After defeating #4 doubles’ seeds Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi with partner Mark Knowles at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, I was able to sit down with world #42 singles’ player Xavier Malisse and discuss his busy summer as well as plans to double up with Knowles for the U.S. Open.
Malisse had a breakthrough run here last year in the singles draw, reaching the semifinals, and followed that up with final appearances in Chennai later in the year and reaching the 4th round of Wimbledon this year. On the doubles’ tour, he’s excelled as well, winning the 2004 French Open with countryman Olivier Rochus, and just last week winning Los Angeles with Mark Knowles.
He informed me that he decided to officially pull out of Montreal, but will still play Cincinnati in two weeks and then the U.S. Open in September. Malisse retired in his singles’ match yesterday due to a sore right arm saying “it hurts a little, [with pain] going up and down,” but was back on court today in doubles. He felt “lucky that we got cancelled last night [due to weather] because I couldn’t have played. I got some treatment, tried to work it out.” He went on to say that “the muscle is just hurting” and cited nothing more severe. “I’ve been playing so much. I’ve played 7 out of 8 weeks and I’ve never done that, so I need a rest.” He commented that he feels as if he’s a “half-a-step slow on all the balls in singles.” However, he stated that “he played well today actually. It was a fun match to play.”
“Fun” is also the word he used when talking about his doubles’ partnership with Alexandr Dolgopolov, with whom he won Indian Wells with back in March. “I had a lot of fun, and we’re still good friends. But Mark [Knowles] has been asking [for me to play with him] and we’ve been trying to hook up for almost a year, I think. So we finally worked it out.”
Fellow Belgian Dick Norman, whose doubles partner recently retired, has expressed the possibility of him and Malisse teaming up as a permanent doubles tandem. Malisse mentioned that “it’s on the verge. We’ve talked about it for [this past] French Open but then we couldn’t get in. And then we had the US Open … [which] I was going to play with Dick, but now I’m playing with Knowles [since Los Angeles], so I’ll have to talk with Dick about it.”
Malisse stated that “I’ll play Cincinnati with Knowles and also the U.S. Open .”
In 2009, Xavier Malisse failed to provide three mandatory “whereabouts” within an 18-month period to the World Anti-Doping Angency, by two “filling failures” and one missed test. He appealed and his one year ban was lifted pending the appeals’ outcome. According to the Belgian news site Clint, Malisse’s court date is set for September 12, 2011. When asked about the details, he nonchalantly commented “Oh, yea” as if it were distant history. He then went on to elaborate: “Well, to be honest, I try to let the lawyers do their work. It’s gotten so complicated … I don’t know too much about it. They do their thing, I focus on tennis. Hopefully, we’ll get a good result out of it.”
When I asked him if he’s thought about how the verdict might affect his career, he responded with “Not yet. I’ll try to see how it works out … I tried filling my whereabouts and that’s all I do for that. And they do their job and I try to do my job on the court.”
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