Misc Tennis

After Madrid Open win, has Andrey Rublev found the right balance?

After Madrid Open win, has Andrey Rublev found the right balance?

Andrey Rublev fell onto his back, legs outstretched with his hands covering his face. Red clay covered his shirt and his legs as he stood up seconds later. He let out a deep exhale.

He had arrived in Madrid without a match win in 49 days — a near-eternity during the spring tennis season — and was leaving as an unexpected champion.

Despite a debilitating (presumed) virus that plagued him throughout, everything clicked for Rublev in Spain. He rattled off win after win, including over Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals, and defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime in Sunday’s final. It was his second Masters 1000-level title and 16th title on the ATP Tour.

After he stood up and hugged Auger-Aliassime at the net, Rublev went to the camera to write on the lens — a custom at the event for match winners — and paused for a moment before writing with a red marker: “Samadhi now I’m free.”

The message was perhaps as unexpected as the title itself, and fans on social media were baffled by it. Samadhi, a state of meditative consciousness and concentration found in Buddhism and Hinduism, is not a concept the often-fiery Rublev is known for on the court, nor was the principle on display when he was disqualified from a match in Dubai in March for yelling at a line judge.

But something changed for the 26-year-old Russian. After months of trying to balance the emotion needed on court to perform his best with the need to remain calm and composed, he found a way to quiet the self-doubt and simply play.

“I was able to not think at all [the] last couple of days, and I was able to stay focused only on tennis without thinking anything,” he said on Sunday. “So I let myself [be] completely free.”

The losses were only part of the story coming into Madrid.

The disqualification in Dubai derailed a season that had started with promise. Then ranked No. 5 in the world, Rublev opened 2024 with a title in Hong Kong and reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.

In Dubai, after going down 6-5 in the final set during his semifinal match against Alexander Bublik, Rublev was upset that Bublik’s baseline shot had not been called out. In the heat of the moment, Rublev shook his hands and yelled in the face of a line judge. He was accused of verbal abuse and using a Russian obscenity — something he denied — and defaulted from the match despite pleas from both Rublev and Bublik to…

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