Re: ♥ Off topic ♥ The Chak fans chat thread v.2 ♥
Here’s what I knew about Dmitry Tursunov before speaking with him after his second round win at the U.S. Open:
I knew that he has had a great season in 2013.
I knew via his Twitter account and a certain TennisSpace.com column that he has an opinion on everything.
And I knew, thanks to the ATP website, that his hobbies include “romantic walks on the beach, cuddling, and annoying people.”
Though journalists often hear the same answers day in and day out, I figured Tursunov, 30, would be a different story – literally. And he did not disappoint.
Seeded No. 32 at the U.S. Open, Tursunov spoke at length in his post-match press conference about the general disorganization of the player transportation system in New York. Then he moved on to a discussion about the anti-gay legislation passed in his native Russia. A current resident of the California Bay Area, he says his opinions are far more “liberal” than those of his home country.
With doubles still to play, his press conference ended abruptly with no time left for our scheduled one-on-one interview. I figured I might be able to ask the former world No. 20 a few questions on his way back to the locker room, so I followed him out. Twenty minutes later, Tursunov had thoroughly answered my questions (and then some). Buckle up and enjoy.
You started this year ranked No. 122. Now you’re seeded at the U.S. Open. What is the biggest difference between then and now?
I’m definitely healthier in much better shape. One thing is that I’ve been playing a lot of matches, so I’ve been able to get in better shape because of that. When I started to play more matches, I started to play a little bit better. When you get a little more confident, you can adjust certain things and handle pressure better.
Who is coaching you currently?
I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to say because they are a group of coaches. It’s a German academy called Break Point. We worked together a little in Miami, and I liked his point of view. It felt like a lot of things that I did while practicing in Monte Carlo trickled down into a great clay court performance. I felt a lot more comfortable and that allowed me to calm down a little on the court. I’m still a little bit restless mind-wise here and there, but a lot better than before. I don’t panic as much. His belief in my game and my ability essentially talked me into believing or maybe realizing – it depends on how you look at it – that I’m a good player. I just needed not to fight myself every step of the way to play well.
There has been a trend, especially on the ATP Tour, with guys reaching new levels much later in their careers. What do you attribute that to?
I think that’s an effect that happened a few years back during the Sampras and Agassi era. Back then, not many people traveled with their physios. Maybe they had a coach, but maybe not a physio and a massage therapist. Now you have Andy Murray traveling with a massage therapist, physio, fitness coach, two coaches, and his manager. Obviously he’s an extreme case. He said, “I’m traveling with these people so I don’t have to sit out and be injured.”
Obviously he’s in a good position where he can afford to have those people on the payroll, but I think a lot more players in general are traveling with not only coaches, but also fitness coaches and sometimes physios; someone who can help you prevent injuries. You’re going to see that trend a lot more.
Plus, the advances in medicine mean we can fix injuries a lot faster. Some injuries used to make people quit before. Now you can do arthroscopic surgery instead of cutting your whole arm off. People are also paying attention to nutrition now. Djokovic went gluten free.
Any special diets for you?
I’m watching what I eat. I can’t say that I’m all meat or something. I did do a couple of blood tests. I don’t know how accurate they are, but I’m trying to follow what it says. If it says don’t eat corn, I’m not going to eat corn. I don’t know if it’s working, but it’s obviously not hurting me, so I’m going to continue to do that. I’m probably not going to go to the extreme of wearing a little balance bracelet. (I laughed.) You’re laughing, but you’d probably wear it, too. It’s like a dollar for a balance bracelet that’s going to improve your performance, or the little magnet that you put around your neck that’s going to make you win Slams. You’re probably going to invest in that.
You’ve had a lot of experience in your career. Looking back, what would you tell your 17-year-old self?
They say that youth is wasted on the young, but I think you have to go through certain mistakes, you have to allow yourself to get to a certain point, and you have to look back and say, “This is what I did wrong.” It would be great to look back and say, “I didn’t make any mistakes,” but it’s wishful thinking to try to sit on two chairs at the same time.
If I were able to change anything, I’d probably find a very good combination of coaching and fitness training that I could afford. At one point, I was traveling with a very good coach, but I was spending a lot of money on his payroll. It’s a very strange situation when you’re playing to pay someone, and you don’t have anything left over. It would have been good to find a situation where I could have prevented some of my injuries and come to my senses a little earlier.
We all kind of wish, I shouldn’t have married this guy, or I shouldn’t have dated this guy. I’m sure you have these stories, but if you didn’t have those mistakes, you probably wouldn’t be where you are now. You wouldn’t have been able to give the advice to your 17-year-old self. It’s not something you can control or change. You can learn from it and hopefully use it as an experience to navigate through your future mistakes a little bit faster.
You seem to have strong opinions on just about everything…
Everyone is opinionated. A lot of people are just afraid to say it.
Why aren’t you?
I don’t have a lot of sponsors that can drop me if I say something against someone. If Maria [Sharapova] says something about an antigay law, it’s going to hurt her candy. How many gay people are going to be buying her Sugarpova sour balls?
I’m not a person who is overly friendly and likes to talk to a lot of people, but it’s part of my job because, if you’re angry all the time, people don’t like that. People like to hear good things even if they are not true. Most people are going to get judged by whoever reads your column and didn’t even bother reading it fully or trying to understand what the person is saying.
Do you get to do anything fun when you come to New York?
I don’t have a lot of fun. There are really good burgers at the Intercontinental Hotel. It’s kind of a hole-in-the-wall place, but I haven’t had one yet. I’m going to wait until the tournament is over. I don’t like to go out because I get drained very easily from simple things like walking. I’m like a cat, I like to sleep a lot and then once in awhile I like to claw the curtain and pee somewhere and go back to sleep.
Does it surprise you that Rafa Nadal has been able to have one of the best seasons of his career after being off the court for seven months?
It’s a tough topic because a lot of people insinuate that he’s not just taking Flintstones to play so well. We all have to do something a little extra because we have to maintain the level we need to compete. I’m not talking about something illegal or something hard-core. I don’t know, maybe he does have butt implants. That seems to be the topic of the locker room (laughs).
I think he’s definitely exceptional in a lot of ways. Mentally, he’s able to focus in a way that not a lot of people are able to. I think he loves just the grind of it. He loves the challenge of it. I’m not the person who likes to go out and compete for the hell of it. I’d rather go lay on a couch somewhere.
Rafa is able to focus, not to win the tournament and say, like, “Holy crap, I did such a good job! Let’s go party somewhere in Mallorca and Ibiza!” He wins the French Open and the next day he’s practicing for two hours in Queens. I’m sure he takes certain steps to give himself the best chance to get there, whether it’s taking Flintstones or eating correctly. It’s a little bit unfair from our side to say, “For sure, this guy is juicing,” because in our minds, we’d rather believe he’s doing a quick fix instead of believing he works for seven hours like a horse to get there.
When you see James Blake announcing his retirement, is there any part of you that wants to follow in his footsteps?
It would be kind of silly to retire now. If I had a chance to retire, I should have done it three or four times when I was injured. I’m pretty sure his decision is not based on not wanting to play. I’m sure he still loves to play. I’m sure he doesn’t want to wake up at seven in the morning somewhere playing a qualifying for a Challenger to get his game back. It’s not a fun thing to do. I’ve done it a few times. It’s a lot less glamorous than being in the third round of the U.S. Open.