I came across some interesting interviews over the weekend. One is with Mashona Washington and is very entertaining. The others are with young Indian phenom Yuki Bhambri and pro veteran Igor Andreev.
I'll say upfront that Mashona was not asked about the recent vandalism issue but she does reveal a lot about herself, about the world of women's tennis, and how she sees herself.
Shelia: Hello Mashona, thank you for consenting to do this interview for Black Tennis Pro’s, I appreciate it.
Let’s start with some current issues in tennis, one of the most prominent being the recent resignation of WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott. Do you think that the WTA benefitted during his tenure?
Mashona: Yeah I think so, but it’s hard to speak specifics because I haven’t actually played full time on the tour since I was injured in ‘06, so I really haven’t been able to experience all of the pluses that he has brought to the tour.
After having been injured, you’re missing the tour meetings and while they send newsletters, I haven’t kept up as well as I should because I wasn’t playing that much, so it didn’t affect me. But he has had a lot of positive contributions, I’m sure.
Shelia: One of the things that Scott has talked about with reference to his decision making process to leave, was the rejection of his proposal to merge the two tours. Have you ever given any consideration to their being a single combined tour?
Mashona: I think that would be a great idea because I’ve found that when our tours in general are combined with the men’s events the quality of our tour - our tournament - is automatically raised because we just get a lot of the amenities men get. They get so much more in terms of ... sometimes I think if they came to one of our tournaments and had to deal with some of the things that we did, like with our - maybe amenities - or just some things that we get, they’d be like, oh my god!
You know, they’re really spoiled. We’re still spoiled, but I had two brothers that played on the men’s tour, so I could go with them and see all of the things that they are offered. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a lot of great things that are offered to us.
I think it’s a great idea, it makes tournaments more fun. You don’t have to see the same players all the time, or just women. I think it’s a great thing.
Shelia: Now, on another issue that has been making noise recently, the new drug testing rules which dictate that players must inform testers of their whereabouts for a period of one hour of everyday for a period of a week - how hard is that?
Mashona: Well, I haven’t really experienced that. When I was outside the top hundred I thought it was interesting that I was probably drug tested once, maybe twice; but as soon as I was in the top hundred, I was drug tested probably like eight or nine times in one year.
Mashona: Now, it could be coincidental, yes. Or it could have just been, as they say ‘random.’
Shelia: When I read what some of the other players had to say about this new rule I felt for you all, I wouldn’t want to be so subjected.
Mashona: Sometimes it can be the last thing that you want to deal with. When I come off the road - my first three or four days - depending on how long I’m on the road, say six, seven, eight weeks, then the first two or three days - two days for sure - I’m like, in the bed. I don’t take any phone calls, I just want to be a vegetable. I want to just walk my dog in the park and that’s it. I don’t want to do anything.
Like I said, on the other hand, if that’s what it takes, I mean if you don’t have anything to hide, its just the way it is to catch the ones that are doing something.
The only unfortunate part is, you have like one person and it’s like the ‘lucky loser’ rule or the rule for the qualifiers. Because of a past issue, now it’s no longer the highest ranked player who gets in the draw. Now, there’s a draw and anybody who loses can get in.
Shelia: So, there’s no specific criteria within those who have lost during qualifying of who will become the a lucky loser?
Mashona: Okay, so you have qualifying, and you have four people that qualify, let’s say it’s a 64/32 player draw, you’re going to have four qualifiers - then each of the four players that lost in the final round of qualifying; then say there’s somebody in the main draw that withdraws, leaving a lucky loser spot, then one of those four can get in - a lucky loser.
So, in essence, it used to be where the highest ranked loser in the final round of qualifying would take that lucky loser spot, but because a couple of players on the men’s tour, they kind of did the math and they were saying ‘hey, I already know I’m going to get in and if you want to get in too, give me a little bit of your prize money and we can call it a day. I’ll throw the match so you can get in, I already know I’m going to get in....’ And so they would kind of cheat a little bit - get people in and get a little extra money.
