Andrey Rublev
Andrey Rublev Image Credit: Reuters

Andrey Rublev seems determined to do things the hard way in Dubai this week as the “exhausted” No. 2 seed was once again forced to fight back after dropping his first set at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The Russian made it to the semi-finals by seeing off a spirited challenge from American Mackenzie McDonald on Centre Court on Thursday afternoon, and — while he is glad to at least get a little respite before his last four clash on Friday — his non-stop schedule is making him hurt.

Rublev has already spent more than five hours on court in the UAE this week — and that includes a swift 6-0 ‘bagel’ — in seeing off Dan Evans, Soonwoo Kwon and now McDonald (2-6, 6-3, 6-1) after only arriving at the hotel in Dubai hours before his first match.

“I feel completely tired, to be honest,” he said when asked Gulf News how he felt after his latest three-setter. “I’m happy I was still able to win a match today. But I feel really, really tired.

“First of all, I played even earlier today so was even hotter than yesterday. It was even tougher. At the same time, I finished a bit earlier, so hopefully that will give me more time to recover. Plus tomorrow I guess I’m going to play in afternoon. It’s a bit better, more easy to play when the sun goes down. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”

The 24-year-old world No. 7 spoke earlier this week about the challenges he faces to keep his emotions in check, and he certainly let his guard slip while dropping the opening set on Thursday, screaming at himself and banging his racket, before setting up his final-four clash with Hubert Hurkacz.

“So probably you saw me today,” Rublev laughed when asked about his visible frustrations on court against McDonald — a man who “destroyed” him in the 2019 Australian Open.

“I think it’s everything personal for everyone. For someone like me, for me the toughest part is emotions. For some players maybe the tougher thing is to play more aggressive, for others, to play more defence. Every person has different weaknesses. In my case it is the emotions. Of course, it’s much easier to control them when I’m fresh, when I’m feeling good, then I control them better. When I’m tired, exhausted like now, I have no energy and my brain is not working the same way. Then it gets tough. At least today it only happened in the first set when I was showing them, then I was able to go to the bathroom, to take a breath and change completely my behaviour and my game.”

When asked if there was something he said to himself, he replied, again with that trademark smile: “Just, ‘Shut up and play tennis, stop crying’.”

Rublev will face No. 5 seed Hubert Hurkacz after the Pole defeated Italy’s Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-3.

Hurkacz was in control from the start against the man who prevented Andy Murray from joining the 700 ATP wins club on Wednesday and broke the No. 4 seed’s serve five times without facing a break point himself.