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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Andrey Rublev determined to build on breakout year, starting at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Ahead of Abu Dhabi bow, the Russian, 20, says he is determined to learn harsh lessons from world No 1 Rafael Nadal

From left: Andrey Rublev, Dominic Thiem, Kevin Anderson, Pablo Carreno Busta and Roberto Bautista Agut try their hand at writing their names in Arabic calligraphy at the Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island. Rublev faces Bautista Agut in his opening match of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship at the International Tennis Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Courtesy IPN
From left: Andrey Rublev, Dominic Thiem, Kevin Anderson, Pablo Carreno Busta and Roberto Bautista Agut try their hand at writing their names in Arabic calligraphy at the Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island. Rublev faces Bautista Agut in his opening match of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship at the International Tennis Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Courtesy IPN

Andrey Rublev enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2017, mixing it with the elite of men's tennis that culminated in a run to the last eight of the US Open in September.

The 20-year-old Russian beat seventh seed Grigor Dimitrov and No 9 seed David Goffin on his way to the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadow. His run in New York was halted in brutal fashion in the quarter-finals however, with Rafael Nadal destroying Rublev's serve that resulted in the younger player winning only five games in a losing effort against the world No 1 and eventual tournament winner.

As he prepares for his quarter-final match against Roberto Bautista Agut at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship at the International Tennis Stadium in Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, Rublev said the way Nadal had so ruthlessly exploited a weakness would serve as a valuable lesson in his fledgling career.

"The biggest experience that I took from that is if you have weak side they are going to use your weak side to win the match," he said.

"In that match my serve was one of the worst things and Rafa was always looking to return the serve really hard and fast and it was really tough for me."

Rublev ended the season strongly, finishing runner-up at the inaugural Next Generation ATP Finals in Milan last month. The Russian has no time to dwell on his achievements though, saying his main objective for 2018 is to crack the top 20 of the ATP rankings.

"I have to move forward," the world No 39 said.

"There is a long way to improve to compete with the good players. I have to be very strong so I hope this off-season I have worked hard enough to compete at a higher level."

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After a month away from the court Rublev said he is planning to use the MWTC to get back up to speed as he prepares for the Australian Open, the opening grand slam of 2018, which starts on January 15. He reached the second round in Melbourne last year as a qualifier before losing in straight sets to then world No 1 Andy Murray.

"I am happy to be here," he said. "It is great to play this kind of event and to get some feeling in my game ahead of the start of the season.

"It is going to give me some rhythm as I have not played for a month so it is going to be really good and helpful."

This is Rublev's first time competing in Abu Dhabi as he looks to cause an upset against world No 20 Bautista Agut, even though he does not have fond memories of their only previous meeting in Valencia in 2015.

"I played him a few years [ago] when I was a little bit younger and he won easily," Rublev said of his Spanish opponent.

"We will see. I hope I can fight and show everyone a good game and we will see tomorrow."

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