There is no getting away from the fact that the stars cast a long shadow in Grand Slam events, and that most of the 128 players in each of the men’s and women’s singles draws tend to come and go with little notice.
Even with boldface names Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka sitting out this year’s men’s competition with injuries, the focus hasn’t wandered far from the potential semifinal duel between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the men’s side.
But one theme at this Open — connected, in fact, to the advancing age of Federer, 36, and Nadal, 31 — is anticipation of identifying the new wave of young talent. And now that 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov has been eliminated after demanding a bit of attention through four rounds, the only teenager still playing is Russia’s Andrey Rublev.
Rublev, ranked 53rd, will play No. 9 seed David Goffin of Belgium in one of Monday’s fourth-rounders, after having thrashed No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets in the second round. And the truth is that Rublev, 19, is still young enough to be wide-eyed about his presence in Flushing Meadows.
“When I was a kid, it was [Marat] Safin,” who won the U.S. title in 2000 and the Australian championship in 2005, Rublev said. “When I was a kid, it was the first thing I saw. I was, like, completely thinking that he’s my idol. I was watching every match.
“Then, also, Nadal. He was my idol. I was buying the same clothes as him, all the new [tennis] collections. I was trying to copy.
“Yeah, I think these two players, Safin and Nadal, were always my favorites. I liked Federer also, but, I don’t know, I was not trying to copy him with clothes. I just liked him.”
The idea, of course, is for Rublev to now imitate the success of those players on the court. This is his fourth major-tournament appearance, and first time past the second round.
“This is amazing,” he said. “If I want to compete against [Goffin], I have to try to show my game.”