Andrey Rublev – ‘It’s Better to Not Be Inside My Head’

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Bill Simons and Vinay Venkatesh

BREAKING NEWS: Coco Gauff revealed that she preferred “Oppenheimer” to “Barbie.”

‘IT’S BETTER TO NOT BE INSIDE MY HEAD:’ Once again we got a peek into the wacky, wonderful mind of the Andrey Rublev. After beating Alex DeMinaur, the hilarious Russian said, “I started to tell myself, ‘You’re going to die today,’ but I will do everything I can.” 

He later said, “It’s better not to be inside my head.…I was having scary thoughts…I wanted to destroy everything…I was feeling sorry for myself. I said, ‘If you don’t change how you’re playing, you’ll die.’ I thought of the American movie, ‘Scary Movie.’” 

GOOD MAN, BAD ROOMMATE: Taylor Fritz said that if he could choose anyone on the tour to be his roommate, it would be Tommy Paul, because his fellow American is his friend and he’s neat. Then, when asked to choose his favorite player to hang out with, Taylor said, “Frances Tiafoe. He’s hilarious and it’s always a good time. But he is one of the worst roommates.”

HEADY MOVE: Fun-loving Aryna Sabalenka signs the bald head of her trainer after every match.     

IT FELT GOOD TO LOSE: After going ahead 6-0, 6-0, 1-0 Djokovic said it felt better to lose a game to Adrian Mannarino because “it relieved the tension” of going for a triple bagel win.

DON’T HIJACK MY COACH: When ESPN commentator and Coco Gauff’s coach Brad Gilbert was providing an on-court analysis from the Floridian’s practice court, Coco went up to him, took the microphone, and asked, “Hey, guys, can I have my coach back?”

QUOTEBOOK:

“I told you so!” – Taylor Fritz to his Friend’s Box, after upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas

“It’s about time!” – ESPN’s Chris McKendry to her fellow broadcaster Christopher Eubanks, who said American men’s tennis was catching up with the women

“After a shaky start to defend his title, Djokovic has truly moved into steamroller mode.” – AO Radio

GORGEOUS BORGES: From Little Mo to Big Foe, from Fraulein Forehand to the Djoker, tennis has relished countless nicknames. But the least surprising of them all has to be the moniker of Portugal’s Nuno Borges, who some call Gorgeous Borges.

UKRAINE – WHY IS THE WORLD LIKE THIS?  Critically important news stories have a certain shelf life. Even the most harrowing of crises lose their edge. People get tired of wars. 

A couple of years ago, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was front and center. As tanks rolled and missiles flew, we were horrified. Cities were flattened, headlines were bold. Some former ATP players joined the military. All of Ukraine’s players fled. 

In 2022 Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian players, then, in 2023, they were allowed to compete. Indian Wells flew Ukraine’s flag and the WTA’s Ukrainians were outspoken. Many ribbons were worn, there were lots of frosty locker rooms and few handshakes. Nerves were frayed, funds were raised. Time and again Ukrainian players put things in perspective: “Our cities are burning, our schools have been flattened, our grandmothers are fleeing. Tennis is just a game, but I’m going to use my platform. Maybe my wins will buoy spirits. Where do you stand?”

This year at the Australian Open, for the first time in history, three Ukrainians reached the fourth round of a Slam. Elina Svitolina, who’s done yeoman work for her homeland, pulled out of her fourth-round match amidst a torrent of tears due to a back injury. Qualifier Dayana Yastremska, who fled Ukraine in a boat with her sister and whose grandmother’s house was bombed when Dayana was in Brisbane, blasted 38 winners to beat Belarusian Victoria Azarenka. And Marta Kostyuk, 21, downed the 20-year-old Russian qualifier Maria Timofeeva to reach the quarters, where she’ll face Coco Gauff.

Kostyuk hoped people wouldn’t become complacent about the ongoing conflict, saying, “The war is still there. People are still dying every day. I still don’t understand what all these players are doing.

“Nothing really changed…People forget about it because people get used to it…I’m here to remind everyone all the time that it’s still on, and it should be stopped. It’s not normal…There are missiles flying over my parents’ house…I feel like the West tries to silence everything…There are times where you really are on the edge of giving up…[I am] not understanding why the world is like this…I just try to grow through it.”

THE SPORTING LIFE OF COCO GAUFF: Coco’s father Corey was a collegiate basketball standout at Georgia State. Coco was also good at hoops. Years ago she skipped playing in a Florida all-star basketball game because she had to go to the French Open. 

Her mother Candi was a track star at Florida State. Coco, who’s known for her speed, said she’s really not a great track sprinter. Her favorite event is the 800 meters. Since she was a kid, Corey has had her throw footballs to groove her service motion. Now her younger brother is a budding football star and Coco’s an avid Miami Dolphins fan. She said that, like Caroline Wozniacki, she hoped to integrate boxing into her training routine.

