Novak Đoković on a day-to-day coach, his diet, his tennis bag

Novak on coach, diet, bag…

Original link (IN SERBIAN): http://sportklub.rs/Blog/Sasa-Ozmo/a174309-Meso-ili-ne-otadzbina-trener-sokolovi-Novak-izbliza.html

New coach (besides Agassi)

I have a list of candidates, but I don’t want to reveal anything because I would not want to put anyone in an awkward position. He has to meet my wishes, but also Andre’s – Agassi is my mentor, head coach, priority, and he needs to say OK before I hire anyone. Both of us have to be sure as that coach would spend more time than Andre with me. We have spoken to one man and I hope, ideally, that I will have someone by Wimbledon – if not, then after Wimbledon.

Image of the new coach?

He would have to fit in with our vision of life and tennis – Andre and I have a lot in common in terms of how we perceive the game and everything that surrounds it. We have to take everything into consideration as I am not the same person I used to be before I became a father, for example – it is a big change; family on the road, lot of obligations, different rhythm, so a new coach would have to adjust to that.

More specifically, I would like it to be someone with experience at the top level, preferably an ex-player because that is a bonus – because then the communication goes much easier: he already understands my mental state on the court, while I am preparing, travelling, recovering… Those type of conversations can be long or short, depending on the person. Also, I’d prefer someone younger because that is the kind of energy that drives me and inspires me.

His diet?

I don’t want to get too much into it because people read the papers and draw certain conclusions, yet they are not well-informedenough about the subject or they don’t know much about the person. My diet is based on vegetables. You can find proteins in vegetables as well, not just in meat, but our people (in Serbia) know only about meat because it is our culture. I also eat fish and eggs as a source of protein, but I haven’t been eating meat since August or September 2015. I’ve got my own reasons, both ethical and health. I don’t want to succumb to pressure. I am not going back to meat at this time.

On his tennis bag

Novak has 12 hawks that symbolize Grand Slam titles, why hawks?

The hawk is my favourite bird, one of my favourite animals. It has something to do with my Montenegrin roots. My late grandpa used to call me „Hawk“ (common nickname in Serbia, Montenegro…), so there is that as well. Also, I find hawks fascinating as they don’t prey on the sick and the small. Besides, when it attacks, it does so with enormous speed, so I like to think of myself as a hawk when I attack a tennis ball. Yellow smilies symbolize Masters titles and blue smilies stand for World Tour Finals titles.

What must Novak have in his bag?

It happens often that I forget my wallet or phone. When I go to practice, especially during the tournament, I am focused on what I need to do, so people close to me often complain that they can’t reach me. Aside from tennis shoes, rackets and lenses, there is nothing that HAS to be in my bag. I carry a cross that I got at the Ostrog monastery. I got a really nice gift from a girl in China that I used to carry around for a few years, but I am not attached to things and I am not superstitious. My day does not depend on whether I brought something with me or didn’t; I won’t feel depressed if I forget something.

On Serbia

I’ve got unconditional love for my country—it’s my home, I belong there. In the last ten years or so, since I am not living there any more, I feel butterflies in my stomach every time I go back, and memories from my childhood start coming back to me. A man can go around the world, but there is no place like home.

It is normal that there are people who love me less and those who love me more. I try to do what I can—I am a human being also: I make mistakes, mature and try to learn from those mistakes, and I always stand up for values that I believe are right, values instilled in me by my parents and everyone who contributed to my maturing and evolving.

 

Translated by Saša Ozmo

Advertisements

“He gives you nothing, not even the time of day.” Emmanuel Planque, Lucas Pouille’s coach, on the improved Milos Raonic by @flaberne of l’Équipe

Translation of the article by Frédéric Bernès on page 19 of the January 26, 2016 edition of l’Équipe.

“Apart from Djoko, I don’t see anyone who can beat him here.”

“Apart from Djoko, I don’t see anyone who can beat him here.” I told you that just after the match against Lucas (Pouille). I was a bit dazed coming off the court. I re-watched the match several times and the impression remained. OK, I wasn’t thrilled by the way Lucas started off sets … but Milos gave us nothing. That guy doesn’t even give you the time of day. Right now, I find him fit. We’ve been talking about him as a future Slam winner for two years. Like Dimitrov? Yes and no. I’m sure Dimitrov will come back. But he’s less formidable and less well prepared than Raonic. He he has fewer weapons.

