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Finn to finish: Rublev targets fifth straight ATP 500 crown

Bolstered by his improved performance, rising Russian star Andrey Rublev will be looking to clinch his fifth straight ATP 500 title at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The world No.8, who enjoys a first round bye, will start his campaign against Finnish qualifier Emil Ruusuvuori, who defeated Jordan Thompson of Australia 6-3, 7-5.

Last year Rublev reached the quarter-finals of the Dubai Open where he lost in straight sets to the unseeded Dan Evans of Great Britain.

The second seed enters the tournament on the back of a semi-finals defeat at the hands of Roberto Bautista Agut at Qatar Open last week.

Speaking about his chance in Dubai, Rublev said: “It’s always tough to play in Dubai as the balls fly due to windy conditions and it doesn’t suit my game style.

“It will be a great challenge for me, as I will need to find other ways to play matches. I have nothing to lose because, like I said, the conditions are not really for my style of the game. I will try to do my best and we will see what’s going to happen,” he added.

Rublev won his fourth ATP 500 tour singles title after beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the final of the Rotterdam Open in the first week of March.

His continued form which has made him one of the top players in men’s tennis since play resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic last year.

Since September he has won titles at Hamburg Open, St Petersburg and Vienna Open.

“I’m really happy that I won the Rotterdam Open because I played there for a couple of years and I’ve always enjoyed that tournament. That tournament was really tough to win and I was hoping I would get the chance one day to do well there. Now, I’ve won it and it is a really great feeling.”

Rublev and Daniil Medvedev helped Russia beat Italy to lift the ATP Cup final in February. “It’s tough to know what you need to do to produce good results,” said the Australian Open quarter-finalist.

“I have focused on myself to accept the things that I can’t change and do the best I can. This is the direction I am moving in and what has helped me. It also helped me to be better mentally.

“I feel like I am doing some things better than last year… I’ve always worked hard, it’s been a long journey of improvement,” he added.

Rublev also revealed that chess helps him strategize his game. Rublev compared the two sports and felt the manner in which he makes his move to strike the queen is similar to him using his forehand while playing tennis.

He also credited chess with helping him in making a perfect start to the new season.

“I think chess can help in tennis, maybe strategy-wise, it can help you have better patience. In my case, I’m playing chess the same way as tennis. I try to take a queen and lead the match like in tennis I try to take the forehand and be the one who is dictating,” he added.

Talking about his chances of winning at Roland Garros, Rublev, whose idol is Rafael Nadal, said: “I never really thought about it because I never really think about if I have chances against Nadal on clay court as I have never against him that much. First of all, and I never even beat him yet. But, of course, I would like to show great results on clay because I like this surface. I did pretty well last year because out of three tournaments, I won one title and I made it to the quarter-finals at Roland Garros. So, for sure, I would like to do my best there.”

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