- About the tournament
- Ecology Day
Could you, please, compare those three matches you played here, because it seems like the doubles draw wasn’t an easy one for you?
On this level thereare no easy matches, doesn’t matter which tournament you play. But this tournament is ATP 500, so it was expected that the better team would show up. But I think the conditions here suit our game really well, that’s why we could play our best tennis I think. Although, sometimes like today you can see that it’s really tricky to play these guys: they have a good serve, good rhythm; they hit my partner a few times, if you saw (laughter). It was a really tough ending as well: there was a super tie-break and it was really nervous. Nevertheless, we are really happy to win. I think tomorrow is going to be a really good match against the top team and we are ready for it.
Are there any expectations from both of you from the upcoming finals? It’s your third finals here in St. Petersburg.
I play so well in St. Petersburg, I don’t know why. Actually I know why: maybe because my roots are here, I play really good and always have a lot of support here – the crowd supports us whatever happens. It’s always nice to play in front of them.
As for tomorrow’s match, my prognosis is that it’s going to be a very tough match. These guys play very well and they showed a good result in Rome. Tomorrow we have to play our best tennis.
In the first set, when you made a break, the rest of the match Reilly Opelka served with the speed of 80 km / h (!) – was it some kind of a bet between you two or was he joking like that?
It’s a kind of relationship between singles and doubles players. If I may generalize, most of the singles players they act like they don’t really care about the matches they play in doubles. They are throwing some serves like that or they just hit the ball. But in fact they want to win obviously; otherwise they wouldn’t be in the semifinals. Sometimes when you see a game like that when they are playing a very slow serve, it’s just to get us out of the rhythm or to play a different style. As for us, we need a rhythm and this is exactly why it’s tough to play against singles players, because they are free, they care less about the match, and we play with certain tension. That’s why today it was a very tough match, also because they started to re-serve really well, they started to hit returns really well, and we got a little bit nervous. These things happened sometimes and it’s fine. They make tennis fun too, when they do like this.
Tomorrow is going to be a totally different kind of match.
We know that Alexandre Bublik usually behaves like this, makes a lot of jokes, etc. Does it irritate you when you are playing against such opponents or on the contrary does it help you to be super focused and he can do whatever he wants?
It’s a good question, it’s a valid question. I personally get on really well with Bublik: we talk a lot, we always hang out, and we always chat about everything. So there is a good chemistry between us, but at the same time he hit my partner two times with full power. That stinks, of course. It wasn’t out of disrespect – he is not like that. He is just being himself; it’s like a big playing ground for him. He respects all the players, I know that for sure. It’s just fun for him. But at the same time, it doesn’t make him less dangerous. So as a doubles player you have to be super focused, because once you lose your focus, you get broken like it happened with us in the second set and you can even lose a set like we did. It takes you off guard, but at the same time my partner got hit twice with full power and he took it as a champ and we took down the win.
It’s going to be the third finals for you in St. Petersburg and the first one for your partner. Unfortunately you lost with him in the first round. Was it you who persuade him to come back to St. Petersburg?
Of course it was me (laughter). I try to come here as often as possible. I have been coming here the last 5 years, I think. And I had good results here. People started to say that this is my home tournament. And I do feel like at home here, I feel good here. People here are very nice, we get good care. The hotel we are staying at, the support we are getting, the transportation, the people that give us food – it’s like one big family. I see those people every year and they recognize me, we always talk. So when you come to the tournament like in St. Petersburg you feel home already and that’s a huge advantage. Also it’s very nice to play for the crowd, because they know I’m half Russian. I hear a lot of people from the stands cheering for us. That all makes tennis really fun as well.
This year St. Petersburg Open is ATP 500, so could you wish couple of good words to the tournament, so it could keep its category?
Of course! I already mentioned few things. The way they treat us with the hotel, with the transport there is never an issue, everything is possible, and the communication is really good. Also the anti-COVID measures at the club, where everyone has their own segment; we asked for the food and they bring it to us. All these kind of things. We have the least amount of contact with people. So they did really well. Also everything is really close: the practice, the second court – that’s very convenient for us. Tennis players are really lazy, so everything has to be in one center. And this is a good example, where everything is in one place. That’s why we love to come here. It’s not always easy to travel to here, especially now, because of the COVID measures, so we have to overcome a lot of struggles to come here. At the same time tomorrow my plan is to play my match and after it I will go straight to my babushka (grandmother) and have pelmeni (Russian dumplings) there at her house. I will spend the whole evening with her and then I fly in the evening next day. That’s going to be the best thing for tomorrow: that I’ll see her and I will hug her and kiss her. I told her not to make a lot of food, but I know that the table is going to be full of food tomorrow. So it’s going to be really nice tomorrow.
How is she and will she come to see you at the finals?
No, she cannot, because she is 93. She must now lie in the bed and relax due to the COVID-times. She is watching me from the TV, because there are people who are taking care of her and they make sure she is watching me. She is super proud of me. And tomorrow after I take a shower, I will go straight to her place and that’s the best feeling. It would be even nicer to make it with the trophy.
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