February 19, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Andrey Rublev, the Rome Rock Star (vid)

ROME – The weather was quite atrocious on the first Monday of the 2023 Italian Open.

But that didn’t bother the hundreds and hundreds of fans – blessedly, mostly young ones – who lined the Centrale in the hope of getting an autograph and/or a selfie from world No. 6 Andrey Rublev.

It’s not a “the man has won this tournament many times and he’s a legend here” kind of situation. Rublev has played the main draw in Rome just three previous times. And he’s won a total of three matches.

A year ago, he went out to Filip Krajinovic in straight sets in his opener, and was on court barely an hour.

But he’s got that “thing”. Or maybe the fans know he’s a sure thing.

Because they patiently waited as he did the rounds. And did he do the ROUNDS.

Act I was the side of the court behind the benches. For a fair while there, it looked like he was never even going to get out of the corner. But he just kept going, and going.

ACT II – Hello to the other side

It was plenty, probably far more than even reasonably expected.

But Rublev wasn’t done yet.

He went over to the other side of the benches, and did it all over again.

ACT III – A feint, a laugh and some more

After that, Rublev went to get his bags together to cross over to the other side, where the player exit it.

Was he done? He’d already signed literally hundreds and posed for a few hundred more.

He faked as if to leave – then came jogging over with a big smile on his face.

And it began again.

It was a truly remarkable effort from the 25-year-old. No wonder they were chanting his name.

And then, the morning after

If you thought it was a one-off, Rublev practiced on a much smaller outer court the next day.

And after that, he got right back to it.

If you didn’t already appreciate this player, this closes the deal.

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