“Second serves at 220, 224, 226 kph”

“He’s super confident with his serve. At Brisbane and Melbourn, he was hitting second serves at 220, 224 and even 226 kph. At some point you don’t know how to return them: if you back up, he hits a kicker that bounces really high; if you move up to cut down the trajectory, you get a bullet at 220. The average first serve speed is often mentioned as a way to judge a server, but don’t forget the second serve. He powers it but it doesn’t mean that many more double faults. That’s tied to his current confidence and the fact that he hasn’t played the top two best returners yet, Murray and Djoko, who can bother him. The idea is to make him run so he’ll serve at between 160 and 180. Because if he serves at 130, he’ll be more accurate, more coordinated, more relaxed. But it’s hard to make him run much when he’ll try and shorten the point quickly.”

“Before, he could miss a series of returns”

“He’s improved his base game considerably. Mainly because he doesn’t have any physical problems. Last year, he had a nerve in his foot operated on. Good health means more training intensity. You can tell he’s worked on his returns. He’s much more consistent. Before he could miss second serve returns in bunches. Today, he puts you continuously under pressure without taking any crazy risks. He returns hard up the middle which allows him to take a lot of second shots on his forehand. And then it’s difficult to escape. Facing him, you get tense and you lose 10-15 kph on your serve. I think Milos has assimilated the fact that the best players in the world aren’t the best servers. His goal is to get a ratio of quality of serve/quality of return that’s much better than the others.”

“To me he’s not a Canadian at all”

“He’s part of a very strong project. To me, he’s not at all a Canadian. He’s a Yugo (born in Podgorica, Raonic lived in Montenegro until he was eight). He reminds me of Djoko with his ambition and application. Raonic is upright, intelligent, a worker. The guy could easily have been an engineer. Now he’s a tennis player, that’s his job. He’s not emotional, he’s rational. He works on his mechanics. Ljubicic (gone to Federer) helped with his serve and second shot. He leaves and he takes Moya, who’ll help him with his returns and bring him the deep parts of the game. And above all he has Piatti (ex-coach of Ljubicic and Gasquet) who’s a super coach and who’s doing an admirable job with him.”

“It’s lousy, it’s not sexy? I don’t agree”

“Would it hurt tennis if Raonic became number one? I don’t agree with that sort of pessimism. I hear people say Raonic is dull, isn’t sexy, he’s boring … No! It wouldn’t be dull because those chasing him would be interesting. It would be really exciting. Sure, the tennis of tomorrow will be guys 1.95m moving like guys 1.75 and who can return too. Can these criticisms affect Raonic? I sense he’s there to win. The rest …”

Translated from the French by MAN

Allister McCaw on Kevin Anderson, Federer, and why cramping isn’t only about conditioning

Original source: http://tennisportalen.se/allistair-mccaw-kevin-andersons-success-depends-mainly-on-his-mental-strength/

Allistair McCaw is an internationally recognized leader in the field of athlete performance enhancement and with over 20 years experience, Allistair has worked with multiple Grand Slam Champions, Olympians and world class athletes in a variety of sports.

Allistair Mccaw is currently working with the number twelfth ranked giant Kevin Anderson and Allistair tells us a lot of interesting things – for instance, what does the term ”coachable” really mean?

You are currently working with Kevin Anderson, can you tell us more about that, and how often do you see each other?

We have our base in Florida and approximately we spend 20-25 weeks every year together, that includes all the slams as well as tournaments in Miami and Delray Beach.  He has a great work ethic and always wants to improve himself! He is always listening, wants to know why, and is in general a very coachable player! He has improved his consistency most over the years and also the mental aspect of his game. He has been working with a psychologist here in Florida for a long time, and his victory over Andy Murray at the US Open recently (reaching his first slam QF) showed a lot of mental strength.  I don’t think it would have been possible a few years ago.  Kevin doesn’t have the same athleticism as Roger Federer and therefore he has to work extremely hard on his movement and for me, that’s a lot of respect. You can have a big game but if you don’t move well, you will not reach the top!

You also have been working with Tomic, Malisse and Bogomolov JR on the men’s tour: how was it to work with them and how professional were they?

