Exclusive Q&A with Jan-Lennard Struff

June 17, 2014

by Nima Naderi

Continuing in the great tradition of previous German stars like Boris Becker and Michael Stich, 24-year-old Jan-Lennard Struff has every intention of joining his heroes at the top of the ATP World Tour rankings. Currently ranked No. 65 in the world, Struff has already reached the semifinals of two ATP World Tour events this year in Marseille and Munich, while taking home the title at the Heilbronn II Challenger in Germany.

Possessing a powerful game led by a sonic forehand and a hefty serve, Struff’s tall stature and athleticism have allowed him to compete well on every surface. In the following Q&A, Struff discusses his improvement on Tour throughout the past 12 months, while preparing for Wimbledon by taking part in the Topshelf Open in ’s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands this week.

Q) You’ve cut your ranking in half from this time last year, what aspects of your game have you worked on to achieve this goal?

A) I have worked more regularly on my fitness and it has been paying off immediately, although I know I still have a lot of work to do. I have recently asked my fitness trainer Uwe Liedke to travel with me and I am glad he accepted. I also worked on my serve and on my game overall. If I had to name two specific aspects that have improved then I’d say my fitness and serve.

Q) You recently played a great match against Gael Monfils at Roland Garros before losing in the second-round. What lessons did you take away from that loss?

A) What I have learned is that I was playing a good level of tennis—close to his level—but I was still far away from winning. He played the important points really well and it is important for me to feel how top guys play in important moments.

The more matches I will play against the top players, the more I will learn from them and hopefully one day be on the winner’s side.

Q) What does a normal training day look like for you? Is your current focus based more around strength training or technical improvement?

A) We keep working on everything, even when we focus on strength. We normally do two sessions of tennis and then we add fitness. Tennis remains always the base of each working day.

Q) You’ve already had a chance to compete at all four Grand Slams. Which event is your favorite and which would you like to win the most?

A) I like clay and as a child I have been to Paris with my mother as a spectator and I think Roland Garros is my favorite slam to play. But all the others have their own beautiful side and are great as well.

I am looking forward to the flair of Wimbledon.

Q) Germany has always had a great history of top players for the upcoming generations to emulate. Do you find it motivating to follow in the footsteps of Boris Becker, Michael Stich and Tommy Haas, or does that expectation put a lot of pressure on your shoulders?

A) I am really happy that Germany has had such a great history with champions like Steffi Graf, Boris Becker and Michael Stich. When they were winning I was a little and I got to know their achievements a few years later while growing up.

We still have very good players in Germany and it is something very positive for all of us. The heritage of these champions is no pressure at all for me, it’s more of a motivating factor.

Q) Beginning your tennis career at the age of six, what instantly drew you toward the sport and what kept you going as the years progressed?

A) My parents were both tennis coaches, working in the same club. I would practice with my father and very rarely with my mother. Until the age of 12 I kept playing soccer before I had to choose. I often skipped soccer practice because I couldn’t combine two sports and I focused on improving my tennis.

Q) What has been the single greatest challenge that you’ve had to overcome thus far in your career?

A) I can’t say I’ve had any great challenges thus far. A few minor injuries maybe, but everything else has gone really well. Of course I had to finish high school before trying to become a pro and the last years in school were difficult. I started as pro with some delays in progress compared to some other players of my age.

The deal with my parents has always been that I should continue playing tennis as long as I kept enjoying it and they would support me.

After I got my Abitur (German high school degree) we decided that I should try the Tour for one year to see if I could find out what my potential could be. After that trial year, I realized I had the skills to play on the Tour.

Q) What ranking goals do you have for the remainder of 2014?

A) I don’t have any specific ranking goals. I want to play as many matches on tour level and improve my game.

Q) Who are your best friends on Tour? Do you think it’s important for players to be friendly on Tour, or should they keep their distance in order to remain competitive on court?

A) I don’t want to name anyone special, in order not to disappoint others. I get along well with almost all of the players, especially with the Germans. We always go for dinner together and have lots of fun.

I believe friendship is important. Everything is funnier if you have friends around. It would be really dull if each of us were isolated and not socializing.

Of course, when you play each other, then you put aside the friendship. That’s easy to do.

Exclusive Q&A with Marcel Granollers

January 31, 2013

by Nima Naderi

Proving himself as an important member of the Spanish Armada, 26-year-old Marcel Granollers has the all-important task of leading his Davis Cup team against a dangerous Canadian squad in Vancouver this weekend.

Entering the tie off of a semifinal appearance at the Australian Open with partner Marc Lopez, the reigning Barclays ATP World Tour Finals doubles winner has quietly put together the best twelve months of his career.

Currently ranked No. 34 in singles and No. 5 in doubles, Granollers provided some insight into his pre-season regime, how he almost didn’t make it to the Tour Finals and who the best video gamer is amongst his Spanish compatriots.


Q) How did it feel to win the Tour finals and reach the Australian Open semifinal? At this stage do you believe you can win a grand slam in singles or doubles?

A) The World Tour Finals was unexpected. I had a bad shoulder going into the event and I didn’t have great expectations.
It got better match by match and the feeling in the end was really overwhelming, especially because we got so much support from the crowd and from home. In Australia it was different. I must say that I was hoping to make the finals this time and play the Bryan brothers. We were disappointed.

In the future, who knows. We are a young partnership and we will continue playing together, so sooner or later I hope we will go all the way.

