MASON, Ohio — Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov had only met twice before Thursday evening’s three set showdown. In their first meeting, Dimitrov was a newcomer on tour, just 18 years of age. He played a great match and even took the second set against Nadal, but the then-world No. 1 was just too much for the young Bulgarian.
The pair met again this year in Monte Carlo. Nadal was playing very good tennis on his favorite surface that tournament, but their match took a similar trajectory as the first one. Dimitrov played an incredible match and took the second set against the Spaniard. Once again, however, Nadal proved too much in the third and took the match, keeping his dream for a ninth consecutive Monte Carlo title alive (Nadal would lose to Djokovic in the final).
Dimitrov got off to a slow start in Thursday’s match, hitting a few too many errors and not playing at his peak. He was still playing well, actually, but anything less than peak play just won’t cut it against someone of Nadal’s level.
Dimitrov actually played a very smart match and his shotmaking skills were on full display. He wasn’t blasting very many winners past Nadal, but he was staying toe-to-toe with Nadal in baseline rallies and not letting him hit winners either. He had a very strong backhand slice, daring Nadal to try and hit forehands off of deep balls that were low to the ground. Nadal’s ability to hit good forehands from uncomfortable positions that Dimitrov created was the difference in this match. If Nadal’s forehand had been just a tiny bit weaker, this match would have very quickly gone the way of the young Bulgarian.
As it was, Dimitrov raised his level when down a break in the second set and managed to break back. Then, after having unsuccessful set points in Nadal’s 4-5 service game, Dimitrov took his second break point in the 5-6 game to even the match.
Nadal stepped his game back up in the third set and Dimitrov faltered just a little, which was all it took. Nadal took the third set 6-2 with two breaks to move on to face Federer in the quarterfinals.
Nadal noted the similarity between Federer’s and Dimitrov’s games, something that has been a talking point for a few years. He said that “the style is very similar. Yeah, the game is similar, but for the moment, what we can compare is the style than the level of tennis. Dimitrov can play at a very, very high level, and I’m sure he will have a great chance to be in the top positions if he keep improving.”
This matchup is interesting though. For all that their styles are similar, Nadal has dominated Federer over the years by attacking Federer’s backhand with his heavy balls. Eventually, Federer’s backhand breaks down and Nadal can win matches attacking that wing. Dimitrov’s bachkand never broke down, though, and Nadal didn’t attack it as much. Dimitrov and Federer are not the same person, obviously, but Federer can probably learn from Dimitrov/Nadal matches, just like Nadal can make adjustments against Dimitrov based on his past history with Federer.
Speaking of Federer, Nadal is excited to be facing him again. He commented on their historic rivalry.
“Always [to] play against Roger is a special feeling. We have a great history behind us in our confrontations, so it’s not another quarterfinals. It’s a special one because you’re playing against a very special player. Our matches were very special always.”
In this one, though, expect Roger’s backhand to see a lot of heavy balls.
MASON, Ohio — American men’s tennis is in a bit of a slump, to say the least. This is the first week in the 40-year history of the ATP rankings that no American man has been in the top 20, with John Isner ranked the highest at No. 22. It seems that American men are setting new lows often these days, and it is a trend that they surely would love to stop.
This tournament is no different than the rest of the past few years in this sense. The 56-man draw in Cincinnati started with eight Americans. Four of them won their first-round matches; after the second round, Isner is the lone man standing.
Isner was a bright point today, though, winning a tough matchup against No. 8 seed Richard Gasquet with relative ease. The first set was tight throughout, with neither man able to make headway on the other’s serve. Isner fell behind by a mini-break early in the tiebreak, but he managed to regain it and take the set on a Gasquet double fault. Isner broke Gasquet in each of the Frenchman’s first two service games in the second set and cruised from there.
Cincinnati has not been nearly as hot and humid this week as it usually is, and those conditions suited Isner well.
The No. 1 American said, “I absolutely love this weather. When it’s really hot and really humid, that’s when I struggle. So this is very welcoming for me. I hope this keeps up. It was perfect out there.”