Gauff often plays miniature golf with her family, and last night she went to the wrestling movie “Iron Claw.”

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL: Novak Djokovic has prevailed in the last 31 matches against Americans and has an 8-0 record against Taylor Fritz. Still, after his impressive win against Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Californian has hope, saying, “I pushed him a couple of years ago, but he hasn’t brought out my best-level tennis…If I play like today, I’ll have a chance.”

A TALE OF THREE DEPARTMENT STORES: For generations, Taylor Fritz’s family owned the huge May Department Stores that once reigned as a dominant Southern California retailer.  

For years, Jack Kramer’s kids figured their dad was named Neiman Marcus, since every week their mom would get a package from a guy named Neiman Marcus. 

After Monica Seles was stabbed in 1993, she went through a lot of therapy. Then, when she was feeling better, she went on wonderful flights of fancy in Barney’s Department Store in New York. There she pictured herself as Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” No sales persons were around, Frank Sinatra was singing in the background and she shamelessly tried on about 100 hats.

A TALE OF THREE LETTERS: The other day we posted a letter to the WTA from Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova that encouraged the group not to play their finals in Saudi Arabia. But there are also a few other tennis letters that have emerged lately. Here they are.

– Navratilova wrote Evert, who again is openly sharing her battle with ovarian cancer: “I’m in awe of your push through fear and pain, to be vulnerable for everyone else. My breast cancer experience sent me inside a turtle shell. Not y’all! I thought I’d be hurting others by sharing. Not y’all! Inspirational…#PEACE.”

– After the Danish veteran Torben Ulrich passed, his famous son Lars, who’s the drummer for Metallica, offered this note: “95 years of adventures, unique experiences, curiosity, pushing boundaries, challenging the status quo, tennis, music, art, writing…and quite a bit of Danish contrarian attitude. Thank you endlessly! I love you dad.” 

– Stefanos Tsitsipas wrote this unusual letter to the sport of tennis:  

“Dear Tennis,

“I remember the first time I was introduced to you in 2001…What felt so special with you is that I was on my own playground…[where] there were no rules or limits. I fell in love with you when I was eight and won my first tournament…I remember waking up in the middle of the night and telling my father, ‘Sign me off every other sport…I just want to do tennis and it will be my sport for the rest of my life.’

“I played my first ATP match in Rotterdam…[when] I was very free-spirited…and that match taught me…[to be] a more mature, more controlling player.  Since then…I’ve had very difficult nights where I couldn’t sleep because of the pain of having lost matches I shouldn’t have. A lot of love for the game, but a lot of hate for the game.

“You taught me to live life as it goes, to never doubt and to just keep on living regardless of the outcome. I have been very committed and devoted to the journey. Every single day I feel grateful that I’ve chosen you. In the future I hope we have a reciprocal love for each other. I hope my kids, one day, get to play with you and continue my legacy.”

GO FIGURE: Aryna Sabalenka, whose career could have been torpedoed by wretched serving, has hit only six double faults in Melbourne. She’s the only woman quarterfinalist from last year who’s still in the draw…Jannik Sinner is the only ATP player to have not lost a set…After losses by Elina Svitolina and Victoria Azarenka, there are no more moms in the draw.

BACK-TO-BACK: Gauff is hoping to become the first teen to win back-to-back Slams since Martina Hingis…Taylor Fritz has now made back-to-back Grand Slam quarterfinals.

ANOTHER SLAM, ANOTHER PROTEST: During the Alexander Zverev-Cam Norrie match a woman threw flyers onto their Margaret Court Arena court that protested the war in Palestine. Play was briefly delayed. Last year there were also protests at the US Open and Wimbledon.

CATCHING UP WITH NOVAK’S RECORDS: Djokovic has tied Federer’s record of reaching 58 Grand Slam quarterfinals. He’s won 32 straight Australian Open matches. If he wins in Melbourne, he’ll exceed his own and Roger’s record of having won 72 hardcourt titles…When Novak beat Adrian Mannarino 6-0, 6-0, 6-3, it was the fewest games he’d lost in a major match since 2015. Novak’s won 37 straight service games.

THE MIRRA DOESN’T LIE: Hannah Klugman, a 14-year-old British junior, asked the teen sensation Mirra Andreeva for advice. After all, the 16-year-old, who’s often compared with Martina Hingis, has already reached the second week of three different Slams.

THE DROUGHT CONTINUES: Alex DeMinaur’s loss to Andrey Rublev means that once again there won’t be an Australian men’s champ Down Under. Mark Edmondson was the last Aussie mate to win, 49 years ago…Speaking of droughts, Rublev fans are hoping he’ll beat Jannik Sinner, and finally snap his streak of losing eight straight times in a Slam quarterfinal. 

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