So they changed the rule that if you lose in the final round of qualifying, then it’s pure luck of the draw. They take the four that lost and pull their names out of a hat. I don’t really think it’s that fair - you’re the highest ranked player, you should get in. They do that on the ITF and USTA events, they’re not doing that on the tour. Well, I think they did that at Wimbledon last year, maybe they’re using it at their discretion. I just don’t think that it’s very fair.
It happened to me when I thought I was going to get in because I was the highest ranked player, they were like, ‘the rule has changed, and I was like, what? I was crushed, I couldn’t believe it.
The entire interview is posted HERE.
In his interview Yuki Bhambri reveals the precociousness of youth alongside a mature vision of what he sees for himself as a pro. He has trained in the States and unfortunately has developed an aversion to clay.
Bhagya Ayyavoo: How does it feel to win your maiden ITF Futures title?
Yuki Bhambri: I couldn't have asked for a better start to 2009. First the Australian Open, came up with wildcard for Miami, probably the biggest ATP event after the Grand Slam. I played a close match against world No.70 (Diego Junqueira). And, then the tennis Futures win, to be the youngest Indian to do so. It's great.
BA: How has this transition been for you, from Juniors to the ATP circuit?
YB: I think I have been lucky to be training at the IMG. I have been lucky to play, you know there are lot of good players, lot of higher-ranked players. So, I have been in the atmosphere where I play sets on a regular basis with people ranked higher than me, who are playing in the Futures and Challenger level. I have been consistent and it gives a lot of confidence if you can come out and replicate the same thing in the tournaments. I mean, this is the first step towards the transition. I think it is a long long way and it is a hard grind and hopefully I can be there.
BA: It's been a couple of months since your junior Australian Open triumph. After that, you were looking forward to the Miami event where you got a wildcard. How did that tournament pan out?
YB: That match (against Diego Junqueira) gave me a lot of confidence because I was playing well, I was in that match. I thought I had a great chance of equalizing it or may be take it to the decider, and you never know what happens after that. If you can compete against a world No.70, how hard can it be to compete against a 400 or a 500 ranked player. It is just that extra motivation that was required for me..to believe in myself so that I can do it.
BA: You must have had a fair assessment of the ATP circuit by now. What do you think are the areas that you will have to work on to get better and be a consistent performer on the tour?
YB: Well, right now, I am focusing on playing more tournaments. The more I play, the more matches I get, the more confident I will be on court. The training has been good. I have trained for the last two months. The training aspect has been really really great. I have been focusing on developing my strengths - which is my forehand. The fitness part has been good. I haven't been really tiring on court. It's just a matter of playing more matches and winning them.
BA: How have you been preparing for the clay season?
YB: I wouldn't really be focusing much on clay. I am definitely focusing more on the men's circuit. Now that I know, I can beat good players and I can perform at that level.
BA: What's up for you next, what are the tournaments that you will be playing?
YB: I will be playing the ITF Futures next week as well in Delhi. There's a future next week. It is right here at DLTA (Delhi Lawn Tennis Association). And then I will be going to Kuwait in the middle of May. So, two more Futures.
BA: Are any of those two Futures clay events?
YB: No, not clay.
BA: You are the reigning Australian Open champion, so you can't go into the next Grand Slam - the French Open without any practice on clay. So how are you going to adapt to the new surface if you don't play events on clay?
YB: I will have a couple of days practice on clay. I think the most important factor at the French Open me will be to get through the first couple of rounds. The earlier I adapt to the surface and how well I adapt to it. You know, like sliding on the court. That's really the main thing. So, the earlier I adapt to it, the better I will get, and I know that. So, it's about focusing and doing that extra bit of training on clay.
BA: So, does that mean no more junior events for you?
YB: I am not looking at playing the juniors any more. You play the juniors to win the Slam. So, there is really no point in playing there. But, I am actually looking forward to the Wimbledon (junior). It's the most prestigious tournament and I definitely want to get that one.
