Andrey Rublev says he felt like he “does not deserve” the support of the Wimbledon crowd, due to being Russian.
Rublev, 25, missed last year’s tournament along with his compatriots and all Belarusian players, due to Wimbledon imposing a ban in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Upon his return this year he reached the quarter-finals, and on Tuesday had the Centre Court crowd on their feet on more than one occasion as they tried to will him on against Novak Djokovic.
After bowing out in four sets, Rublev said he felt “grateful” that the British public had got behind him, especially considering where he is from.
“I felt really great support during all these two weeks. Today, as well. To be from the country where I am, to have this support, it’s special. I don’t know, I feel sometimes I don’t deserve it or something like that. To have it, I don’t know… I don’t know what you need to do to have this support. I’m really grateful for this.”
Ever since the war broke out, Rublev has been a leading Russian voice in opposition to the conflict. In fact, the night before the invasion began in February 2022, he wrote “no war please” on a camera lens after his match in Dubai.
Asked whether he felt guilty to hail from Russia, Rublev said he did not: “No. I don’t know what to say. I made so many statements. I think my opinion is very clear, so it’s not guilty. It’s more just the situation is terrible. Of course, you don’t wish this on anyone. You want these terrible things to be able to finish as fast as possible for all the people in the world just to have a chance to have a good life.”
Rublev’s comments followed a weekend of high tension at Wimbledon. On Sunday Belarus’s Victoria Azarenka was booed off court after losing to Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, the crowd seemingly unaware that it was Svitolina who had opted out of their handshake.
While other players from last year’s banned list have had unpleasant moments with the crowd, Rublev only had good feedback.
On the eve of Wimbledon, he told Telegraph Sport that he was glad the tournament was giving extra support to Ukrainian players competing here and also said he had received support from fans ahead of arriving at the Championships.
“Being here this year, I felt grateful,” Rublev said on Tuesday. “I’m happy that I was able to have a really, really good two weeks of my tennis. I’m happy that I was able, I think for the first time, to give my best in a quarter-final so far compared to all the other quarters that I have been in. This one I feel proud of myself for the first time.”
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