- About the tournament
On Sunday, October 11, a press-conference with the Canadian Denis Shapovalov, second seed of St. Petersburg Open 2020, was held at SIBUR ARENA.
– Denis, do you remember your run at the St. Petersburg Open two years ago? You lost to Martin Klizan in the match for a spot in the semifinals. What is your mood here in St. Petersburg this year? What are your memories from the tournament and the city? How have you changed over these two years as a person and as a tennis player?
– Yes, last time I lost in the quarterfinals of the tournament, but the memories are good. I really love St. Petersburg, I like to play here. In two years I have grown up not only as a player, but also as a person. Mikhail Youzhny, my coach, helped me a lot. We’ve been working together since last year and I improved many components of the game.
– Let us clarify one thing. What did Mikhail help you with specifically?
– I think he helped me to become smarter on court. He helped me to play smarter. I always had strength in the game but now we are working a lot with him to make me play smarter. I started to work with a psychologist who has been working with Mikhail for a long time. I started working with him over the last couple of months and I think it helped me a lot. The psychologist’s name is Vadim Gushchin.
– Denis, is Mikhail a tough coach?
– Well, I would not say that he is tough. He takes everything very seriously. I believe that we have established a good rapport. We understand each other very well and I know when we can work hard and when we can relax a little bit. This happened as soon as we started working together. We immediately understood each other very well and this goes on.
– Does Mikhail manage to keep pace with on the court? Does he keep up with you?
– Of course, he plays great! I keep asking him when he will be back on the tour again. I ask him if he wants to play doubles with me. I haven’t managed to get him to the court yet (laughter).
– Was it hard for you to switch from clay to hard? Does it affect you?
– Yes, it was very difficult, but I think that all tennis players are in the same conditions. We all have to switch from one surface to another very quickly. It’s tough now. We have just talked with Mikhail, discussed that now we spend time only in hotels and on the courts, we do not breathe fresh air at all. You don’t feel this fresh air when you are playing indoors. All tennis players have to adapt to these situation.
– We all know that Mikhail Youzhny composes poetry. We also know about you that you write rap music. Do you come up with any poems in the process of practicing together?
– No, Mikhail and I don’t talk a lot about this. Everyone does their own creative work individually, but I think it’s cool that we both do something not only on court, that we also have our own thing that we like to do off court. Perhaps this kind of creativity is another thing that helps us to work together successfully.
– Can we expect your musical duo with Mikhail?
– No, I don’t think so (laughter). I’ll ask him, but I don’t think he’ll go for it.
– You were in the Top-10, and now you are № 11 in the ATP rankings, how important is it to you? Do you check the rankings now? Is this an important stage in your career – getting into the Top-10?
– I wanted to get into the Top-10 for a long time, even if only for a week – it was a big goal for me. This gives me additional motivation to get back into the Top-10 again and stay there. I will try to make it to London (ATP Finals) by the end of the season. It will be very difficult, but this is my big goal for this season.
– Nowadays, your peers and girls who may be even younger than you are winning at the Grand Slam tournaments, including Roland Garros 2020. Why does this not happen on the men’s tour, in your opinion?
– It’s a good question. Historically, younger girls have always won Grand Slams, especially in the last couple of years. There are three players in men’s tennis (Djokovic, Nadal, Federer) who are still playing very well, and they are very difficult to beat – especially at Slams where we play five sets, that’s why it happens.
– What lesson did you learn from loosing at Roland Garros 2020 (in R2 against Roberto Carballés Baena)?
– It’s hard to say what I could learn from this match. It was a tough match. It was very difficult for me to play there. The conditions were difficult for me: the balls were slow, as well as the court. Besides, the opponent ran down every ball. I was glad that I was still able to turn the tide of the match and was serving for the match. The last two tournaments I served for the match and couldn’t win, but I believe that everything will come with experience. I am very glad that I was able to turn the tide of that match and that I was able to play despite my health problems. Now I feel great and I am in a good shape, so I think that now I can show my tennis.
– You said that you served for the match, but could not win. Do you work with some kind of mental trainer?
– Yes, I have been working with a psychologist for 5-6 months, and I think he helped me a lot. He helped me to get rid of the (negative) emotions that I feel on the court so that I can just relax and play my game now without holding off all this anger. I think it helps me a lot, which is why I come back during the matches when it seems that I am not playing very well or I am losing. I am now coming back very well into matches thanks to my work with a psychologist.
– Many players were playing during the pandemic, when it was allowed, someone was just practicing. How did you spend this period? Was it difficult for you to psychologically endure this period when it was not clear whether play will resume or not? How did you prepare yourself psychologically for this?
– I think we got very lucky. When we went to Florida for the IMG academy, it closed as soon as we arrived. But we were lucky because there was a small club nearby that was open only for Mikhail Youzhny and me, so that we could play there with no other people around. We spent a couple of months like that: just practicing and working on the game. I think that Mikhail helped me a lot mentally to enjoy trainings and avoid any burnouts. He helped me to enjoy the game. At the same time, we were working on things that we usually don’t have time for during the season. I also have just started to work with a psychologist, so I think we had a great time. And the rest of the tournaments helped me a lot.
– You played in the semifinals in Rome, where you lost on clay to Diego Schwartzman, then Schwartzman played against Nadal at Roland Garros. Have you watched the latest matches in Paris? What forecast will you give for the finals Djokovic v Nadal? What will be the outcome of the meet, in your opinion?
– I think this match will be very interesting. I don’t know who will win, because on the one hand there is a player who does not lose on clay (Nadal), and on the other there is a player who hasn’t lost a match this season yet (Djokovic). I think it will be a spectacular tennis match. Of course, I want to watch it.
– We live in a pandemic, everything now is online, and we have begun to use gadgets and various applications even more. How often do you use different gadgets and social networks?
– I really like it all. I manage all my social media pages myself. I love that I can communicate with the fans so easily so that they can see what I am doing, that I can contact them whenever I want. I think this is very cool. I am in favor of technology, media and its further development.
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