He will have a tough match in the next round against Milos Raonic, last week’s Rogers Cup runner-up, and more weather like this will help him. Expect lots of easy holds and tiebreaks in that match.
But John Isner cannot carry the American flag alone. Others need to step up. And, as Mardy Fish said on Monday, we all miss Andy Roddick.
Serena Survives Early Scare
It looked like another early exit might be in the cards for Serena in Cincinnati. She rarely does well at this tournament. After today, Serena has a career record of just 5-3 in Cincinnati since this tournament became a Premier Five event.
She played very poorly in the first set, and Eugenie Bouchard did well to take advantage. Serena said about one shot that “I thought I’d never hit a shot like that professionally. I have maybe in practice with my eyes closed.” She tightened her game up in the final two sets, taking them with relative ease.
A Roof is Coming to New York
A big headline from the day was that the USTA announced plans to build two new courts and to put a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium. No clear timetable was given for when the roof will be built, but it will not be any time soon.
Player reactions to the news were mixed. Defending US Open women’s champion Serena Williams and John Isner were both quite pleased with the announcement. Serena said “It’s good to know that they’re going to go for it.” Isner said that the tournament needs it because “over a two-week period in the summer… chances are it’s going to rain at least a little bit.”
Defending US Open men’s champion Andy Murray was not as enthusiastic. He conceded that “for certain reasons it’s great,” but he also said that “I don’t particularly like going from indoors to outdoors to indoors.” Murray felt that rain delays used to be part of the majors, but “now that’s kind of going away gradually.” He also said that “if it did rain for three, four days straight, which is possible, then it would become a bit unfair for some of the guys [not playing on a court with a roof].”
MASON, Ohio – American teenager Mackenzie McDonald has made history this week by being the youngest unranked teen to qualify for a Masters event. But he may not be here to stay for long.
Eighteen-year-old McDonald has played just six official ITF or ATP tennis matches in his life. He lost to Alex Kuznetzov in the first round of a futures tournament when he was 14. He won one qualifying match at the Sacramento Challenger last year but failed to qualify for the main draw. And, before this past weekend, he had never earned an ATP ranking point in his life.
He wanted to play the Kalamazoo junior tournament last week because the winner gets a wild card into the US Open, but he lost in the first round. However, he was granted an opportunity by way of a qualifying wild card for Cincinnati. He took full advantage of it and won two straight matches, coming back from a set down in each.
McDonald will now debut in the top 800 next week. He does not plan on taking his chance and playing professional tennis full time. He wants to go to UCLA and play tennis there. From what I saw when I watched him today, he needs the time. College tennis is a great place to build skills and gain experience so that players can compete when they graduate. More important for McDonald, though, it will give him a chance to grow into his skills.
McDonald really impressed me in his match today, even if the final scoreline was very one-sided. He was not overawed by the occasion, even though the 500+ fans in Grandstand Stadium were probably the biggest crowd he has ever played in front of. His groundstrokes were solid off both wings and his movement was impeccable, which allowed him to stay with Goffin in a lot of rallies.
McDonald’s problem is that he just does not have enough power. He had no way to finish points against Goffin. Many of his first erves were under 100 mph and far too many couldn’t even reach 90. He did a great job of moving Goffin around the court and hitting towards the corners; he just couldn’t hit the ball hard enough to end the points. He realized this and started utilizing the serve-and-volley in the second set, with a decent amount of success. He gave up a little towards the end, but his ability to compete and adapt was more than impressive, especially for someone with his very limited experience.
McDonald realized this and, when asked what he needs to do to be able to compete with players like Goffin, he said, “I think a lot of it has to do with physical. I think I can get a lot stronger; I can gain a lot more weight.” McDonald is very right and it is a good portent for his future that he knows what he needs to do to get better.
