Poetic? Ironic? Or really just a case study in unintended compliments?
After Rublev rallied spectacularly to beat Holger Rune and claim his first-ever ATP Masters 1000, Tsitsipas tweeted “He deserves it. He’s a good kid.”
Everyone knows Rublev is a good guy, but what about the tennis, Stef? Tsitsipas dances around the elephant. What about the tools?
A debate rages on for anyone who’s ever picked up a racquet: Do I play to my strengths and continue to develop them as dominant forces? Or do I spend time improving my weaknesses?
The Big 3 famously evolved to have few, if any weaknesses. As all-court, all-surface, all-tool players, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer own pretty much every shot in the bag, give or take.
For elite (but not GOAT) players like Rublev and Tsitsipas– who can not aspire to win 20+ Grand Slams but may aspire to grab a few– what’s the best strategy: Develop a few tools into weapons of mass destruction or simply sharpen all of them? Players can choose either path, but first let’s examine what exactly Rublev’s tools are.
Andrey is the embodiment of an aggressive baseliner. His forehand is flat, hard and a nightmare for opponents. Rublev also has excellent first serve speed and ranks in the Top 15 in ATP serve rating.
Rublev also ranks among the best in the world in percentage of first serve points won, standing at #14 as of this writing.
On the backhand wing, he’s consistent and can hit slice exceptionally well for a two-hander. Ironically, slice is an area where Tsitsipas has struggled.
Despite saying he doesn’t enjoy running and would rather rip forehands for winners, Rublev is one of the fastest players on the ATP Tour and possesses excellent defensive skills.
Conversely, Rublev has an usually slow second serve and ranks as #50 in the world in the crucial category of second serve points won. Quite a disparity between his first serve and second serve stats. Rublev also rarely comes to the net, unless he’s there to finish.
Tsitsipas tinkers with his game. He’s an all-court player looking to achieve mastery of a plethora of shots and skills. The question is, which is a better tact– spend time chasing perfection or master the few tools? The answer might be different, depending on the player, but it’s clear Rublev’s few tools have been honed to brilliance. Score this one for Rubie.