In singles it is quite a bit tougher. I reached the fourth round at my best slam, so I need to work a bit longer to improve.

Q) What were the major factors that contributed to you finishing No. 34 in singles and No. 10 in doubles to end 2012?

A) I have worked constantly during the last years and didn’t have many ups and downs. My mental strength has improved thanks to all the matches that I’ve played on a high level and thanks to the day to day work.

Q) Talk about being on Tour for the past 10 years? What type of friendships have you developed on Tour? Who are your best friends?

A) I am very good friends with most of the Spanish players. We know each other since we were under 12 or so. It is long-time friendships that will surely last after the end of our tennis careers. Marc (Lopez) is my best friend.

Q) Which Spanish players are the most fun to be around? Who is the most serious off court? Who is the best at video games? Who usually ends up paying for dinner when you go out as a group?

A) The funniest guys are probably Feliciano Lopez or Marc Lopez; you laugh a lot with them. Impossible to find a serious one outside the court, we make fun of each other all the time, although we don’t do crazy things. Video game champions are probably David (Ferrer), Rafael (Nadal) and Marc (Lopez). When we go out we always split the bill, just like regular friends.

Q) Having the best year of your career in terms of singles and doubles ranking, what goals have you set for yourself heading into 2013?

A) I want to keep improving my game. It is difficult to set yourself a ranking target, because everybody is working hard out there and there are a lot of young players coming through. Let’s say that I want to keep being seeded at the slams and slowly move forward.

Q) Can you specifically state what your fitness program consists of? What do you eat during tournaments? What kind or rituals do you have before matches? How many rackets do you string up every day? What tension do you use and does that change on different surfaces? Do you enjoy working out? How many hours of sleep do you try and get before a match day?

A) I have a good physical base, I have great endurance and I like to work on it. What we improved in the years is my speed and coordination. I don’t have a diet, I just stay away from fats and try to eat fruit and vegetables. I normally have a snack before the match, then I go back to the locker room with Fernando Vicente, we speak a bit about the match and we wait together, away from people and the noise. I try to have always four new racquets each match so that I don’t need to string while I am playing. I usually go up a bit in tension when I play on hard court. Let’s say normally on clay I string between 24-23 kg, and then on hard court I am stringing 25-24 kg. I love working out every day, but I need competition. If I don’t compete I get bored of practicing. I try to get nine hours of sleep, never less than eight.

Q) Was there ever a time during your career when you thought of quitting the sport? When the pressures of competing or traveling were too much for you?

A) I never really thought about quitting. But there was a period a few years ago, when I saw everybody so much stronger than myself and I talked myself down a lot. I was starting to play qualifying at the slams and doubted if I would ever make it.

Q) What do you enjoy the most about traveling on Tour?

A) I love traveling and I like to have a look around when I go places. I like to meet new people.

Q) Who was your tennis idol growing up?

A) I didn’t have any idols but I liked Marat Safin, Carlos Moya and Lleyton Hewitt.

Q) Which tournament would you most like to win and why?

A) The Open de Godo in Barcelona. I moved to that club when I was 12 years old and have been a member ever since. I used to go and watch the tournament with my dad and it’s a nice feeling to play it with all my family watching, even those who never travel with me.

Q) Do you see Spain continuing to be a dominant force in men’s tennis going forward? Are there any young prospects coming up and if so who are they?

A) Well, it is difficult to say. The level of Spanish tennis has never been this high in our history, so it will be difficult to keep it up for the next generation. There are some good, young players like Javier Marti, but it takes many years to move from juniors to pro tennis so they need some more time.

Q) What does it mean for you to play Davis Cup? How was your Olympic experience this year?

A) It is great to play Davis Cup, especially with these team members, incredible sport icons. Davis Cup is always sold out in Spain and people really feel it. I enjoyed staying at the Olympic village, seeing how other athletes live and worked. It was a unique chance to become friends with other sports personalities.

Q) Fans and commentators have made reference to your grunting during the past year. Can you talk about why you do it and if you care if it bothers your opponent or the fans?

A) I know, but it is something out of my control. When I am tense or really tired I grunt sometimes. But it is not something I think of, it just happens.

Q) Where do you see the future of tennis going? Will we see more serve and volleyers coming up, or will the game be dominated by baseliners for the foreseeable future?

A) I believe that players will play more from the baseline and hit harder and harder.

Q) What’s your favorite surface to play on and are surfaces getting slower for faster?

A) The courts are getting slower everywhere now, even the grass is slowing down. Two years ago the courts at Paris Bercy were really fast, but they made those slower now too.

Q )How long do you see yourself playing on Tour? Can you see yourself playing doubles into your 40s?

A) I hope that I can keep up this level for a long time. I don’t know if I will be able to play that long. I have lot of respect for those players that can still deliver great tennis into their 40s. I am constantly playing singles and doubles but I doubt that I will last that long.

Q) How would you describe yourself as a player and a competitor? Would you say you’re more relaxed on court and off court, or are you always living life with a sense of urgency?

A) Outside of the court I am quite relaxed, I sleep a lot and enjoy life. I take my time to eat, talk and do things slowly. Once I get on the court things change, then the competitor comes out and my energy level rises. I become really active and intense.

Q) Where is your favorite place to visit or vacation to when you’re not competing or off Tour?

A) Anywhere where I can find the sea, the beach and a good temperature.

Q )What is the most powerful and important shot in men’s tennis right now? Who currently owns it?

