'My advice to UAE kids who want to play tennis? Well, first try to be a kind person': Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev

Andrey Rublev, a kind-hearted Russian tennis player, wants you to learn from Federer, Nadal and Djokovic

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Rituraj Borkakoty

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KT Photo: Shihab
KT Photo: Shihab

Published: Fri 29 Dec 2023, 2:16 PM

Every now and then, Andrey Rublev adjusts his hair and tilts his head before making a point. This soft-spoken Russian never shies away from speaking up for what he believes in.

Who can ever forget his act of defiance when he wrote ‘No War Please’ on the camera lens moments after winning his semifinal at the 2022 Dubai Tennis Championships, a tournament he went on to win?

It was a message from the son of a former Russian professional boxer that resonated with every sane mind.

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A few months after his Dubai triumph, Rublev made no fuss about missing out on Wimbledon due to the All England Tennis Club’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players over the Ukraine war.

Rublev tried hard to bridge the gap, even offering to play mixed doubles with any of the Ukrainian players.

It was not a move that was born out of a desire to step on the hallowed grass of Wimbledon once again.

It was just a deep-lying desire to show solidarity with fellow professionals from Ukraine and send out a message that “there is no war in tennis”.

An advocate for peace, Rublev is also driven by a passion for helping people in need.

After being unveiled as an ambassador for Medcare and Aster Pharmacy in Dubai to promote a healthy lifestyle, Rublev revealed how he was confronted by a stark reality when he was a teenage tennis player in the junior circuit.

While travelling from one place to another for age-group tournaments, Rublev sometimes bumped into kids who ‘had nothing’ to eat.

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

“When I was travelling, I started to see the world, then I started to see that a lot of people are struggling, a lot of kids are struggling, some of them have nothing, they are barely surviving,” he says.

“And it touched me when I was a teenager. That’s when I thought that if I become a good player, maybe I would be able to help some of these people.”

Rublev didn’t turn out to be a merely good tennis player, he is now world number five, winner of 14 ATP titles and a proud owner of an Olympic mixed doubles gold.

“Now it’s time to do something, it’s time to use my platform in a good way to show people what is important to me,” he says.

“I have found that connection with Medcare and Aster Pharmacy, I think it will be a great combination. They have a lot of experience and they have a lot to offer.

“I think if we use this platform the right way through sports and medicine together, we can really show how it is important to help each other, how it is important to help kids. That’s our next generation, they need to be better than us, they need to be kinder than us.

“Still there are many bad things happening in the world and I think it is important to help every person and try to be a better person.”

Heart of gold

Earlier this year, Rublev launched a clothing brand named Rublo to create “awareness around equality and kindness with the hope of making our world a better place.”

The Russian has promised to donate all the money raised from sales to children’s charities.

No wonder that he speaks more about kindness and gratitude than a ruthless mentality that every young player hopes to embrace on tennis courts.

“My advice for kids here who want to play tennis? Well, first try to be a kind person, a good person, try to be better as a person everyday,” he says.

“Take care of people who are around you, take care of people who need help. Never use people in your interest. Always give more than what you can receive.

“So that would be the advice. Be more kind and then of course, you need to work really hard and really believe in yourself to become a good tennis player. You need to work hard on the court, you need to work hard in your fitness.

“But for me, the best thing is to be a better person, if you work hard in your game, maybe you can achieve something, but I prefer to be a better person.”

Take a leaf out of giants’ book

It’s easy to take things for granted when you live in a city like Dubai where anything and everything can be available at the push of a button.

But to push away lifestyle diseases, Rublev says

people from all walks of life can draw inspiration from the age-defying heroics of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

“They are an inspiration to everyone,” the 26-year-old says of those three iconic tennis players.

“I think if you are doing the right things, if you work on your mobility, on some muscles to protect your body, of course, you will remain healthy. Federer, Rafa and Novak have proved it.

“But it was not like this 20 years ago, I know this because my coach used to play tennis. Those days players were finishing their career at the age of 28 or 29. But now I can say physically I feel much, much better at 26 than what I was at 20 or 21.

“It feels like my body is younger than before. I am improving all the time and I am doing the right things. The main thing is not to stop, and you need to always keep going for more.”

Andrey Rublev of Russia returns a shot against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria
Andrey Rublev of Russia returns a shot against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria

That iconic match in Dubai

A Dubai resident who was awarded the UAE Golden Visa for his tennis accomplishments, Rublev remembers when he was first struck by the magic of this city.

It was the iconic tennis match between Federer and Andre Agassi in 2005 on the Burj Al Arab helipad, almost 700 feet above ground level, that caught the imagination of an eight-year-old Rublev.

“I remember that helipad match. I was only a kid at that time, I was too young to understand that. When I saw it, I thought, ‘Wow, this is unreal’,” he says.

“My whole world revolved around tennis even then, so it was incredible to see my sport being showcased in such a grand manner.”

Finally, Rublev revealed why Dubai is among the best places in the world for every tennis player to prepare for the new season.

“You can get anything you want here. Like in practice sessions, the gyms, tennis courts, you have amazing facilities here,” he says.

“Then if you want to eat, you have places here serving amazing food, restaurants with amazing quality and amazing views, you can just go to a rooftop and enjoy dinner there and you can go to the beach and have your dinner,” he says.

“And if it’s just for tennis, I would say there are a few places in the world that are good for off-season, and Dubai is one of them!”

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