Every player is different and every player comes with a different package and personality. My job is to adapt and adjust to the player in question. You have players in different stages in their career and your approach can’t be the same for all of them. I had Tomic when he was young and Malisse in his early thirties, he had at the time been on tour for 15 years and was familiar with how everything worked. Every player has been a pleasure to work with!

What character should a good coach have and what do you think is the most important element for a coach to embrace?

I would say the instinctive skills, your ability to connect and communicate well with the player are the most fundamental things for a coach to have. You are always trying to get into their head what they are thinking at that particular moment. Every day you are adjusting and adapting, feeling the situation and then making the best out of it. Not to mention the listening skills, we only learn when we are listening!

What does many coaches do wrong today?

Overcoaching! Coaches tend to give too much information which they player can’t absorb and the player in question doesn’t know what to do anymore. Coaches also needs to have patience! Each player learns differently and players develops differently in time.

What is your philosophy as a coach?

Trick question, can be a lot of things. Putting the athlete first, becoming a great listener, adapting and adjusting to what the athlete needs at the time. My philosophy develops not the player mainly but the person. I have been given the opportunity to work with people and with that comes great responsibility and for that exact reason I would have loved to become a teacher because the best coaches comes from teaching. You are teaching players to play, not coaching. The term coaching for me is more managing and directing.

Juniors tend to behave badly on Court sometimes, adults as well I should say. How should they think on Court, not being affected by bad decisions?

It all comes down to controlling what you can control. Can you control the wind, an opponent cheating, a net rule? Of course not! You have to let that go. What you can control is your attitude on court! Letting go of what you can’t control is fundamental in tennis and you have to accept that there are certain things you cannot do anything about!

It’s also important to play the same way in practice as you do when playing a match and not only when you are hitting the ball. Find the coach that embrace what you think is important, not just the way you play. The people around you, coaches and parents should bring a positive environment.

Do you think we in generally should talk more about mental toughness in tennis? Take Mardy Fish for an example who described his problems as a sickness.

For sure, you got to look at people that have achieved something incredible, in any sport, music, whatever it may be. They had an imbalance in life and it’s normal because you spend a lot of hours on something specific. The Anders Ericsson-theory (10 000 hour rule) is very interesting because it claims that it’s mandatory for making it, becoming an elite and therefore its logical with an imbalance in life. We need to have a better understanding of that these people needs our help, they have been sacrificing a lot through their whole career and believe it or not but they are just like you and me! They are human beings. They have feelings, they have good days and bad days like everyone else. People put these athletes, musicians, actresses on pedestals and think that they are emotionally disconnected. Life must be great for them is what you would think but that is not always the case!

Tips for juniors and upcoming talents in making it as a professional?

Follow your passion! I know it’s a bit of a cliché but do your best everyday and listen to your coaches. The best players are the best coachable, take Kevin for example.  He doesn’t think he knows everything and he is always listening and trying to improve himself. I was working with Svetlana Kuznetsova a few years ago and we had our practice in Dubai next to Roger Federer for three weeks. He was then working with Paul Annacone and I was amazed AT how coachable Federer was! He is learning new things and we saw that with Edberg as well. Unfortunately we see a lot of 14-15-16 year olds that are good but they think they are too good. Just keep on doing your best everyday because that’s simply all you can do, you can’t predict the future but you can work hard and work towards your goals! Don’t compare yourself to others in the same age group, everybody develops differently!

What does a typical training day for Kevin Anderson look like?

Very structured! Wakes up probably at 7.00 am, coffee and breakfast around 7.30, then he does what I call a pre performance routine, the ppr, where he does 20 minutes of foam roalling and stretching. He leaves for his first practice at 8.30 and it will last to around midday. Then lunch and a mid-afternoon nap, he may also play some tunes on his guitar to relax. He leaves for his second practise around 4 pm and that will be the most physical of the day. 7-8 massage, dinner at 8.30 and bedtime at 10.  Structure is non negotiable for me.

No ice baths?

There is not enough evidence that ice baths work for an athlete! There may be an exception if the player have been practicing in extremely hot conditions, say 35-36 degrees.

A lot of players had to retire from their matches at the US Open recently due to cramping, how can it be avoided for even the most fittest athletes?

Cramping comes down to three main things. Salt level, hydration and fitness nutrition. You can be a very fit athlete but still be cramping and one element can be slighly low for it to happen, not all three together necessarily.

How is it possible for Federer to be playing his best tennis of his life at 34 years of age? 

Three things! Being taught great technique with great coaches has enabled him an effortless game,  investement in his physical training from a young age, and intelligent planning of tournaments and season preparation – no overplaying.

What advice would you give parents out there who are supporting their children in tennis?

Three things here as well. Understand it’s not about you, it’s about your child. Reward their effort, discipline and attitude instead of focusing on the results. Don’t forget to have fun and have patience with your child!

~

Interview and translation by Alex Theodoridis

Jerzy Janowicz talks Davis Cup, journalists, and Darren Cahill

Original source: http://sport.se.pl/inne-sporty/tenis/jerzy-janowicz-dziennikarze-tworza-fikcje-na-moj-temat_646978.html

Super Express: The joy of winning that final point against Stakhovsky was bigger than after winning an ATP tournament?

This is a special tournament, you get into a kind of trance. Also because we don’t play only  for ourselves but also for the country. There’s more adrenaline than usual, hence my excitement and joy.

This victory allowed you to forget about Wimbledon? 

There was no need, I forgot Wimbledon very quickly.

After the first match against Dolgopolov on Friday, many reproached you for snubbing the press – you answered their questions very sparingly.

My answers were short because sometimes I feel that journalists write about me what they want, so there’s no point in making long answers. No matter what I say, they make up stories about me.

But not everybody is unreliable?

No, not everybody. There are fair journalists who write the truth.

Your performance at Wimbledon will be remembered by many not because of how you did on the court but because you asked one of  the Polish journalists to leave the presser room…

Did anything extraordinary happen at that presser? I asked a journalist, politely, to leave the room. I’ve known him for 10 years, I know how he works, what he says about me and how it goes against me. What was written about that presser later was pure fiction. It so happens that I’ve been recording my pressers so that I can listen to them later. We can replay it – they are recorded by Wimbledon organizers – and everybody can listen for themselves. The media reported that I said that fans had bothered me, that I blamed them for the loss – that’s absurd, a story made up by journalists. I was asked who was yelling at me during my serve and I said – some Pole. Some of the journalists fabricated a story that fans had bothered me and I was blaming them.  Maybe that’s why it’s better to answer in two words because the longer I speak, the worse it gets for me and they will still add words that I didn’t use.

Why have you decided to work with Darren Cahill?

I’m sponsored by Adidas and Mr. Cahill works with them, that’s how we got in touch, discussed some details and I’m glad he’ll be in my team of consultants.

How about your plans now? Are you thinking about the US Open?

It’s way too early to be thinking about it, every tournament is important and all points count towards the rankings. I’m leaving for the Bastad tournament today.

~

Translation by @jesna3

Magnus Norman on French Open feelings & a coach’s most important job

Interview with Magnus Norman by Sebastian Güstafsson for SweTennis.

A week has gone by since Stan Wawrinka hit the winning point and won the French Open.  His successful coach Magnus Norman is back in Sweden. SweTennis spoke with the Filipstad native about what is most important for a coach of a top player and of his feelings after the win.

“The two minutes Stan and I had in the dressing room after the final—they’re moments you remember.” Magnus Norman

Magnus Norman isn’t someone who needs big headlines.  Since Stan Wawrinka’s win in Paris, he’s been praised by all; but Magnus keeps both feet firmly planted on the ground and almost excuses himself for being called the world’s best coach. When, on the Good to Greats home page, he wrote down his thoughts after Wawrinka’s win he was was praised as much for his wise words as his coaching role with Wawrinka.

No time to enjoy

Magnus has now been home in Sweden for a few days, and on Tuesday it’s his Good to Great job that’s the focus.  On Wednesday it’s back to London where Wawrinka’s grass season starts.  Has he managed to land after the Paris success?

“I haven’t had time to enjoy it, actually.  So much happened after the final, but Stan and I had a couple of minutes together in the dressing room after the match. Those are the moments you remember,” says Norman.

Raised his game at the right moments

Stan Wawrinka announced his separation form his wife in the middle of April, and there was a question whether he could steady himself mentally.

“The mental part, it’s no secret.  We worked well day-to-day since Monaco.  Every day was focused on the right things.  After, Stan has managed to raise his level at the right moments when he’s had self-belief.”

Many ask what the most important job is for the coach of a top player, the mental or the tactical.

“It depends on the individual’s reactions in different situations.  It can vary day to day and match to match.  It’s up to me as coach to figure out what’s most important for the player on the day.”

He’s made some tactical mistakes himself.

“I’ve made a ton of bad decisions through the years when I coached important matches.  [For example,] in London, when Stan played serve and volley against Federer on match point.”

There’s a hair’s breadth difference between genius and folly

“If it had worked, it would have been a brilliant tactic.  But it didn’t and the whole world questioned it.  The margins are very small and it’s a personal choice every time.”

Interview with Piotr Wozniacki: “I’ve forgotten to enjoy myself and I regret that.”

Interview with Piotr Wozniacki in the Danish Jyllands-Posten online by Thomas Møller Kristensen

Manners: Piotr Wozniacki is the man behind Denmark’s first world tennis star. In this retrospective he’s annoyed about always having hunted progress, but most of all he’s grateful that his daughter has become a good person despite the pressure and criticism.

WIMBLEDON – The smile. There really are so many kinds. Some create happiness, others anger, some reach as high as the eyes, others need time in front of the mirror to master. Then there’s the special kind that’s reserved for that special person.

Like the smile a father has thinking about his daughter.

That was the sort of smile Piotr Wozniacki was wearing a little over a week before Wimbledon.

He’d just been with the stringer, one of Caroline Wozniacki’s racquets needed tightening and she quickly ripped the packaging off when he returned.

After smacking it a couple of times with the palm of her hand she looked questioningly at her father: it didn’t feel right, it felt strange, and it ended with a bit of an argument about how tight the stringing should be.

No one would give in, and numbers flew around the room, there was head shaking and arguing back and forth before Caroline Wozniacki exclaimed, “yeah yeah”, turned around and left.

One had the feeling the discussion was far from over, but she’d been training hard, it was time to eat, and the discussion would have to be continued later.

And that’s why Piotr Wozniacki sat there with that smile.

Daddy’s girl, an independent person, own opinions and the guts to deliver them.

“Girl” is perhaps the wrong word.

Caroline Wozniacki is approaching 25 and her 10th anniversary as a professional, and that’s why Piotr Wozniacki has agreed to an interview. He admits that the anniversary is a good reason for a retrospective, but he punctures the premise immediately.

For him it hasn’t been 10 years, it’s been a lifetime project.

Caroline Wozniacki was interviewed for the first time as an eight-year-old, when she spoke about her dream of being the world’s best and winning a Slam. She travelled to Japan, Australia, indeed the whole world as a new teenager. In the family’s and Caroline Wozniacki’s own mind she’d become a professional long before 2005.

“Maybe people mostly notice the strawberries on top of the cake, but we’ve spent many years making the cake itself,” is how Piotr Wozniacki put it.

A half hour soliloquy

He didn’t get up and leave the table after making the statement; he wanted to talk. He had to get things out, emphasise points. Actually, he had so much on his mind that the interview became almost one-way communication.

Asking the question about what he was most proud of about Caroline, not as a player but as a person, pushed a button somewhere.

32 minutes and 18 seconds later he put so many headlines into the Dictaphone that there hadn’t been room for a single follow-up question. The words poured out of him, one word lead to another, and all the titles and the money and the experiences weren’t what were mentioned the most.

His soliloquy was more about the personal, of his concerns about having followed and pushed his daughter so focussed in one direction.

It was about regrets about not having allowed himself to enjoy all the big moments and of the joy of seeing her grow into a woman of substance and energy and not the least humanity in a world lacking the same.

That doesn’t mean that Piotr Wozniacki is a softy.

He’s been extremely focussed on pushing obstacles out of the way and helping his daughter, but there have been many practical situations that required alternative solutions.

A very young interpreter

He came to Denmark from Poland, from the Eastern Bloc, where he didn’t learn English, only Polish and Russian. Not very useful when they started travelling outside the country, so it was 11-12-year-old Caroline who used her school English to book hotels, order food in restaurants and contact tournament leaders.

“Just think about it. Such a little girl together with adults who are talking business and management. She had to translate everything for me because I was hopeless at communicating. There were sometimes serious negotiations or other things, so it was important that she did it well, because I needed to go on and do the right things with a contract or some such,” declares Piotr Wozniacki.

“She enjoyed it and felt very grown up, but I was nervous that I was stealing her childhood, that she would grow up too quickly. I spoke with Anna (Caroline’s mother) and friends about it. I knew nothing about pedagogy and child psychology. I’d only been to a sports university so I had to research all the information because I didn’t want to hurt her. I worried a lot about that, and I’m proud about how well it went and relieved that she wasn’t hurt.”

Piotr Wozniacki has seldom shown this sensitive side.

He was quickly branded as something of an eccentric from the East, obviously obsessed with living his sports ambitions through his daughter because it was impossible that she could have those sorts of thoughts at such a young age.

The sport of tennis has seen too many of those kinds of family tragedies, and Piotr Wozniacki still feels personally insulted by the stories and the accusations. The repeated attacks brought the family and their near friends closer together and they used the “us against the world” feeling as fuel and gathered the necessary economic backing to realise the visions.

The suspicions about his motives have disappeared, but Piotr Wozniacki is still tired of seeing his daughter’s achievements demeaned. Technically, Caroline Wozniacki still isn’t over the finish line because she still needs to win that Slam title and that’s constantly mentioned at least four times a year in connexion with the Australian, French, US Opens and Wimbledon.

A little perspective

Piotr Wozniacki is ready for constructive criticism, but some retired Danish tennis players have raised his hackles.

“Yeah, they’ve been on the tour once, but how much have they won? How high have they got in the rankings? They’re two different worlds, and they still come with their condescending talk. She was a young girl when she heard it for the first time. She’s put in a huge effort, travelled the world and she’s proud of her results, and then she reads, yeah, yeah, she only won because Serena wasn’t there, or it was a small $100,000 tournament, but is that really a small amount of money?”, asks Piotr Wozniacki rhetorically.

“Sure we can talk about whether she played well and needs to work on things, but I don’t understand the other stuff. Tennis is the only sport where girls earn the same as boys, so naturally a million girls in the world want to be good at tennis. And despite that, Caroline from Denmark is one of the world’s best. It’s evil coming with the kind of crap she’s had to put up with, so I’m proud of the way she’s tackled adversity without becoming bitter. I hope one day there’s a Dane who can achieve the same things as Caroline, so people can understand how much she’s accomplished.”

At one time it appeared he’d be a father to another talent with the potential to go further.

Patrik Wozniacki, four years older than Caroline, had the same relationship with a football as she had to a tennis ball, but he never got higher than the secondary divisions.

Piotr Wozniacki has earlier regretted that he’d had to ‘choose’ between the two and back Caroline, and he’s grateful to see that his children have a fine relationship right up to today.

Patrik could have been disappointed over being number two and not breaking through, he could have not felt sorry about his little sister’s tribulations, but they worry about each other and take care of each other.

On the other hand, Piotr Wozniacki regrets that he hasn’t had the same energy.

He’s been so absorbed by the striving for achievements that he hasn’t allowed himself to stop and enjoy the feeling of a great result.

“I’ve forgotten to enjoy myself, and I regret that. We’ve won titles, had weeks as number one, so men great things I haven’t spent time enough thinking about because I’ve always thought about the next practice or the next tournament,” admits Piotr Wozniacki.

“I’ve lost happiness in a way, and it’s wrong to sit here and know that we’ve never been satisfied with a final or a semi-final even if it’s a super result.”

To explain his feelings, Piotr Wozniacki paints the picture of a dream car a man has fantasized about for several years. He can finally afford it, he’s deeply in love, but after a few months he’s no longer spending time sneaking to the window just to look at the wonder.

Happiness over the result

That’s not the way it’s going to be in the future, Piotr Wozniacki has promised himself. In the future he’ll try and find satisfaction in the moment, but he can’t go back into the past and be happy in retrospect.

“That’s why I’m just happy to look at Caroline every day and see the real thing. So I just have to accept the things I might have been able to do better or differently. I’m proud that she thinks of others. She doesn’t just take money from her account and give it to charity, she runs marathons to raise money. She uses herself,” says Piotr Wozniacki.