A) The most important shot is the serve. John Isner owns it.

Q) Finally, why did you want to be a tennis player as a kid?

A) Yes, since I can remember, that’s all I ever wanted to be.

Exclusive Q&A with Flavio Cipolla

April 26, 2012

by: Nima Naderi

Reaching a ranking high of No. 70 on the ATP World Tour this week, Italian veteran Flavio Cipolla is quietly putting together the best season of his nine year career.

Advancing to his first Tour semifinal during the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca, Morocco, Cipolla recorded his second career victory over up-and-coming Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov in the second-round.

Possessing a solid one-handed backhand and great flair for the game, Cipolla had a chance to answer some of our questions before resuming his clay-court season at the Estoril Open in Portugal.

The Roma native didn’t hold back when discussing his training regimen, favorite tournament to win, and what factors will bring Italian tennis back to the forefront of the sport.

Q. What would you pin-point as the main cause of your recent string of good results?

A. I have been producing good results for a year now and I am constantly at a high level that allows me to play with the best players in the world. I wouldn’t say that there has been one particular factor for my recent results. I have always trained to improve all around and not forget any aspect [of my game]. If I had to find one [thing] to change above anything else, I would say that I have to play more aggressively compared to before.  As time goes on, players need to be able to impose their game plans if they want to survive [on Tour].

Q. At this stage of your career, what ranking and tournament goals have you set for yourself?

A. For the moment the goal is to enter the top 50.

Q. With the clay-court in full swing, what changes have you made to your daily training?

A. Right after Miami I practiced [for] two weeks on clay in order to arrive as ready as possible for Casablanca. I worked especially [hard] on my endurance and trained with weights as well. I increased the height of my shots over the net on clay, and I have worked on my topspin backhand because I will have to use it more often than on hard courts.

Q. You’ve had some great hard-court wins in the past year, defeating the likes of Alexandr Dologpolov, Bernard Tomic, Kei Nishikori, Ivan Ljubicic and Nikolay Davydenko. Would you say at this point in your career that hard-courts are your favorite surface?

A. Yes, I would say that my favorite surface is fast courts, but I am not 100 percent sure. I was born on clay and I have obtained good results on the surface. To be honest, I think that on a hard court my chances are better for beating a top player than on clay.

Q. After playing on Tour for nearly a decade, what significant changes have you seen from the tournament venues, surfaces and playing styles?

A. I think that the surfaces have become slower compared with a few years ago and in my opinion it is a positive change. I think that the tournaments are constantly trying to improve each year, but the level of the players have improved the most. Tennis has developed much more than other sports during the last 10 years, and the average level [of the players] has risen incredibly.

Q. With six Italian players currently in the top 100, how would you assess the level of your countryman and the future of Italian tennis?

A. The overall level of the Italian players has risen significantly during the last years. We now have six players inside the top 100 and many more inside the top 300. We miss that champion which would further boost the enthusiasm of the country; someone in the top 10 or the top 20. But never say never.

Q. If you could capture any tournament on Tour, which one would it be and why?

A. If I had to choose a tournament then I would have say the Roma Masters. I was born and grew up in Roma and as a youngster I dreamt of participating in the event. The tournament is very close to my heart. The support of the fans is incredible, especially for a Roman like me.

Q. Who is your best friend on the circuit?

A. I have many friends on the circuit. I have a great bond with the Italian players, but I wouldn’t want to pick just one.

Q. What’s the funniest moment you can recall during your playing days?

A. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

Exclusive Q&A with Juan Martin del Potro

March 11, 2011

by: Nima Naderi

In this exclusive interview to TennisConnected.com, former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro discusses his return to the ATP World Tour following his injury stricken 2010 season.

Participating at the BNP Paribas Open this week, del Potro managed to win his first Masters 1000 match since November 2009 when he defeated Czech Radek Stepanek in the first-round.

Prior to facing defending champion Ivan Ljubicic in the second-round, del Potro addressed his recent victory at the Delray Beach event in Florida, what aspects of his game he hopes to improve on for the rest of the year, and how much the support of his fans aided him throughout his rehab last year.

Q) After dropping to No. 485 on the ATP World Tour following your second-round defeat at the Australian Open, did you see yourself climbing back into the top 100 in such a short period of time?

A) I knew I could if I was healthy and working hard.

Q) What aspects of your game are you still hoping will improve as the season continues?

A) All the aspect needs to be improved to reach the top.

Q) What are the top priorities in your career at this point?

A) [To] stay healthy, enjoy the game and improve everyday.

Q) Are you looking to play a full clay-court schedule after the Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami? Are you looking forward to the challenges of clay court tennis?

A) Yes I will play a few clay court events. I like clay, I was born on it.

Q) Have you noticed any changes on Tour in the last year or so? Have you had to make any adjustments to your game in 2011?

A) Not really, I just started back so I still need to see the difference.

Q) Do you feel the dominance of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will continue this year, or will other players continue to battle for the top titles like Novak Djokovic did at the Australian Open?

A) I think Rafa and Roger are still the best, but Novak and others are getting closer and closer.

Q) Would you say that it’s physically harder to comeback from injury, or mentally more difficult?

A) Both, but maybe the mental part maybe a bit harder.

Q) Finally, how much has the support of your fans throughout the last year meant to you? Do you feel a different level of support from them now when you enter Tour events?

A) I really appreciated the support of the fan also when I was not playing, and now that I am back I feel them even closer than before.

