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Fiery Rublev aims to ‘be nicer’ as he targets tennis top four

Fiery Andrey Rublev admitted on Saturday that he needed to control his temper and “be nicer” to himself if he wants to challenge the world’s top four in 2024.

The Russian finally felt he belonged at world number five in 2023, but added he still had plenty to improve to get to the very top, including putting a lid on his explosive on-court emotions.

The 26-year-old Russian enjoyed tournament victories in Monte Carlo and Bastad in a consistent 2023 that saw him reach four other finals.

He begins his 2024 campaign as top seed at next week’s Hong Kong Open with the first Grand Slam of the year just a fortnight away in Australia.

After reaching the quarter-finals of the US Open in September, Rublev reached the final of the Shanghai Masters and the semi-finals in Vienna and Paris, only losing the latter in three tight sets to Novak Djokovic. 

“After this year’s US Open, I started to feel that I was really raising my level,” Rublev told reporters in Hong Kong, where he will have a bye into the second round. 

“I started to feel that it doesn’t matter who I have in the draw, if I will be smart and control my emotions, I will have a chance to win the match.”

Australia preparations

Victories against the world’s top four — Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner — have proved elusive for the Russian in recent seasons.

But Rublev, who could potentially meet one of them in the quarter-finals at next month’s Australian Open, knows what he needs to do to turn that record around.

“They (the top four) accept when things go wrong much better than I do,” he said of his mental approach. 

“Those guys, they have amazing legs, they have amazing shots from both sides so I need to improve many things in my game.”

The Russian has a reputation for losing his cool on court, often smacking his own left knee in frustration with his racquet, something he knows is detrimental to his game.

“This is not the way I am as a person and when I’m behaving like this it looks really disgusting and embarrassing,” admitted the man who has never got beyond the quarter-finals in a Grand Slam event. 

“The next step is to be nicer to myself on court, especially for my left knee, because it is suffering.”

Also in the draw as the men’s ATP Tour returns to Hong Kong for the first time since 2003, is fellow Russian and world number 15 Karen Khachanov and American Frances Tiafoe, ranked one place lower.

“The goal here, of course, is to prepare as best as I can to be ready for Australia,” said Rublev. “Play as many matches as I can and if I go deep in the tournament, that will be perfect.”

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