06 Aug 2014

Rublev shrugs off favourite tag ahead of Nanjing


Photo: Susan MullaneAndrey Rublev (RUS)

Perhaps inevitably given his ranking and recent form, world junior No. 1 Andrey Rublev will enter the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games as one of the favourites to take home gold in the boys’ singles.

The 16-year-old Russian won back-to-back singles titles in June at junior Roland Garros and on the grass of Roehampton, before partnering Stefan Kozlov to a runner-up finish in the boys’ doubles at junior Wimbledon.

But in spite of those impressive results, Rublev is tempering his expectations ahead of the start of the second Youth Olympic event on 16-28 August.

“Of course I want a medal, but nobody knows what’s going to happen,” conceded the Russian. “It will be my first time in China, and I’m looking to show my [best] game there.”

While focussed on performing to his potential first and foremost in the tennis event at Nanjing’s Tennis Academy of China on 17-24 August, Rublev will allow himself time to appreciate all the Games has to offer.

“First of all for me it is tennis, and then after that I’m going to have a great time,” he said. “It will be great to go to the Olympic Games. There are going to be a lot of other sports to watch - I would like to go and watch basketball, because I’m a big fan - and you can also have a good time, meet people and have a great experience.”

Rublev found out he would be participating in Nanjing after Roland Garros, where he defeated Spain's Jaume Munar in the final to win his first junior Grand Slam title. If the prestigious title, and news of his participation in Nanjing wasn’t enough, his week was topped off by his ascent to the junior world No. 1 ranking for the first time on 9 June.

While Nanjing, and dreams of a medal, offer his next big target, Rublev is particularly looking forward to representing his country again on the international stage. It will be the first time he has done so since helping Russia to a fifth-place finish at the Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Finals in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, last September.

“For me it’s great to play for my country,” he enthused. “Everybody is watching you, everybody is wishing for good results for you. It’s a big pleasure to play for Russia.”

Tennis is one of 28 sports set to be contested at the Youth Olympic Games, with around 3,800 athletes preparing to take part in the event in Eastern China.