Exclusive Q&A with Philipp Petzschner

February 28, 2011

by: Nima Naderi

After posting a successful year which saw him win the Wimbledon doubles title and finish the season ranked No. 57 in the world, German tennis star Philipp Petzschner has continued his stellar play in 2011 by winning the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament with partner Jurgen Melzer, and most recently advancing to the quarterfinals of the singles draw during the Dubai Duty Free Tennis event.

Possessing one of the most fluid serves in the game, Petzschner discusses his goals for the remainder of the year; how he sees the future of German tennis, and which up-and-coming youngster he feels will have the biggest breakthrough this season.

Q) At this stage of your career, are you concentrating more on your singles results or your doubles events with teammate Jurgen Melzer?
A) First of all I’m only trying to play tennis and have fun with it, but of course I’m concentrating a lot more on my singles even if I’m more successful in doubles at the moment.

Q) After reaching a career high of No. 35 in the world on the ATP World Tour in September of 2009, what kind of ranking goals have you mapped out for yourself in 2011?
A) I want to get [back] to the top 30 and see where it leads [me] from there.

Q) How much did winning Wimbledon with Melzer in 2010 help the confidence and the belief in your game?
A) A lot of course. Winning the biggest tournament in tennis is a great thing and [it] gives you confidence and belief in your game.

Q) John McEnroe has gone on record as saying that he believes that your service motion is the best that he’s ever seen. Can you discuss the elements of your serve that have led you to having such a successful motion? Did you spend a lot of time as a junior developing your delivery?
A) I mean words like this from John McEnroe is an honor, but as anybody else of course I try to practice serving a lot because it’s a key shot in tennis and especially in my game.

Q) To a degree, Germany has not produced the level of singles champions that it once did when Boris Becker and Michael Stich were winning Grand Slam events. Can you provide your thoughts on the state of the men’s game in Germany, and if you believe that the country will once again produce great singles champions?
A) I guess it’s just a matter of time until we create a big champion again. I think we have a lot of really good players in our country but [we're] just missing a top player who boosts up our energy as well.

Q) What would you deem your favorite surface on Tour at this point, considering that you have had great results on all the major surfaces?
A) I’ve always loved playing on grass, especially [at] Halle and [at] Wimbledon.

Q) After being on Tour for 10 years, what significant changes have you seen in the level of play within the top 100? Is the competition on the men’s circuit as strong as it’s ever been?
A) I think the tennis is improving every year and the top 100 are getting better and better.

Q) Which player do least like to face on Tour and why?
A) I think [Rafael] Nadal is the toughest opponent you can face because he just never gives up and is such a great fighter.

Q) Which up-and-coming player from the group of Milos Raonic, Richard Berankis, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Bernard Tomic and Grigor Dimitrov can you see making the biggest impact on Tour?
A) I think Raonic can be a really tough player. When his serve is on he can be hard to beat.

Q) Finally, if you could share one funny locker room story, what would it be?
A)There are too many to pick one but whatever happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.

Exclusive Q&A with Ivan Dodig

February 4, 2011

by: Nima Naderi

Continuing to carve out a late career surge into the top 100 on the ATP World Tour, Croatian Ivan Dodig became the only player during this year’s Australian Open to take a set from eventual champion Novak Djokovic.

With a current rank of No. 84 in the world, Dodig ended his 2010 campaign by winning a Challenger event in Kazakhstan and by reaching the quarterfinals of the If Stockholm Open in Sweden as a qualifier.

Possessing a canon serve and point-ending forehand, Dodig was keen on answering a gamut of questions regarding his upcoming year.

In the interview below, the focused 26-year-old reveals his career ambitions; who he would most like to compete against on Tour, and why the perfect string tension can make all the difference in a competitive match.

Q) What significant changes did you make to your game in order to reach the top 100 on the ATP World Tour for the first time in November of 2010? Was the physical improvement in your game the deciding factor, or, did your confidence play a big part in your rise in the rankings?

A) During the last two years I started to change my tennis game. I started analyzing each single match and to recognize the positive things of each match. Like this I became more confident and I was able to play better and better.

Q) Talk a little bit about the strong tradition of players to come out of Croatia. Was there a lot of pressure on you growing up to following in the footsteps of your idol Goran Ivanisevic?

A) I think that all the Croatian players had difficulties on the way to became great players, even Goran and  [Ivan] Ljubicic. They needed to fight even more than us now because they didn’t have any support when they started their careers. But on the other hand it gave them extra motivation and spirit to show to everybody that they could really make it.

Q) What would you characterize as the single most difficult moment of your rise into the top 100?

A ) A few years ago I was thinking of stopping my tennis career because I didn’t have any financial support to cover all expenses. Now I am really happy because I found a good team around me. They all helped me a lot to become top 100.

Q. Where do you see yourself ranked at the end of 2011? What tournaments on the circuit would you most like to participate in?

A. I would like to see myself inside the top 50, but I know that the road is not easy; I need a lot of work and experience. This year I want to play ATP World Tour tournaments and make some good results on the Tour level.

Q. Your serve and forehand seem to be your two biggest shots. Do you believe that a player can succeed in today’s game without a big serve and a big forehand?

A. I think that the serve is very important nowadays and luckily it’s my favorite shot.  Each player has his natural favorite shot. If I have to choose between my forehand and my serve, I choose my serve.

Q. How much do you tinker with your racket tension during the course of a year? Does a specific surface alter your tension considerably?

