- About the tournament
- Ecology Day
— Damir, welcome again to St. Petersburg. I suppose you have some special feelings as you won you maiden title here?
— Yes, yes… A special tournament and a special city. It is a tournament where I will always come back to play because I won my first ATP title here and spent a special week. And, of course, you would like to come back to a place where you had special time. Even last year it was nice for me here. It is one of the best weeks of the year for me.
— It sounds like a good tradition.
— Yes, it will become a tradition, I am still not too old (laughter). Hope I have many years to play in St. Petersburg.
— Unfortunately you were struggling a lot with injuries. How do you feel right now after the first practice at SIBUR ARENA?
— Yeah, the first six months were tough for me, a lot of injuries, a lot of struggle and I couldn’t catch the rhythm of the tournaments. I was playing one, two or three tournaments and then I got injured. That’s why it was tough for me to play, but somehow during the last few tournaments I found the tournament rhythm wining some matches and I think I played well over the last few weeks, especially at the US Open. I think, that my form is rising, I can feel it at practice and I am working really well. Two months ago I started to work with a new coach [Petar Popovic] and we are going, I think, in a very good direction. Right now I can say I feel myself better physically and mentally and my game is getting back. You are always expecting for one very good week that will be a turning point and maybe it is going to be this week. I hope so (smiling). I like the conditions here so maybe it can be the turning point of this season for me. Anyway, I am just happy I am not injured and I am able to play the tournaments, it is the most important and I will try to keep it like this by the end of the year.
— What do you think your new coach has already brought into your game?
— The first thing he told me when we started working together was: “I started to work with you because I know you have the potential to be a Top-10 player. I don’t want to coach somebody to be top-100, top-50. I know your limit is not that you’ve been already 23rd and you can be even better”. So we started to work on mental things and we are trying to improve it, those mental things are also connected with also how you feel, how is your body, how is your game. And we are improving from week to week. We started to practice much more than I used to practice before. So I am practicing more, I am spending more time on court. We are trying to improve my serve especially the second serve to make it stronger, to make it tougher for the opponent to play. And also we were working on playing some important points, key points and tough moments. It doesn’t matter how well you play, if you cannot convert those key points it is tough to win the match. We were mentally working on it a lot. You know it took me some time to grasp all those things but I would say that over the last three weeks of tournaments I played better and my game was on a higher level. I still have some ups and downs which is normal. But I think that overall my game is rising.
— Speaking about the mental part, what kind of exercises did you do? Is it about taking decisions faster in some key moments or is it about some breathing exercises and yoga?
— What we do in terms of mental training? I am trying to do everything the same at practice and in the match. If you do something at practice, it will automatically go into the match at some point maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next month but it will go. If you are doing something not really 100 per cent in there, you have some distractions, it will go into the match, for example, you are negative at practice it is tough to be positive during the match. So we are trying to make everything 100 per cent real as if in a match. I am the one with always a little bit nerves, I can talk a little bit during the match, so we are trying even at practice to be totally cool without those kind of distractions. And I can already feel that during the last 2-3 weeks I was giving my 100 per cent at practice, no more talking, just working, then I am better in a match. It is getting normal that I am not talking, I am very positive, so that is what we are trying to do.
— You posted in your Instagram that your coach made you do some exercises at the airport as you missed your flight. How did you feel and did you catch any odd looks from people who were surprised at what you were doing?
— Actually, I didn’t post it just because of fun… but our first flight was late, we missed our second one and then another one because our agent could change the tickets so we had 4-5 hours to spend at the airport. We had lunch and after we finished eating at the restaurant, he told me we are coming very late tonight, you will not be able to practice, so it is good time, we have one hour of free time, you can do some exercises. I was like: “We can do nothing”. But he insisted: “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Everything we have been talking you have to do it, you can do it. You can do strength exercises for the arms, you can do the exercise with the elastic band, you can do elastic band for the legs”. I said: “OK, let’s try”. So we did some exercises that are for the weaker parts of my body and actually he is like that. He always wants to be so professional; he wants me always to think about working. He was always a hard worker so he also wants me to be like that all the time. And for me it doesn’t matter if somebody is watching me, if somebody is staring or not. For me it was OK, I didn’t think of that. I just did what he told me to do and I believed it is a good way.
— What it the most unusual place to practice during your career?
— Yeah, definitely.
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