Since McDonald needs to retain his amateur status because he wants to play college tennis, NCAA rules prohibit him from taking his prize money at this tournament. However, because he is not actually in college yet, McDonald can keep up to $10,000 in prize money annually. A first-round loss in Cincinnati is worth $10,830
McDonald said he has been given a Wild Card into the US Open qualifiers and that he will play there. It’s another great chance for him to gain experience and some points. But, unless he wants to forego playing at UCLA, he cannot collect any more prize money. College tennis is exactly what a player like Mackenzie McDonald needs. He has all the tools; he just needs a few years to sharpen them and to grow into a stronger tennis player. He shouldn’t try jumping too high too soon. If he takes his time, develops his strength, and works on his game even more, he can be very dangerous on tour in a few years’ time.
MASON, Ohio — Two Americans who could have easily been top players by now, if not for their numerous injuries and health issues, continued on their newest comeback trails in Cincinnati on Monday.
Mardy Fish, a former top 10 player who has been sidelined for mcuh of the last 16 months with a heart issue, was up against Philipp Kohlschreiber on Center Court. At the same time, Brian Baker—a top junior who has missed the vast majority of his ten-year career with numerous injuries—played his first tour-level match since he tore his meniscus at the Australian Open.
Prior to today, Fish had only played a total of seven matches on the year. His heart issues have extended his time away from the tennis court, and it has taken a toll. But given this is his third tournament in just the last four weeks, it hopefully means he is finding a way to stay healthy and is able to play.
Of course, playing so few matches spread out over such a long period of time has meant that Fish really can’t find any rhythm on court.
This was clearly evidenced against a dangerous opponent like Kohlschreiber. Fish certainly had his moments of top-level play. He hit the ball crisply and cleanly and did well when he approached the net, especially during the middle of the first set. Fish was clearly very rusty early but worked himself into a rhythm on both his serve and his groundstrokes. He couldn’t sustain it, though, and eventually fell to Kohlschreiber in straight sets.
This match definitely has positives for Fish to take away from it. He played well for stretches of time and had his moments where he was clearly superior to Kohlschreiber, who is a consistent top 30 player in his own right, on court. If he can sustain his health and get more match play he might be able to find his form again.
Fish, though, was not so optimistic in his post-match interview.
It would be too strong to say he was despondent, but there was definitely a strong sense of disappointment about him. He spoke very candidly about his health and what he has been doing to ensure he can avoid the sort of physical and emotional stresses that his heart issue has caused in the past.
Fish spoke about how difficult this health issue is, knowing that he has no control over it. Admitting to being so scared after the US Open last summer, he didn’t leave his house for 3 months. He even spoke honestly about seeking psychiatric help “on a week-to-week basis” to overcome the mental hurdles.
He was, however, happy with his play last week, calling Washington “a good step in the right direction” but felt that his play today was “a step backwards for sure in the singles, no doubt about that”. He did admit that Kohlschreiber was a difficult opponent even for top players in his own right, but Fish’s overall mood after the loss seemed quite negative.
Brian Baker, on the other hand, felt quite positive after a good win over Denis Istomin. He said that he wasn’t playing his best and that Istomin didn’t quite hit the ball as well as he could either, but Baker said that he thought he managed his service games very well, aside from one with two double-faults, and that allowed him to gain momentum and lead to opportunities on Istomin’s service games.
Baker mentioned that he could have come back in Atlanta and still got a protected ranking but that his knee wasn’t quite healthy yet. Now, though, he says the knee is completely fine. He wore a sleeve on it during the match, but said that he didn’t need it. He wore it last week in Aptos to keep it warm in the 60-degree weather there and just kept it on here because it felt good wearing it
Baker might have once relished his position as a comeback story but is definitely tired of it now. “I don’t like being the comeback kid every time” he said, “but it’s kind of been forced on me.” He did say, however, that “it’s great to be back out there for sure, that’s number one.” He also thought playing the Challenger in Aptos last week prepared him well to head back on tour. Of course it will take a few matches before he gets back in full form, but hopefully for him this comeback is the last one he has to make.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Argentine Juan Martin del Potro returned to Washington, D.C. after a three year hiatus to claim his third Citi Open title against American John Isner, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. (Finals gallery at bottom)
“It’s amazing, I’m so happy to win here once again,” the 24-year-old stated after the final. “When you win a tournament its special, its big. After Wimbledon to be my first time on hard court it means a lot. I am looking forward to Montreal, Cincinnati, and the U.S. Open. It gives me a lot of confidence to keep trying and get closer to the top guys.”
