was not the #NextGenATP player we expected to bust through at a major, either. Think Alexander Zverev. But we all can agree that this year’s draw has been an odd one.
Rublev came into New York ranked No. 53. He’d played in four prior slams. His best results had been two second round appearances at this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon. Now, he’ll face Rafael Nadal (No. 1) in the quarterfinal. And, of course, the Spaniard is one of Rublev’s idols he watched growing up.
“Rafa is [the] read champion,” Rublev told ESPN on court, after dismissing David Goffin (No. 9) in straight sets, 7-5, 7-6(5), 6-3. “This is a quarterfinal and I have nothing to lose.”
“No matter what they say, when you are in the quarterfinal and have a chance to go to the semifinal, you have something to lose,” Nadal told the media, is response to Rublev’s comment. Nadal also advanced today after dismissing Alexandr Dolgopolov, 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.
“The best part of being 19 is that you have more years to enjoy the tour and life,” Nadal said, as reported by UBITennis on Twitter. “I remember when Rublev came to train as a kid for a week in Majorca. I practiced with him.”
Although Nadal tries to find ways to remain forever young, he’s aged.
“It’s best to be young,” Nadal said. “When I turned nine I wanted to be eight. But, I haven’t found a way not to get older.”
All kidding aside, Rublev will do his best to get past Nadal on Wednesday. And, no matter what Nadal says about not having something to lose, this kid will go all out.
“Feeling so great now with this crowd,” Rublev said, on Louis Armstrong court. “I will try to do my best next match.”
The youngster’s hard-hitting baseline game gained attention when he knocked out the number seven seed and Cincinnati champion, Grigor Dimitrov, in the second round. Rublev’s victory over Goffin today was not viewed as a huge upset, considering the Belgian’s injuries. Not to let any grass grow under his feet, Rublev watched Nadal practice after each had finished their match today.
This is Rublev’s second U.S. Open. At six-foot-two and weighing only 150 pounds, he earned his first career title this year at Umag in Croatia. And, in 2014, he won the French Open boys’ singles title.
Rublev, like Nadal, landed in the top half of the draw, the one that’s proven more difficult considering all the losses in the bottom half: Marin Cilic (No. 5); Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (No. 8); Jack Sock (No. 13); Karen Khachanov (No. 25) and Rublev’s compatriot and doubles partner in New York.
Rublev and Khachanov play their third-round doubles match against the 2014 French Open Grand Slam doubles champions Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin this afternoon. If the Russian duo advance they’ll play the winningest doubles team in history, Americans Bob and Mike Bryan.