A. For me changing the tension is very important because every tournament is different. The surfaces are never really the same and also the balls are different. I need to adjust during the days before the tournament starts. Only when I found the right string tension I can relax and keep all my mental power to be focused during the match.

Q. If you could have a dream match up against any player on any surface and round, who would it be and why?

A. That would be against  [Roger] Federer in Wimbledon because he is the greatest player in history and Wimbledon [is] the greatest tournament.

Q. What would you most like to be remembered for when you’ve finished your career?

A. I would like to be remembered for a grand slam win, and a Davis cup victory.

Q. Who would you consider your best friend on tour?

A. Definitely Marin Cilic. We  come from same city and we grow up together.

Q. If you could disclose one funny locker room story, what would it be?

A. No comment (smiles).

Exclusive Q&A with Milos Raonic

October 9, 2010

by: Nima Naderi

Having qualified for consecutive ATP World Tour events in Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo, Canadian Milos Raonic is racing towards the top 100 in the world.

Losing a close match to world No. 1 Rafael Nadal during the second-round of the the Japan Open, Raonic provided fair warning to this fellow professionals that his serve and his work ethic will be difficult to combat.

Winning three main draw matches during his successful trip to Asia, the eloquent 19-year-old shared his views on qualifying for the US Open, how he hopes to impact Canadian tennis, and the “little secret” regarding his potent serve.

Q) Discuss your recent success on the circuit, which included qualifying for ATP World Tour events in Kuala Lumpur and Japan? Prior to your success in Asia, you partnered with Vasek Pospisil to upset Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the Rogers Cup. What kind of expectations did you have entering that encounter?

A) My recent success in Asia I feel came as a surprise to many. It has been a level I have been expecting from myself for a while now, and maybe I put too much pressure [on myself] to achieve it quicker than I should [have]. I feel my level is really there at the top of tennis. I do play a big enough game to compete with the best in the world. I obviously need to improve many things in my game to make this level a day in and day out thing, but I feel I am very keen to put in the work and the hours to achieve a career within the top 50 for many years, and provide myself with a very good chance of getting within the top 20 and top 10.

I have put up a few consistent wins over top 100 players so the next thing for me is to get my ranking in the top 100 so I can get past the Challenger level and give myself more and more opportunities to compete against top 20 players. My recent match with Nadal [at the Japan Open] gave me a great perspective on the best player in the world, and where his level is because I want to be there with him. I feel I am not too far off, but of course I have to put in many more hours.

As far as the doubles match as the Rogers Cup with Nadal and Djokovic, I feel it was a great thing for myself and Vasek, but I feel it wasn’t a win that made me feel as good as some of my singles wins. That win was a great experience for recognition and for tennis within Canada. It put me on the map before my recent success in Asia. Before that match I didn’t expect much really, I was nervous [and] it was my first time on court with two players of that caliber in a match situation. It was great, we won and a big win for the both of us. It made me happy to achieve that but I want to be known for my single play and results. I want to make a singles career, I enjoy it more and I want to make a difference in Canada with it. I feel if I was to achieve my goals it could make a great difference on the growth of tennis in Canada and more top players in the future.

I wish to capitalize on my recent success so I can use my momentum and keep rising up the ranks quickly.

Q) You’ve picked up some great wins in the last few months. What factors would you attribute to your increased level of play?

A) My level has increased lately due largely to the amount of effort and work I have put into my tennis this year. Things are starting to click, and the work is starting to pay off, and it’s nice to see it directly through my results. I have gotten fitter and stronger, and most important I have stayed healthy. I have improved my return game so I can keep steady pressure on my opponents service games. If I had to decide which thing helped me the most with my recent success it’s my mental strength. I am able to see the game more clearly and focus better in my matches because I haven’t been losing my temper or letting my mind go “berserk.” I feel much more calm and stable on court knowing I can always find a solution.

Q)Your serve seems to be your biggest asset. Talk about any technical, or tactical, variables that go into your service motion.

A) My serve has always been my biggest weapon, and yet I am not satisfied with it. I think there is much more I can improve with it. I continue to work on it daily with much focus on increasing my proficiency with it and my percentages too. Also how I deal with the shot after the serve has been a very big thing. As long as I take care of my serve I have a chance on any given day with anyone, even if I am not playing my best. Technically, I keep a rhythm in my head. I have done it since I was 10 years old. It’s my little secret. My height and shoulder strength are also big contributors to it being the biggest weapon in my arsenal.

Q) Along with countryman Peter Polansky, you’ve begun a productive rise up the rankings. Do you believe that a strong camaraderie between countrymen is vital to the growth of a successful career, similar to the push that the Spaniards and French players have given each other throughout the years?

A) Yes, for sure it is the biggest reason for the success within those countries. You hear them mention it all the time, and yes I wish there was more camaraderie between the Canadians. We are pioneers to the top echelons of tennis so that will have to come, but for now I need to focus on my game, what I need to improve and reaching my goals.

Q) What parts of your game are you working on in order to break into the upper echelons of the ATP World Tour rankings?

A) Yes, many things that’s for sure, but I don’t feel I am far off. I need to make sure I stay healthy. I need to get my upper body a lot stronger and get my fitness to the point where I can go for hours without feeling a dip in my level. I want to be as sharp on the four hour [mark] as I was on the first. Also, I need to keep strengthening the mental aspects of my game, staying calm and clear minded so I can find the solutions to win matches on days I play well, and especially days where I am not playing [as] well.

