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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Friday, May 31, 2024

Andrey Rublev pulled his black t-shirt over his face and unleashed a primal scream.

A raging Rublev repeatedly smashed his racquet against his leg, slammed his stick off the red clay in frustration and looked like a man trapped in a horror movie of his own making.

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World No. 35 Matteo Arnaldi rolled Rublev 7-6(8), 6-2, 6-4 to reach the Roland Garros fourth round for the first time.

Afterward, Rublev summed up his implosion as sheer self destruction.

"The problem is the head, that today basically I kill myself, and that's it," Rublev told the media in Paris.

Credit Arnaldi for delivering demise too.

Arnaldi hit 10 more winners than Rublev—47 to 37—smacked 13 aces and won 20 of 28 second-serve points.

The Italian's variation denied the hard-hitting Russian the rhythm he craves and helped drive Rublev bonkers.

"The point was to not play in the rhythm with him, because he hits faster than me, for sure," Arnaldi said. "I try to do a lot of variation, to try to lead the rally, and I think I did it pretty well.

"One thing that I did very well today was the serve. I served really well also in the important moments. That's what helped a lot. Also at the end, like when I was serving 5-4, I was pretty nervous but I served really good, so that's what I think did the difference today."

Still, Rublev, who has yet to surpass a major quarterfinal in 26 Grand Slam appearances, crumbled emotionally.

It's a deeply disappointing defeat for Rublev, who played with poise and power capturing the Mutua Madrid Open championship earlier this month.

The 2014 Roland Garros boys' champion Rublev called it his worst behavior in a major match.

"Completely disappointed with myself the way I behaved, the way I performed, and I don't remember behaving worse on a slams ever," Rublev said. "I think it was first time I ever behave that bad. Not much to say."

While Arnaldi, who also reached the 2023 US Open fourth round, moves on to potentially play former French Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round, Rublev is faced with a familiar question.

Can Rublev someday tame the demons that haunt his head, calm down and deliver his best tennis in Slams?

Or is the man who thrives playing red-line tennis always going to be flirting with emotional fault lines? 

"Everything was fine before the match. I did good warmup. I was feeling well," Rublev said. "It's just those things in a match completely, yeah, completely click me and I couldn't...

"It was just really bad behavior by me."

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty