04:23 PM GMT September 19, 2017
The evolution of a tennis player typically develops along a pathway where the serve matures quicker than the return of serve.
Not so for Andrey Rublev.
The talented 19-year-old Russian already has one of the best return games on tour, fueling his meteoric rise up the Emirates ATP Rankings in the past three months to a career-high No. 37 this week.
Flash back just 12 weeks to mid-June and Rublev was not even ranked in the Top 100, losing in the second round of a clay-court ATP Challenger Tour event in Caltanissetta, Italy.
Fast forward three months to mid-September and he now has his first ATP World Tour 250 title under his belt after coming through qualifying to win at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag. He followed that up with two Top 15 victories at the US Open (No. 9 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 14 David Goffin) to become the youngest quarter-finalist in New York City since Andy Roddick in 2001.
The improvement curve is about as steep as it gets.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis identifies the Muscovite’s return game is mature beyond his years. Rublev is ranked just 63rd in the Infosys ATP Stats Serve LEADERBOARD with a 257.6 rating in the past 52 weeks. He is all the way up seventh best on tour on the Return LEADERBOARD, with a 156.0 rating.
The average age of the other nine players in the Top 10 of the Return LEADERBOARD is 29 years old - 10 years his senior. The closest in age is Diego Schwartzman, who is 25. It normally takes players several years on tour to gather enough reps and experience when returning to reach the Top 10 in this category. Rublev is currently short-circuiting that theory.
Below are his impressive return metrics from the past 52 weeks.
Win Percentage / Rating
Break Points Converted
Infosys Return Rating
Infosys Nia Data identifies that when Rublev won the opening point returning in the 2017 season and forged ahead 0/15, he broke a remarkable 49 per cent (60/122) of the time. By contrast, 20-year-old Alexander Zverev, who is ranked No. 4 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, only broke 40 per cent (117/289) of the time.
It’s correct to factor in that Zverev has played more than double the amount of points than Rublev against higher ranked opposition, but it’s clear to see that the young Russian is more than taking care of business as he sets his own collision course with the Top 10.
Rublev’s most impressive return metric in the past 52 weeks is Break Points Converted, being sixth on tour winning 45.5 per cent of these critical momentum points. In 2017, he has converted 38 per cent (47/125) against first serves, and a decisive 60 per cent (40/67) against second serves.
Rublev is now the second highest ranked Russian behind 21-year-old Karen Khachanov, who is ranked just five spots ahead of him at No. 32. The third ranked Russian is 21-year-old Daniil Medvedev, who is ranked No. 61 this week. All three of these players are on track to compete at the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan from 7-11 November.