Q) What kind of experience did you gain from qualifying for the US Open this year? What type of knowledge did you take away from your first-round loss?

A) Qualifying for the US Open taught me how to deal with the aspect of [playing] tough match after tough match. There were never any easy wins. I feel it’s helped me get a lot stronger mentally. The first-round loss taught me even more. I promised myself to never lose another match because of fitness after that loss. It’s something I can work on and I don’t want to lose because I wasn’t prepared. Carsten Ball played better than me for four sets. That’s what counts. Also, when the fatigue hit me in my match my mental level went down, and it was a tremendous learning experience. For me, it was one of my biggest learning experiences to date.

Q) How would you sum up your first full year on Tour? What aspects of traveling around the world have you enjoyed the most?

A) I love the new experiences and people, and the hospitality tennis players receive worldwide, especially at the ATP tournaments compared to the Challengers. I have always liked having a lot of people close to me so you will always see me on my phone texting back home to either my girlfriend, friends and family. My family is so close and a big part of my tennis and they follow everything and help out with everything. They are there for me regardless of the situation. I wish I could travel with more people around me, but now I am working my way up. Hopefully I make it to the top sooner so they can come along with me.

Q) If you could win one Grand Slam during your career, which one would it be and why?

A) I would love to win Wimbledon. My idol Pete Sampras was so successful there and I saw him win many of them. I would say, though, that the US Open would be what suits my game better, it’s what I have grown up [on] my whole life.

Q) Do you feel that serve and volley tennis can still prevail in today’s rocket baseline game?

A) Yes, it has to be used wisely, but I am sure it can. So many players are good from the baseline and you see the top players working on volleys to take time from their opponents. So why not do it at the start of the point? I think court conditions and balls do make it hard but yes I think someone can make it work. Maybe not every point, but I think it’s still a big part of the game, and I need to make it a bigger part of my game, as a sneak attack because many players just block back my serve.

Q) Finally, if you could disclose one funny locker room story, what would it be?

A) I would love to share but the ATP has these locker rooms closed off for us players to enjoy these stories and experiences and keep them to ourselves. There are many but it’s a little thing that stays between the players. It’s in the unofficial code of ATP players locker room conduct. It’s our little secrets between the players.

Exclusive Q&A with Marco Chiudinelli

October 6, 2010

by: Nima Naderi

Reaching a career high of No. 52 in the world in February of this year, Swiss star Marco Chiudinelli continues his steady climb up the ATP World Tour rankings after being sidelined for eight months during the 2008 season. Improving nearly 700 spots in the Tour rankings last year, Chiudinelli currently stands as the third-ranked player in his country behind Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka.

Taking part in the Japan Open this week in Tokyo, Chiudinelli upset No. 8 seed Michael Llodra in the first-round, before being forced to retire against Radek Stepanek with a back injury during second-round action.

Discussing his year in review, Chiudinelli breaks down his toughest competition on the circuit, the disappointment of Switzerland’s Davis Cup defeat, and what he was doing during the John Isner and Nicolas Mahut classic at Wimbledon.

Q) You faced two hard-hitting Americans at the US Open this summer. Talk about the future potential of your first-round opponent Jack Sock, and the challenges of facing John Isner’s serve in your second-round match?

A) I think that my first-round opponent Jack Sock played very well except for the first set where he [was] obviously still very nervous. I was surprised how solid his baseline game was, and how well he finished a lot of points at the net which is very unusual for such a young player. It was good to see that he ended up winning the US Open junior title, and I’m sure that if he improves his serve and keeps working hard, he has big potential to become a top player.

About my second-round opponent John Isner, I think there is not much to say about him that people don’t know yet. It isn’t a secret that he is serving huge, and it is a big challenge to play against him as I feel that every time it is a mental challenge. You face many moments in the match that can be frustrating when you just feel that you are not able to get enough of his serves back into the court. In the end, he just served too big, used his few chances on my service games, and just like earlier this year in Paris, I lost in four close sets [again].

Q) With Switzerland out of the Davis Cup World Group for 2011, is there a great desire for the Swiss squad to regain World Group status for 2012?

A) Obviously the disappointment about our relegation was quite a big one, not only among us players but also for our staff and our fans. I think we have quite a good draw to make the playoffs again next year, but it is pretty clear to everyone that our chances of regaining World Group status depend a lot on who commits to play next year. But as our next match is only going to be in July 2011, we will have to wait and see what happens.

Q) How would you compare the competition on the ATP World Tour today, from when you began your career in 2000? Are players hitting the ball harder, or moving with more speed?

A) I feel that players have gotten much more athletic all the way through the rankings, and I also feel that the game of the players has improved a lot. I believe a major reason for that are the courts nowadays are much slower than when I started playing.

Q) What ranking goals have you set for yourself over the next 12 months?

A) I struggled a bit throughout the whole year and I am still not sure whether I can finish the year within the Top 100 again. I will have to see how I’ll be doing in the last few tournaments of 2010. My goal for 2011 is to bounce back and get back near the [top] 50.

Q) Who is the toughest opponent that you’ve faced throughout your career and why?

A) I don’t really want to name a single one as I feel that there are so many of them. Each one in a different way, but most of the opponents with high rankings are pretty tough. If I have to chose one that really gave me lots of trouble within the last 12 months, I would say [Nicolas] Almagro as he served really well and completely shot me off the court from the baseline in both matches we played.