The soft-spoken Argentine struggled returning Isner’s solid serves and baseline shots in the first set, and realized that he needed to step further back out of the court in order to play his own game. He then kept Isner to only one ace per set for the remaining two sets.
Though disappointed, the American didn’t take the loss hard. After playing nine matches in eleven days, Isner admitted that his body wasn’t as fresh as he’d like it to be.
“I was a little tired out there,” said Isner. “It was one of those things where my body felt fine but my legs weren’t quite there. I wish I felt a little bit better out there but at the same time I could have been a 100% and still could have not won that match. That just speaks on how good he is. He was better today and my hats off to him. He was the better player.”
When asked about where Del Potro stacks up to the current top four ATP players, without hesitation, Isner praised the Argentine’s game, saying he was just a hair behind Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, and the third favorite to win the U.S. Open.
In Del Potro’s press conference, he was told what Isner had commented regarding his chances at this month’s Slam, and the Argentine almost looked embarrassed, sweetly and sincerely returning the favor.
“He’s going to be a favorite too, for sure,” Del Potro said. “On the hard court, Isner is really good player. His game is improving day by day. He has a good advantage to take the opportunities to go farther.”
In the women’s singles final, Magdalena Rybarikova successfully defended her title defeating a newly-healthy Andrea Petkovic, 6-4, 7-6(2). On court, the Slovakian called Washington, D.C. “home” after never having lost a match on the surface, and admitted it was not an easy run.
“This year when I saw the draw I thought, ‘Yeah, this is going to be very tough,’” Rybarikova said. “I would have been happy to make the quarterfinals and play Kerber. But every match I was playing better and better, then I beat Kerber, which was a huge win for me. That gave me a lot of confidence.”
Petkovic meanwhile reached her second final of the year after Nurnberg and feels her game is in a better place.
“It was a pretty good week – all in all I’m quite satisfied,” Petkovic said. “I would have loved to win the title here to really feel like I’ve completely come back, but I’m really okay. She played really well.”
“Magda was really stepping up her game, not missing a lot and not giving me many free points. It was a really difficult match but all the credit to her, she really deserved to win the title today.”
In the men’s doubles final, the duo of Nenad Zimonjic and Julien Benneteau won their second doubles title as a team against Mardy Fish and Radek Stepanek.
“It feels really great to win such a big tournament,” said Zimonjic. “It’s a 500 series, and not just that, it was a really strong field. It didn’t have easy matches here. Very good teams played. To come after a long break, to come this strong and win the tournament without losing a set is really the best way you want to come back to the tour.”
“It was a lot of fun for both of us to play. We had a great time here on the court, off the court, and hopefully this will help us for the upcoming three tournaments that we’ll play.”
Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Super Saturday at the Citi Open saw John Isner and Juan Martin del Potro defeat their respective opponents, Dmitry Tursunov and Tommy Haas to reach the men’s singles final. Andrea Petkovic also defeated Alize Cornet and will meet Magdalena Rybarikova in the women’s final.
Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Set against the backdrop of downtown Washington, D.C., this week’s Citi Open has brought some of tennis’ most recognizable names to the tournament, including Juan Martin del Potro, Tommy Haas and the youngest player in the women’s draw, 17-year-old newcomer and American Taylor Townsend.
It was a full schedule on tap with both men’s singles semifinals set on stadium court, along with one women’s semifinal and one men’s doubles semifinal. The rest, including the women’s doubles final, was scheduled on the first grandstand court.
