April 16, 2023
Andrey Rublev served up an ace to complete an incredible comeback in Monte Carlo.
Then he collapsed onto the clay and let the tears flow as he took it all in.
The world number six must have believed deep down his chance had gone – but he still harboured a little hope.
And that made all the difference when you compare this dramatic final to the one-sided showpiece in 2021 against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Somehow Andrey fought back to win this title 5-7, 6-2, 7-5. And that’s when he covered his face as he lay on that Monte Carlo clay and reflected on his biggest victory so far.
Wimbledon 2023 will feature all the top tennis stars and there’s no bigger prize in world tennis.
But even this forerunner to Roland Garros down in the Principality sunshine is a precious prize.
Rublev said: ‘I have tears. I don’t know what to say. I’m so happy after struggling for so long to win one of these.’
He knew the odds were stacked heavily against him as Holger Rune closed in on a likely final-set victory.
Andrey explained: ‘I was 4-1 down and love 0-30 and then had to save a break point. I was hoping for one chance. “At least try to play to the end,” I told myself.
“The previous final here, mentally I was not ready. When I went down that time, I was thinking “no chance to win any more.” This time I believed I could come back and I did.’
Everything went wrong for Rune. The crowd and umpire turned against him as he blasted balls into the skies in pure anger and frustration.
The Dane’s body had already been cramping – and he couldn’t stop the tide from turning. An ugly 49 unforced errors told the story of how he began to unravel in the sunshine.
Rune has already won a trophy at this level and that seemed to comfort the 19-year-old a little as he said: ‘Congrats Andrey. You have been working very, very hard for it and you deserve it. I can’t wait to be back next year.’
Rublev returned the compliment and knows Rune has time to fill his trophy cabinet: ‘Congrats to Holger on an amazing week. I know it’s tough to lose. But you’re too freakin’ young man – and you already have a 1000 title so give me this one!
‘To my team, thank you! It’s the first title of the year – and my biggest one. I hope I don’t annoy you too much and I hope you still like me.’
Often in the past, Rublev’s temperament has let him down. Maybe at the age of 25 he is finally beginning to mature.
Wimbledon 2023 will require a combination of fiery passion and cool composure from its winners.
Will you be there to see how the champions get it done?