“She’s done a lot of things that aren’t publicised, and that’s what is most important to me. She’s been involved in hundreds of good things without shouting, “look at me, look at the good things I’m doing” to the whole world. I’m proud of that. She’s incredibly sensible, she’s a good person, she has what money can’t buy.”

Piotr Wozniacki didn’t go on any further because a dog in his pocket suddenly barked, an incoming call.

The telephone brought him out of his trance, it was time go move on, a meeting needed arranging.

And there was that little discussion about stringing to finish.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov talks Russian tennis, compares ATP eras, & more

From an interview with Kafelnikov, a multiple-Slam champion, conducted by B92’s Saša Ozmo before the men’s semifinals at Roland Garros.

On Russian tennis, more successful of late on the WTA side:
“It’s much easier to produce top female players than top male players for many reasons.  Young guys don’t have that spark and don’t believe they can reach the top—but I hope that we’ll see a change with Andrey Rublev.  He was the best junior last year, is still only 17 years old, and is getting better all the time.  He’s growing and becoming more mature—hopefully, he’ll be the one we’ve long sought.  He has a champion’s attitude, which is very important, plays aggressively, is good from the baseline, and has nice technique.  I told him and his team that he needs to work on his physical strength, because he plays a great set but then runs out of energy.  He’ll be a very good player if he gets stronger.”

On the possibility of coaching:
“If I see potential and the project appeals, then I might agree.  Coaching is a lot of work, which is clear from former colleagues like Becker, Ivanišević… I see them often, but don’t ask about the details—I don’t think that’s relevant.  However, I observe how they’re handling it and it seems to me they’re happy and doing a good job.  The players they’re training listen to them and respect them; if I find something like that, maybe I’ll become a coach, too.”

On the ATP, then & now:
“I have no regrets at all about retiring early [in 2003, a few months before turning 30].  Honestly, I can’t explain how players are still capable of playing in their later years—Federer is soon 34 and still playing at a high level.  I think the reason for this is that today’s average level of play is much lower than in our time.  Actually, I talked to Boris about it only a few days ago, and he agreed.  So, the best can keep enjoying it and winning Grand Slam titles, since no one else can come close.  In our time, there were 15-20 guys who could potentially win a Grand Slam trophy, but it’s not so right now.”

“The whole approach is different.  In our era, there were many more styles of play than exist now: there were serve-volley players, a lot of ‘chip & charge.’  Now, for the most part, everyone plays from the baseline and tries to strike the ball as hard as he can.  This isn’t the direction tennis should go—I think we need different modes of play.  But nothing’s likely to change if we don’t do something about the courts.  It seems to me that every tournament is played on the same [speed] surface—even Wimbledon is now similar to concrete.  If that doesn’t change, the situation will remain as it is.”

On Nadal’s future:
After the Spaniard’s victory over Djoković in the 2014 Roland Garros final, Kafelnikov made a bold forecast: that it was the last trophy for Nadal in Paris.  He maintains that position.  “So far, my prognosis is accurate.  I love Rafa—he’s a great guy, an excellent tennis player, and has achieved much success.  However, last year I felt (for the first time) that he’s becoming physically weaker.  In previous years, he played much closer to the baseline, and now it’s different, especially in the match with Novak—Djoković was inside the court and dictating the pace while Rafa stood four meters back.  The trend continues: Rafa is already 29 and can’t beat opponents by outrunning them, particularly in best-of-five matches.  Along with that, it doesn’t feel like there’s the same intimidation factor in the air—players aren’t afraid of Rafa any more.  So, I stand by my prediction.  While I’d like it to happen, I’d be shocked if Rafa wins another Grand Slam trophy.”

On his career & retirement:
“It feels good when I look back on it.  I was lucky that I caught different eras, playing with Becker and Edberg, then with Agassi and Sampras, and even Federer after that.  In fact, I competed with three generations of top players, so I’m very satisfied with my career and what I achieved.”

Having dabbled in professional poker in the first years after leaving tennis, Kafelnikov has since found another pastime.  “Poker is my past, but I try to play golf as much as possible, to see how good I can become.  It’s my daily life—I play golf every day for four to six hours.”

 

~ Translated from Serbian by Ana Mitrić.