There has been some discussion in player press conferences this week regarding scheduling differences between the men’s and women’s draws, and how the women are not being scheduled as equally on stadium court. It seems though that most players understand why. The men’s event is a 500-level while the women’s is a lower-tiered International-level, and several players — including females — commented that men tend to bring a bigger draw and whoever the tournament believes would be a bigger draw will be the match scheduled on stadium court. Logical enough but still questionable reasoning on some level.
That being said, the men’s doubles semifinal between the pairing of Julien Benneteau and Nenad Zimonjic against University of Virginia alumni and Citi Open defending champions Treat Huey and Dominic Inglot, took precedence over the women’s doubles final between 2012 Junior Wimbledon Girls’ Doubles champions Eugenie Bouchard and Taylor Townsend and Shuko Aoyama and Vera Dushevina.
In front of a decent-sized crowd, the first-time partnering of Aoyama and Dushevina were crowned champions in women’s doubles.
After the match, the only ones called into press were the runners-up, Bouchard and Townsend, as the media room was mostly empty and at the men’s doubles match. The winners gave no press conference.
With her longer history on tour than her counterpart, Bouchard was visibly disappointed in the presser but still sincere in answering questions. Townsend, on the other hand, looked as if she was on cloud nine. She seemed to have just been excited to reach a pro final and was relishing the moment despite the quick loss. I asked her about the contrast in the presence of young players on tour between the men’s and women’s side and she gave an insightful and rather mature answer.
“I think it’s a lot different for the men than the women,” Townsend replied.”The men mature at an older age and we mature younger. So I think it’s a lot easier for us — at a young age — to hang with the older players because our bodies mature faster. The men are so strong and it takes them a few more years to get caught up to that level, especially to get into that top shape.”
As the first men’s doubles semifinal started between top American John Isner and a newly-resurgent Dmitry Tursunov on stadium court at 3:00pm to looming clouds, doubles partners Grigor Dimitrov and Michael Llodra (and his youngest son, Teo!) took to the practice courts.
As the Bulgarian stretched, a shirtless Llodra kicked a soccer ball around with his 6-year-old son. All week, the youngster could be spotted on the tennis court hitting some impressive shots and his soccer head-butting and kicking skills didn’t disappoint. After Dimitrov finished his stretching, he jumped into the mini-soccer game and ended up losing — happily obliging to do push-ups on court as the loser.
Heading onto stadium court for Isner-Tursunov, the first set was dead even, and ended up going to a tiebreak. Four exchanges of serve and some patience by the Russian and he got the unexpected upper hand, taking the first set. Tursunov diminished his double faults count from his matches earlier this week, and ran Isner laterally until the American hit long or into the net. On several occasions, Tursunov bullied the American’s backhand before pulling the trigger forcing Isner into an error with a running forehand.
During the changeover, sprinkles began falling but the players decided to continue on without any exchanges with chair umpire Magdi Somat. As the drops increased in intensity during the first game, Isner had a break point on Tursunov’s serve and slipped, slamming a forehand into the net. Instinctively, Isner yelled in the umpire’s general direction and Tursunov had also already began walking towards the chair. Play was called and the players taken inside as the 80-minute rain delay began.
Isner gets break point then nets FH. Yells, “WHY are we playing right now?! I’m NOT playing!” Magdi calls play, players go inside.
— Romi Cvitkovic (@RomiCvitkovic) August 3, 2013
At around 5:00pm, Juan Martin del Potro made an appearance on the practice courts to packed stands on court one. As play was suspended, fans still had the opportunity to enjoy a light hit by the Argentine for about 30 minutes.
Play shortly resumed on stadium court and after breaking Tursunov to go up 4-1, the American took the second set 6-3. The baseline play among both players was incredible to watch. After so many matches between Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, you forget how powerful (and consistent and precise) other men on tour can hit, and the two held some extended jaw-dropping rallies. In the end, the American broke Tursunov again to take the final set, 6-4.
