“I didn't know what to expect," Rublev told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj in his post-match interview. “But now I’m really happy that I won ... first round against such tough opponent like Nikoloz ... we played a couple of times last year and we had unbelievable battles against each other.”
The 22-year-old Russian is bidding for his third title of the season, having won Adelaide and Doha in January. He credits his early 2020 success to his improved mental fitness, something he’s been diligently working on.
“The mental part was much better than last year,” he said. “So, it looks like I improved, but we’ll see."
Quickly shifting from the sweltering Melbourne conditions outdoors to the European cold environment indoors didn’t seem to bother Rublev, who needed just 55 minutes to punch his next-round ticket.
“We get used to this, we have no choice,” he said. “It’s always outdoor season, indoor season, claycourt season, hard, grass. This is part of our sport.”
Next up for the seventh seed is Alexander Bublik, who battled past French qualifier Gregoire Barrere, 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-4. Rublev leads the Russian-born Kazakh 2-0 in their head-to-head series—both matches played in 2019 were on indoor hard courts.
On Wednesday, top-seeded Daniil Medvedev will kick off his campaign against in-form Vasek Pospisil—who’s coming off a final showing in Montpellier.