Q) At 29, what parts of your game are you still looking to improve, and how much of a premium do you put on your fitness regime?

A) I still try to work on everything a little bit, just like in all the years before. Trying to get all parts of my game to a higher level. Concerning my fitness regime, it’s obvious that after the two major surgeries that I’ve been through in the past, this is a key point for me. I need to work out a lot especially for my knee and my shoulder in order to stay pain free. So it is definitively a priority for me.

Q) What is your favorite tournament on Tour and why?

A) My favorite tournament is obviously the one at home in Basel. First of all, Basel is where I was born and where I still live. And second of all there are a lot of connections between me and the tournament. As a kid, I used to collect autographs of all the players, [and] in ’93 I was able to meet my childhood idol Ivan Lendl. From ’94-’96 I used to be a ball boy, and in ’98 I was playing the qualies for the first time which was a very special feeling to walk out on center court after sitting in the crowd for the past 10 years cheering for the stars. Last but not least I achieved my best result on tour so far by reaching the semis last year which made it even more special.

Q) Have you given any thought to what you would like to do after your professional career is over?

A) Two and a half years ago when I wasn’t sure whether I could come back or not, I have had a few things in mind. But since I am back on tour [now], I [am] focused again 100 percent on tennis, so since then I do not really think much about other things anymore.

Q) What are the most challenging conditions that you’ve ever played under and why?

A) I remember having played a Challenger in Bangkok back in December 2002. We played outdoors and it was so hot and humid that already just standing outside was torture. In the first-round I faced Rogier Wassen, who wasn’t famous for his extraordinary fitness neither—sorry Rogier.

I remember that I made a big effort to come back from trailing 1-3 in the first-set to three games all. I’m sure we didn’t play longer than 20 minutes from that point, but that is how long I lasted. The rest of the match took maximum another 15 minutes as I could barely walk anymore, and Rogier destroyed me 6-3, 6-0. Since [then] I haven’t played under such difficult conditions.

Q) What’s the funniest on-site moment for you this year and why?

A) Watching Isner and Mahut live on TV for about four hours was impressive, entertaining, and also funny in a way as we all just could not believe what was happening out there. I was laying on the floor of the locker room at Wimbledon and watched from 23-22 in the fifth, all the way until they had to stop at 59-59. Most of that time, Christopher Kas was watching it with me, him sitting on the bench, me laying on the floor, and we had quite a good time, including dinner inside the locker room as we didn’t want to leave the TV.

Exclusive Q&A With Albert Ramos-Vinolas

June 3, 2010

by: Nima Naderi

Following in the great history of the Spanish armada, 22-year-old Albert Ramos-Vinolas has continued his quick and productive rise towards the world’s top 100.

Improving his ranking 22 spots from the beginning of the season, Ramos-Vinolas currently stands at No. 145 in the world. Defeating the likes of Fernando Gonzalez, Victor Hanescu, Nicolas Lapentti, and Michael Russell this year, the Spanish left-hander has his sights set on becoming a consistent member of the ATP World Tour’s 250, 500, and 1000 point series events.

In the following interview, Ramos-Vinolas discusses what his victory over former top-tenner Gonzalez meant to his career, how he’s benefitted on Tour from being a left-hander, and which Grand Slam he would most like to win.

1. What type of confidence did you take away from defeating Fernando Gonzalez in Barcelona?

Well, the truth is [that] it was really important for me—especially playing at home—with all the public behind me, my family. It made me understand that I am not that far away from the top players. Now I know I can beat them, and this week I upset another great clay player, Victor Hanescu. I don’t know for example I would have beaten him (Hanescu) without the experience made in Barcelona.

2. What main factor would you say has contributed to your jump of over 300 spots on the ATP World Tour rankings since the start of 2009? Would you attribute your success to more physical or mental improvement?

I guess it is a combination of it all; I did improve a lot physically. I have worked really hard for a longer period of time and I think this is also why I feel a lot stronger and more confident in myself.

3. What extra advantages would you say go along with being a left-hander on Tour? Apart from the spins, and the angles off of your serve, is it safe to say that being a left-hander on Tour allows for greater success?

Yes, I think being a left-hander helps a lot—players are not used to playing against us—I also don’t like to play against left-handers. Of course you don’t win matches because of being left-handed; you have to take advantage from being a left-hander, [and] develop your weapons and get your opponents into trouble.

4. What are your immediate and long term goals on Tour?

Mostly I want improve all the things in my game. [I'm] working hard day by day [and] focusing only on my next match, without thinking of any concrete goals. I want to keep learning, [and] that will make me a better player, [and] the ranking will improve without me noticing.

5. What part of your game would you like to improve the most by year’s end?

I would like to improve my offensive game, my net game, and my serve. This is my next step.

6. Do you readily train with Spanish players, or do you like the experience of training with different types of players from different

I think that this is one of the things I haven’t been doing well. I have been practicing almost exclusively with Spanish players, and that doesn’t help me develop all the aspects of my game. I need to practice with different kind of players, playing all sorts of styles, coming from different countries.

7. If you could win any title on the circuit, which one would it be and why?

It would be the US Open. I like New York a lot, [and] it would give me immense satisfaction to win a title there.

8. What players did you look up to while you were developing as a junior?

I am lucky because I grew up in a club that formed many great professionals (the tennis Club Mataro). Players that played there included: Tomas Carbonell, David De Miguel, Jurdi Burillo, Julian Alonso, and Juan Ignacio Carrasco. Having them in my club while growing up as a small child made me wish to play this sport. They were a great example for me.