Walking back to the media center, I heard loud cheers coming from grandstand court and realized that the other men’s doubles semifinal went on at the same time as the singles match on stadium. That’s one of the problems with a rain delay — you don’t quite always get to watch everything you hope to. Mardy Fish and Radek Stepanek took out fan favorites, Grigor Dimitrov and Michael Llodra, and with that, the Citi Open crowds will have American men in both the men’s singles and doubles finals. On the opposite side of the grounds on grandstand court two, women’s semifinalist Andrea Petkovic was practicing in front of a small group of fans.
At 7:20pm, Isner walked into press with ice on both knees for precautionary reasons. He’s one of the few to constantly have ice on some joint on his body so it’s not so much a surprise anymore.
Ten minutes later, the Isner presser was completed, and as we looked to the TV in the media center, we saw that Tommy Haas had just broken Juan Martin del Potro to go up 3-1 – a bit of early trouble for the two-time tournament champion.
Without much of a breather, Tursunov commenced his low-key presser, where he analyzed his loss but felt there really weren’t any holes in his game. A pretty fair analysis as he never once held break point, but stayed in the match much of the time.
As I prepared to go out and finally watch the Del Potro – Haas match, I realized the score was frozen at 4-1. Of course, another rain delay.
I looked at the live scoreboard and noticed that the women’s semifinal between Magdalena Rybarikova and Ekaterina Makarova was still going on though, and questioned what was going on. Rybarikova went on to win three games in a matter of minutes before play was finally suspended. But I guess the weather can be funny sometimes!
— Kelsey Anderson (@KelseyOAnderson) August 3, 2013
During the nearly three hour rain delay, the illustrious third edition of the “Citi Open Rain Delay Media Spelling Bee” commenced, where contestants had to correctly spell various ATP and WTA player names within the top 200. What started out with eight people in the first few minutes grew to nearly 20 and included photographers, bloggers, long-time wire writers, event staff and even Tour staff. Thanks to gracious contestant Lindsay Gibbs of The Changeover, we have footage of Ben Rothenberg’s winning moment, having successfully defended his title from 2012.
The tournament media staff had some fun and sweetly made the winner his own notable trophy. How thoughtful!
The Del Potro – Haas match continued with the Argentine quickly picking up momentum, and later in press admitting that the rain delay helped him. Haas, conversely, came into press and was quite short, stating he was “aggravated and annoyed” during the rain delay and it reflected in his straight set loss, 7-6(4), 6-3.
Despite the lateness of the hour — the men’s semi had finished at 12:15AM — there had been no earlier talk of opening up play of the second women’s semifinal on a third court. Instead, Alize Cornet and Andrea Petkovic were set to follow on whichever court had finished first. Inevitably, organizers seemed to have waited to see if the men’s semi would finish shortly after the first women’s semi would, and they were lucky.
At 12:35AM, the second women’s semi finally took place to a crowd of still several hundred people. The sheer match ups of Cornet and Petkovic’s style could have made this match the highlight of the women’s draw so far, but the lateness of the hour prevented it from reaching grand proportions. However, both ladies impressed with full court-coverage, suspenseful rallies and looked — incredibly enough — quite fresh.
After being down 3-0, then getting broken twice while serving for the set, Petkovic finally took the first set, 7-5. She then made quick work of the French woman, taking it 6-3 in the second and delighting the crowd with her famous “Petko Dance.”
The evening finally ended at an “early” 2:15AM, with the women’s singles final scheduled for exactly 15 hours later. Talk about a quick recovery for both ladies!
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly twenty years ago, Dmitry Tursunov stepped off the plane from Russia, ready to take on the tennis world at the tender age of twelve. His father was determined to make a tennis champion in the family and the talented Tursunov obliged with a move to the United States.
Despite rising to a career-high ranking of world No. 20 in 2006, it wasn’t always an easy road for the Russian as he was forced off tour multiple times with injuries and surgeries, and a strained relationship with his father did not help his confidence.
Tursunov himself calls his career a bit of a “rollercoaster,” but his most memorable win came against an American great in 2006, as he won 17-15 in a fifth set.
