UBITENNIS EXCLUSIVE: Jan Satral Interview
I interviewed Jan Satral, the World No. 337 at the Los Angeles Futures in January.
Satral has been as high as No. 136 in Singles and represented the Czech Republic in Davis Cup. In 2017, the 27-year-old had a disappointing year and plummeted down the rankings. Now he’s back, looking for a better 2018. The interview was conducted in Czech and translated by the author, recorded shortly after Satral advanced to the semifinals, where he ultimately lost.
Congratulations on your win, how did you feel in your match today?
Thank you. I haven’t really gotten comfortable. I am winning my matches, but I’m not satisfied with my level of play here. However, it is the first week of the season and I’m glad that I’m winning. Today it was a little bit better than last time, and that’s all I can ask for.
You played against Lebedev, a player that has no ranking and plays college tennis, was he better or worse than you expected?
I knew that despite not having a ranking that he’s a good player. He came through qualifying and got to the quarterfinals, so I expected him to be good. It’s tough for me to play in America, where I don’t know many of the players. In Europe, I play mostly against the same guys, and I know what to expect. It’s a little bit tougher here, but I think I dealt with it well. He’s definitely good enough and you’ll see him climb the rankings soon.
Last year you dropped significantly in the rankings, was that due to injury?
I wasn’t really injured, but I had a bad start to the season. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I was around Top 150 and didn’t have much to defend the first half of the season, so I felt like I needed to make a push towards Top 100. I took some bad losses and got down on myself mentally. It really got in my head, that I wasn’t reaching my goals. I felt demotivated and that was reflected in my matches.
You’re through to the semifinals, possibly playing Christopher Eubanks in the final. You’ve played him once before, how do you feel about that match-up?
Obviously, first, we both need to win our matches. I remember playing him at US Open qualifying, I had no idea who he was. He’s very tall, very young with a good serve, but I got through that match. He plays very aggressively and it’s a good match-up. I’d rather play him than Sarkissian, whose game is more about keeping the ball in. I feel like if I can win my semifinal, I could beat him in the final.
Two years ago, you played the Round of 64 at US Open against Gael Monfils. What playing differences did you see and how did you feel playing against someone of his caliber?
That was most likely the best form of my career, that part of the season. I was very confident, as I won my first round after qualifying for a slam for the first time. I had no idea what to expect from a player like Monfils, I’ve never played that good a player before. I think I performed well, but he was just on another level. His movement, his serve, were impeccable. I had to work hard to win every point.
Why did you decide the start your season in the United States?
After I missed the cut-off for Australian Open qualifying, which was my goal toward the end of last season, to try and salvage my ranking, it was my coach’s decision. The European tournaments are on a very high level, and flying to Asia or Australian for a tournament or two is also not great. The plan is to play two Futures here, win some matches, take a week off and try the Challenger circuit. It was a very straightforward decision.
What are your goals for 2018?
Well, I hope to make Roland Garros qualifying and get comfortable on the court again. It’s tough to be playing for the big tournaments for a couple of years and then fall down to the Futures level. I have to fight and make it back to my past level. I need to get to a place where I play the slam qualifying and make Challenger main draws.
Do you feel more comfortable on hard courts or clay?
I’m fine with both, I can get used to them very quickly. I can adjust my game to the surface and have pretty even results on both.
What do you think about Radek Stepanek becoming Novak Djokovic’s coach?
It’s probably the best thing that could have happened to him at this point. He had to end his long and successful career due to injury, but he and Djokovic are pretty good friends. He is also struggling at the moment, and I think that Stepanek can help him adjust to the tour, he knows everybody on tour. It was a good move by Djokovic, and perhaps a start of a successful coaching career for Stepanek.
Overall, many Czech players had a poor 2017, why do you think that was?
Many went down in the rankings, but many of them were also plagued with injuries. Berdych, Rosol, and Pavlasek were all injured, and they will have a tough time coming back. Berdych was in Top 10 for an incredibly long time and I believe he can get back in there if he stays healthy. I hope the rest of the guys will stay healthy and get back on track.