ATP Players of 2020, No. 4: Andrey Rublev

ATP Players of 2020, No. 4: Andrey Rublev

Over 51 matches in a shortened season, the 23-year-old won the most titles of any ATP player—five—in 2020.

This week, we're highlighting our top five ATP players of the year. Last week, we revealed our Top 5 WTA list.?Click here to read each selection.

Notable 2020 Stats

Titles: Doha, Adelaide, Hamburg, St. Petersburg, Vienna?
Win-loss record: 41-10
Key wins:?Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, David Goffin, Matteo Berrettini, Roberto Bautista Agut?

Andrey Rublev started the season ranked No. 23 with two ATP titles to his name. Twelve months later, he stood at No. 8 with five more trophies, largely thanks to an improved mental game.

In doing so, the 23-year-old Russian is No. 4 on our list of the top men's tennis players of the season.

Rublev got off to a hot start by winning his first tournament of the year, in Doha, without the loss of a set, which pushed him inside of the Top 20 for the first time. After heading to Australia without even a day's break, he won another tournament, in?Adelaide, making him?the first ATP player to win?the first two titles of the year since 2004.

He credited his strong start to a great preseason and good health, with but with a new goal in mind: improve his mental toughness.

"I would say I feel more confident about my level," Rub;ev said in February. "Every match you don't know how you feel because you cannot play amazing every day. It will be for sure some days, even if you're confident, some days will be that you're not feeling the ball well. So this is normal.

"And then you have to be confident mentally and strong mentally, and this is the main part I would like to improve and I would like to learn, and we'll see."

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With a workhorse mentality, Rublev's decision to play—and eventually win—two titles in two different continents in two week, was very on brand. So were his 51 matches in an abbreviated season. He tied world No. 1 Novak Djokovic for most wins (41) and his match win percentage of 80.4 was higher than everyone else on tour but Djokovic.?

Repetition wasn't the goal, though—mental strength was. As a junior, Rublev admitted to being susceptible to fits of frustration, and his tendency toward unhinged behavior carried into his 20s. In 2020, he?reigned in his emotions, and more victories. In tight wins over Felix Auger-Aliassime (Adelaide semifinals) and David Goffin (Australian Open third round), he stepped up to the challenge, mentally more than anything.

With momentum on his side, Rublev patiently sat through a six-month shutdown, but spent the time continuing to refine a rapidly improving game. When he returned, he reached his second career Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open. Though he lost to Daniil Medvedev in straight sets, the fortnight was a step in the right direction.

Further steps came once the tour moved to Europe. In Hamburg, he lost just two sets en route to the ATP 500 title, and kept on winning at the rescheduled Roland Garros. After fighting back from two sets down for the first time in his career in his opener against Sam Querrey, Rublev ran out of steam three matches later against Stefanos Tsitsipas. But he saved some of his best for last, going on a 10-match win streak with titles in St. Petersburg and Vienna, and booking his first ticket to the ATP Finals in London.

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What stood out most?about Rublev was his dedication to playing week in and week out, anywhere, even during a global pandemic. Injuries didn't plague him, which is a huge sign of progress after a severe back injury in 2018. It's a testament to the work he's put in physically, as well to how he managed his training during the layoff.

Though he went 1-2 inside of?the O2 Arena, given how far he had to climb from the start of the year to qualify, it was?an impressive debut at the season-ending championships. It ended a win over Dominic Thiem, who had already qualified for the semifinals.

"I mean, I cannot complain," Rublev said. "I win so many tournaments that I never win before. This year I win more tournaments than in my career. I win more matches than in my career. So I'm the one who cannot complain. I can be only grateful for the season."