BA: Switching to the Davis Cup tie that was scheduled to be held in Chennai. You made it to the squad for the first time, but unfortunately the tie has been called off. Your thoughts on that?
YB: Well, it's unfortunate. But, it is a bonus for us as well. It would have obviously been a tough tie for us. I was looking forward to it, to be part of the team and watching Hewitt and Guccione play. But, on the other hand, we are in the World Group play-off. One more tie and we are in the World Group.
For the entire interview please go HERE
When I think of Igor Andreev I think seasoned pro. Well known to the serious tennis fan Igor has a dedicated fan base and when he is at his best he plays some of the best tennis around. Igor sat down with Mariya Konovalova of Talk About Tennis and talked about the sport of tennis on the main men's tour.
Currently ranked No. 22 in the world, the Russian sat down with TAT after advancing to the quarterfinals of the Grand Prix Hassan II ATP World Tour tournament in Casablanca, where he was the top seed.
TAT: Igor, can you clarify your coaching situation? You’ve been alone for over a year now. Are you looking?
IA: I’m alone for now. It’s possible that for the period up to Roland Garros someone will be traveling with me, either a physio or someone from Valencia. But so far, I’m OK alone. So, really, I’m not “on a hunt,” such that I must find someone.
Of course, there are moments when you need training, help getting into playing shape, but overall, I’m still pretty satisfied as is.
TAT: And when you’re training in Valencia are you alone there also, or you have someone there?
IA: Well, in Valencia, it’s an academy. I’ve been there a long time, and there are coaches there, guys you can practice with. Same in Moscow. So, things like practices and such, there are no problems with that.
TAT: You did not play in South America this year, whereas you have in the last couple of years. Why did you decide on that?
IA: There are many reasons. First of all, there are technical things like getting visas, and of course, all the traveling, it takes a lot of time. Possibly, next year I will play there, I don’t know. Actually, the tournaments there are really good.
TAT: Can we talk about the transition to the clay season? How long does this process usually take for you? You’ve had difficulties with the first two matches here, is that related to the surface switch?
IA: Well, of course, the surface transition is difficult. Actually, switching to clay is probably even a little more difficult, because it’s a demanding surface. You have to move a lot and really well, and in the beginning, you end up stumbling trying to get the positioning right. Of course, you need time to adjust, and, ideally, time off to train. But, with the schedule we have, I decided to play here; I didn’t have time to train. As I got here, I had to play right away, so it was a little difficult. But, the most important thing is winning, and I can still see some progress.
TAT: Clay is the surface where you’ve had the most success. Do you feel more comfortable on it?
IA: Well, really, these days, I would not say clay is my best surface. I’ve had some good results on hard for awhile. Really, with time, as you play on tour for several years, you get used to all kinds of courts.
TAT: You’ve been ranked around the Top-20 for the last year or so. Do you have any sort of goal for this year?
IA: Well, the goal is just to improve my game. You can’t just look at rankings. It starts with the right shot, and then you’ve won the point, then the game, the match, and so on. Of course, it would be good to get the ranking higher, but you can’t just think about that. What you should be thinking about are just things that will help you hit the ball right, and the rest may come from that.
Dinara Safina begins play as the number one woman in the world at Stuttgart this week.
James Blake has already crashed out of Rome losing to Victor Crivoi 7-5 and 6-3. At one point Blake was down 0-5 in the first set. Some fans said Blake looked totally unfazed by his poor play at the beginning of the match but he did recover and make it decent.
Novak Djokovic has hired a new fitness coach. Gebhard Phil-Gritsch of Austria worked famously with Thomas Muster. Speaking of Mr. Djokovic I wonder what he was thinking when he performed this little dance during an exhibition in memory of Federico Luzzi prior to the start of the Rome M1000?
David Nalbandian may have to have surgery on his right hip. The injury forced him out of Barcelona.