DOHA—Andrey Rublev is heading to Australia armed with a stunning falcon trophy and a Top 20 ranking. The 22-year-old earned both by closing out qualifier Corentin Moutet, 6-2, 7-6 (3) in Saturday’s Qatar Open final.
"It's my first experience at the start of a season with the trophy, and it's amazing feeling," Rublev said.
The world No. 23 aired his frustrations over missing out on the ATP Cup, but didn’t let it deter him from his goal in Doha. Instead, he methodically worked his way through the draw without dropping a set.
As a finalist in 2018, the 22-year-old Russian knew exactly what it would feel like to lose at the last hurdle, but tried to block it out.
"I was not really thinking before the match about it," he said. "I know that I lost two years ago, and I was thinking, OK, we'll see. I will do my best. If my opponent is better today, the only thing I can do is accept. If I will be better, then it's amazing.
"So in the end, I win and it's amazing. That's all I can say."
While Moutet’s Friday workload—two three-set wins over Fernando Verdasco and Stan Wawrinka—certainly played a part in his mental and physical fatigue, the young Frenchman wouldn't let it be an excuse.
“I think he was tired as well because he played two matches yesterday, so it was the same for both players,” Moutet said. “We had the same deal, same problem to deal, even if I played longer, but that's my problem."
Rublev came into 2020 with particular goals in mind: to get stronger mentality, be more mature and work on his professionalism. Eleven days in, and he's keeping up with his resolutions.
"The moment when I was little bit more tight, he played really well, and he broke me back. And I showed little bit emotions," Rublev said. "I could behave better. "
He was still by far the more mature player on Saturday night, as his 20-year-old opponent lost control of himself a number of times. Moutet spent some quality time ranting toward his player box, he nearly launched a ball out of the stadium, and he—somewhat impressively—kicked his racquet mid-air.
"I can say I understand him because I am still the same. So for sure I know what he feel inside, and that's why I understand him," Rublev said. "I'm not judging him, you know?"
As much as Moutet was down, both in score and emotionally, he still dug himself out of his funk and broke back for 3-4, letting rip a Rafael Nadal-like revving fist pump. But he would hold his level only until the tiebreak, when Rublev ran away with the title.
As amazing as he's feeling right now, Rublev won't get very much time to soak in this victory, as he's set to play in Adelaide next week.