- About the tournament
Did Ilya Ivashka create any problems for you in today’s match? Or was it a classic win with a score of 6/4, 6/4?
No, it was a very, very tough match. There were really long rallies already in the first game. The match was very nervous and emotional. In my opinion, we both played at a very high level. I don’t know what Ilya thinks about it, but I believe that we both played at a very high level. If I remember correctly, by the time the score was 3/2 in the first set we had been playing for half an hour already – it shows that the clash was very serious and we both fought for every point. I held breakpoints, he held breakpoints – we played the first set on an equal foot. We both had many chances. I was just a little bit luckier.
During the match, you had an unpleasant situation with one fan who supported Ivashka: at some point, he shouted and applauded so actively, when you made errors that you even had to come up to him and reprimand him. Could you tell us what happened there?
It was very odd: that fan was at the stands with a company, guess it eas hi girlfriend and both of them didn’t really watch the match – they were immersed in their phones. And then they suddenly started yelling at my errors at a very calm moment, when there were very even rallies, and the ball just hit the net. And it’s not that I showed some kind of disrespect to Ilya and I allowed myself to shout “Come on!” too loudly when I scored a point or something. I don’t know what it was all about. So I had to go up and tell those guys that if they want to continue to watch the match, then they’d better behave themselves or else they would simply be escorted out of the arena. They seemed to have gotten the message. Therefore, when the security officers approached them later I told them to let them stay.
How often do you have to deal with such situations on the court?
It was the first time ever.
Can we say that you and Ilya have a similar game style? You both have very powerful strokes, you both play low over the net, so you had a real clash.
No, our styles are completely different. Today we’ve had many long rallies because Ilya moves very well and plays well from the baseline. From my point of view, it’s real tennis, where it matters with what strength you play, how accurately, how you defend, where you will place the next ball. But our game styles are completely different: his backhand is much better and more aggressive, my forehand is much better, and although we serve at the same level, he moves better.
Not so long ago you said that you didn’t want to think far ahead, so that it would not work out, as in Moscow, where you lost the opening match. Now you won the opening match, so do you feel more confident here in St. Petersburg?
Yes, because I was not sure that the match against Ivashka would be successful for me. And I am very glad that I was able to win it, I was able to show a good game, so now we will see what happens next.
What caused your uncertainty about this match? Was it the fact that Ivashka is now in such good shape?
Yes, that’s exactly it. He’s in a very good shape. I know him very well, we practice together. I see how he plays, how he works, I see how he thinks, and considering my recent matches, I didn’t believe that I would be able to win. And I’m really happy that I did.
What did you say to each other at the net during the handshake, if it’s not a secret?
I just said: “Ilya, you did really well, you played incredibly, keep going in the same direction, and you will be a top player for sure.”
At this tournament you are playing doubles with Karen Khachanov, can this be considered as a preparation for the Davis Cup? And have you discussed with the other players who can supposedly play doubles in the national team?
No, we haven’t discussed it. It is still a long way to got. And with Karen we have been playing in doubles for many years. Aslan Karatsev thinks best in doubles, but who of us will partner with him is am open question for the team. We have two, or actually three options for the doubles’ line-up.
Could you, please, designate, what are these three options? Rublev – Karatsev, Rublev – Khachanov and Khachanov – Karatsev?
Yes, as for me, all these three options will work.
What do you think of your next opponents? It could be Botic van de Zandschulp or Sebastian Korda. What do you know about them?
The first player – van de Zandschulp – I don’t know him at all. I heard about him, I know that Daniil Medvedev beat him in four sets at the US Open. But I don’t know his game, and I can’t pronounce his last name either (laughter).
The ATP website says that you played against him in qualification in Rotterdam in 2017.
Oh yeah, now I remember, he defeated me. Yes, I remember that I lost to some Dutchman. So it was him… And as for Korda, I can say that he is a talented young player who is now progressing at the peak of his shape. We met once on the court before, and it was a tough match. Let’s see how it goes this time.
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