Growing up in Moscow, Andrey Rublev had two tennis idols.
The first was his fellow countryman Marat Safin, who won the US Open in 2005, about a month before Rublev turned three years old.
The second was Rafael Nadal, winner of a career Grand Slam and 15 Grand Slam singles titles, second-most all time for men.
"I just like him when I was a kid," Rublev said of the Spanish future Hall of Famer, whom he will face in his first career US Open quarterfinal on Wednesday. "I was buying the same clothes as him."
Rublev will try his best to look at the world No. 1 Nadal as just another foe across the net when the unseeded teenager plays the biggest match of his young career on the largest stage in the sport--Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"In general it is just a match," Rublev said of his first-ever encounter against the two-time US Open champion. "I mean I hope it's not my last quarterfinal [match]. I have to try, to don't show emotions, to try to be focused, to try to fight and that's it.
"I'm just going to try to enjoy it. This is going to be a good challenge for me to show how far I am from the top players, and how much more I need to work," adds Rublev, who is No. 53 in the world and sure to climb higher after this tournament. "So we'll see."
While everybody on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean National Tennis Center might already be talking about a possible semifinal showdown against Roger Federer, Nadal is not peeking ahead. He is focusing totally on the talented teenager who has already beaten two Top 10 players in the tournament -- No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 9 David Goffin.
"I have Rublev in front, " Nadal said. " I have maximum respect for him and [the match is] going to be a tough one. He played already great matches. I am not worried about what happened in the past or not. i just think about what can happen now.
"I am in the quarterfinals against a tough opponent now. i need to be ready to keep fighting and play better than today, and that's my goal. It is not a moment to talk about Federer for me."
With his childhood idol expressing admiration for the Russian, Rublev is quick to point out that his admiration for Nadal has likewise grown through the years.
"He has amazing legs and amazing defense," said Rublev. "He's so professional; he tries to do everything perfect. That's why he is No. 1, one of the best guys in all of history."