“Most people might say that the highlight of my career was beating Andy Roddick on clay during Davis Cup — on a surface he doesn’t really like,” joked Tursunov exclusively to Tennis Grandstand. “But it was a good match for the fans and it had a lot of suspense.”
After breaking into the top 100 exactly ten years ago, it was another three years before the Russian’s ranking steadied within the top 40. Over the next three years, he won six tournaments and defeated a top 10 opponent on seven occasions. At about this time, injuries started to creep in and they took him out of the game as he fell outside of the top 500.
“With every injury, you also have doubts, and the last couple of injuries have been probably more difficult than the first ones,” admitted Tursunov. “They always give you a scare and you’re never sure if you’re going to be or not going to be playing again. But for some reason the last couple [of injuries] were kind of hard to get through.”
The expectation with injury recovery among athletes is that once your body has healed, you will be able to return to your previous prime quite quickly. But that is rarely the case and often times you begin to question your game.
“When you’re coming back [from injury], that’s the hardest thing,” Tursunov continued. “Because when you’re coming back, you don’t have much confidence in anything. You’re constantly in doubt and you’re taking bad results closer to the heart … When you’re taking hits and you’re down, it’s a lot harder to get through those. You just suck it up or call it quits.
Despite his rocky time with the sport, the Russian who now trains in California never doubted his place in tennis.
“I felt there is not much I could do outside of tennis … As much as I sometimes hate being on court when I’m not playing well, I understand that it’s much better than being in the ‘real world’ and having a 9-to-5 job … I would rather be a player on tour than even a coach.”
Tursunov got his start on a tennis court at a very early age, under the careful tutelage of his father.
“[My father] had a tremendous belief in me from the very beginning,” stated Tursunov. “He put 150% of his energy into my tennis. Any money he had was not going to the family, it was going to my tennis. He essentially gambled quite a lot on my tennis.”
With a father so involved with his budding career, it was only inevitable that this strained their own relationship off the court.
“I had a difficult relationship with my dad because of tennis,” commented Tursunov. “Tennis was basically the link that bonded us together. And for a very long time, when I was practicing – when I was little – I didn’t see myself as anything other than a tennis player because it was so engrained into my lifestyle. There was no speculation about what I would become when I’m older. Everything was around tennis.”
If this story sounds familiar, you might be right.
Andre Agassi, in his book “Open,” also heavily commented on the difficult relationship he had with his own father on the tennis court, and many aspects of his and Tursunov’s relationships run in parallel.
“Some people might say that he vicariously lived through me, but as a parent, I don’t really believe you think of it this way. You always want your child to succeed,” stated Tursunov. “I also don’t believe my dad abused our relationship and dynamics, like some press have said.”
He continued: “Yes, he was fanatical about it. … If anything, I wish that we had found a common ground earlier. … The last few years, he finally started asking me about life outside of tennis and how I’m doing.”
With his father’s passing last year, Tursunov is playing with a renewed determination. Though he admits to “wearing [his] emotion on [his] sleeve” on court and often being quite negative, his new coach repeatedly reminds him to be more optimistic and positive, and it seems to be resulting in some good wins.
This year already, Tursunov has defeated two top-10 opponents, including David Ferrer and Janko Tipsarevic, and just this week at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. he ousted 2011 champion Radek Stepanek and tournament fifth seed Gilles Simon. His ascension back to world No. 61 has been a sweet affair, and his semifinal appearance this week will propel him back up to at least No. 43 in the rankings.
At thirty years old, Tursunov is now near the twilight of his tennis career, but he finds inspiration in a fellow ATP player who has defied age stereotypes.
“Tommy Haas is giving a lot of hope to all of us to play far into our thirties,” stated Tursunov. “I think in general you can see the trend of older players playing longer into their careers … I’d like for the last two to three years of my career – whenever that may be – to really make it count. Not just win one, two rounds but win tournaments.”
With his semifinal against John Isner at the Citi Open on Saturday, there may be no better time than now to announce his comeback.