9. What type of changes, if any, would you like to see the ATP World Tour make?

Well, principally I would change the distribution of the money among the players, I believe that inferior (Challenger) players should be able to play at least without losing money.

If you want to travel with a coach, you need to be top 150 in the world, otherwise you will lose money, in a professional sport with so much exposure I think it is crazy.

Everyone knows that the money is generated by the top 20 players; they are the ones filling the stadiums. But you must not forget that they are important people only because of the great amount of players that play this game around the world.

Exclusive Q&A With Marcel Granollers

March 11, 2010

Competing in his Davis Cup debut last weekend in Spain, current world No. 110 Marcel Granollers recently had a chance to stop by and give Tennis Connected an exclusive interview.

Granollers, 23, began his year by defeating current world No. 7 Robin Soderling during the first-round of the Australian Open for his biggest win to date. Capturing two doubles titles on the ATP World Tour in 2010, Granollers was victorious during the first week of the season in Chennai, India, with partner Santiago Ventura, which was followed by his second title of the year in Costa do Saupie, Brazil, with Pablo Cuevas.

Ranked No. 25 in the world in doubles, Granollers shared an intriguing look into his unique game style; his love for soccer, and why he believes having one coach is ultimately the best decision for a player.

Granollers is currently participating in a Challenger level event in Rabat, Morocco, as the No. 5 seed.

Interview by Nima Naderi:

Q. How much confidence did you take away from defeating Robin Soderling in the first-round of the Australian Open?

A. It was a very important match. It was the first time I expressed top 10 level and it was very important to become aware that I am able to play on a top 10 level. It gave me a lot of confidence.

Q. Capturing your first career title at the US Men’s Clay Court Championship in 2008, what components of your game or confidence do you need to improve in recapturing that level of play?

A. I am a better player than the Marcel who won at Houston. I am a much more mature player with more game solutions then two years ago. For me, winning in Houston came as a surprise. It was the first ATP event in which I was direct acceptance in the main draw and I won it. During the weeks before Houston I had won many matches on Challenger level, and I was used to winning many matches in a row. That is what I have been missing lately, winning many matches in a row [to] arrive at the end of the week still competing. I need to get used to winning.

Q. You recently exited the world’s top 100 after being ranked No. 44 in the world (February 2008). Is regaining a top 50 ranking your priority for this season?

A. Yes, definitely. I believe that the strategy and the work that I did during the winter and these first [few] months [will] make the top 50 a natural and realistic goal for this season.

Q. Your game consists of very low take-backs on both your forehand and backhand groundstrokes. What would you attribute to your unique style of play. Did you ever encounter a coach trying to alter your strokes?

A. I did work on my forehand take-back last year with my former coach Galo Blanco. My take back on the forehand side is now shorter and a bit higher. This gives me much more power on the forehand side, and I can use the forehand more to come in and follow the stroke to the net. It has been a good change.

Q. Playing well on both hard and clay-courts, what would you consider your favorite surface and favorite tournament?

A. I don’t know what to answer. I also think that I play the same level on both courts, and so show also the results. I like both surfaces, and I think that it is necessary if you really aim to the high rankings nowadays.

Q. You currently have two coaches working with you (David de Miguel, Alex Calatrava). Do you find that having more than one coach aids in your overall improvement, or have you ever encountered a conflict of interest?

A. Well, I travelled only three weeks with Alex Calatrava, when David was busy elsewhere, I can’t really say that I have two coaches now. Sometimes when you work in Academies it happens to travel with different coaches, and on the mental side it can be helpful not to see always the same face every day at breakfast and on the court. At the same time one coach needs to have the leading role, and the others need to execute the program that the main coach gives. I prefer having one coach.

Q. How important has Davis Cup competition been to your career? Do you enjoy the team atmosphere of Davis Cup along side your countrymen?

A. Davis Cup is extremely important. Now, after my real debut ( I was in the team last year but didn’t play) I can tell it is an incredible experience. The connection with the people, the team, the media. Everything gets more intensive. I must say that I have not been nervous at any time during my debut, all the team has helped me a lot, knowing it was my first match. I really like to represent my country and to be so close to the Spanish fans. It is one of those experiences you don’t forget.

Q. You’ve increased your doubles ranking recently to No. 25 in the world. Do you find that playing doubles increases your level of play for singles, in terms of working on your volleys and return game?

A. Yes, I think playing doubles helps a lot to improve your singles. The serve, the returns and the volleys get more precise, because you have a smaller court and you decide with your partner where to hit. Doubles also helps me very much to regain my confidence. If I lose first round in singles, but keep going in doubles all week until the final, I get confident to the next singles tournament as well.

Q. With many years left in your career, what would you like to accomplish before you retire?

A. A tournament that is very important to me, and where I never played well is Barcelona. I am a member of this club, like my brother. My parents, my friends and relatives come to watch me play and I would give anything to win that tournament. Of course, I would also love to win a Slam event or another Davis Cup.

Q. Finally, if you could disclose one locker room story that the public is not aware of, what would it be?

A. Well, in the locker it’s all about soccer. Most of the Spanish players are for Barcelona or Madrid. We discuss a lot in the lockers about soccer, but [we] can be pretty loud and annoying for the other players. At this time, being a fan of Espanol they are giving me quite a bit of sh…! I don’t worry, and wait until Espanol beats them to pay them back!

Next Page »