UBITENNIS EXCLUSIVE: Jan Satral Interview - UBITENNIS
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UBITENNIS EXCLUSIVE: Jan Satral Interview

I interviewed Jan Satral, the World No. 337 at the Los Angeles Futures in January.

Jakub Bobro

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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.

 

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Indian Wells Daily Preview: The Women’s Semifinals

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Ons Jabeur celebrating her quarterfinal win on Thursday evening (twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Friday evening will host the women’s singles semifinals.  The first features two Major champions: Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka.  The second includes two good friends who are both looking to achieve their first WTA 1000 final: Ons Jabeur and Paula Badosa.

 

Also on Friday, the last two men’s singles quarterfinals will be decided.  Will Stefanos Tsitsipas and Sascha Zverev prevail against two players making their Masters 1000 quarterfinal debuts, setting up a blockbuster semifinal on Saturday?

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Friday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.

Jelena Ostapenko (24) vs. Victoria Azarenka (27) – Not Before 6:00pm on Stadium 1

Azarenka is a two-time champion of this event, though prior to this fortnight, she was only 2-2 in the desert since her last title run in 2016.  Injuries have derailed her progress throughout this season, but she has been in fine form this tournament, not dropping a set through four rounds.  Ostapenko was just 4-3 lifetime at Indian Wells before this year, and was a modest 23-15 on the season when she was withdrawn from the US Open due to undisclosed medical reasons.  But this past month, she’s gone 9-2, and is a win away from her third WTA 1000 final.  Their only previous encounter came two years ago at Roland Garros, when Azarenka prevailed in straight sets.  Like most Ostapenko matches, this will mostly be decided by her winner-to-error ratio.  When she starts making errors, she can become awfully negative real fast.  But based on her current form, I expect Jelena to remain confident, and dictate her way to Sunday’s championship match.

Ons Jabeur (12) vs. Paula Badosa (21) – Last on Stadium 1

With Thursday’s quarterfinal win, Jabeur will officially become the first Arab player (male or female) to debut inside the top 10 on Monday.  It’s been an incredible season for Ons, who has accumulated 48 wins, and is 8-1 over the last three weeks.  Badosa is now into her second WTA 1000 semifinal of the year, equalling the feat she first accomplished in Madrid, her country’s biggest tournament.  Paula has consecutively defeated three of 2021’s best players without dropping a set: Coco Gauff, Barbora Krejcikova, and Angelique Kerber.  These two friends played earlier this year at another American WTA 1000 event, when Jabeur outlasted Badosa in Miami 7-5 in the third.  Infused with the excitement of making her top 10 debut, I expect the more experienced and eclectic Ons to find a way to overcome Badosa, and to play in the biggest final of her career come Sunday.

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Stefanos Tsitsipas (2) vs. Nikoloz Basilashvili (29) – Tsitsipas leads their head-to-head 2-0.  Both matches occurred on hard courts in 2019, and both were quite tight.  Basilashvili ousted Karen Khachanov in the last round.

Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Taylor Fritz (31) – Zverev is 3-1 against Fritz, though they are 1-1 on hard courts.  Their most recent meeting on this surface went to the American, two years ago in Basel.  This week Taylor upset the two top-ranked Italians: Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner.

Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Grigor Dimitrov Praises ‘Surreal’ Achievement Ahead Of Indian Wells Semis

Grigor Dimitrov hailed his recent career milestone as he moved into the Indian Wells semi-finals.

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Grigor Dimitrov (@atptour - Twitter)

Grigor Dimitrov has praised his recent career milestone after reaching the Indian Wells semi-finals.

 

The Bulgarian overcame Miami Open champion Hubert Hurkacz in three sets to reach the semi-finals at Indian Wells.

Dimitrov backed his win over US Open champion Daniil Medvedev in style to reach his first masters 1000 semi-final of the season.

However reaching the semi-finals wasn’t the only achievement as he sealed his 100th masters 1000 win of his career.

Speaking after the match Dimitrov described it as ‘surreal’, “I didn’t know until everyone started mentioning it now,” Dimitrov said in his post-match press conference.

“Really I’m very humbled. It’s such an amazing thing. I’m so thankful to everyone, to everybody that is in the team, that has worked in the team. Last but not least my family.

“It feels like I want to say surreal because I never thought turning pro that I’m going to have let’s say a hundred matches at such a level. I’m very fortunate to be able to put myself in that position over and over, especially throughout the tough years, injuries and so on.

“It clearly means a lot to me. I really appreciate it. I’m very, very humbled on it. Like I’m smiling inside. I’m smiling inside. I think it’s a beautiful thing. I’ll keep on going hopefully another decade.”

Dimitrov’s first masters 1000 win came against Marsel Ilhan in 2011 at Cincinnati and the Bulgarian’s only trophy at this level came in 2017 when he beat Nick Kyrgios in the final of the same tournament.

Now Dimitrov will look to win his second masters 1000 title of his career as he takes on Cameron Norrie in the last four on Saturday.

Norrie currently leads the head-to-head 1-0.

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Indian Wells Daily Preview: Two Women’s Quarterfinals Feature Four of 2021’s Best Players

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Angelique Kerber is a defending finalist at Indian Wells (twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Angelique Kerber has won 20 of her last 24 matches.  Anett Kontaveit has claimed 16 of her last 17, which includes two titles.  Paula Badosa is 38-15 on the year, and 8-3 against the top 20.  Ons Jabeur is on the cusp of becoming the first Arab player to reach the top 10.  Which two of these four impressive performers will reach Friday’s semifinals?

 

Also on Wednesday, the first two men’s singles quarterfinals will be contested, with significant implications as to who will qualify for next month’s ATP Finals.  And in the doubles, the final two men’s quarterfinals will be played, alongside the women’s semifinals.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.

Ons Jabeur (12) vs. Anett Kontaveit (18)  – Not Before 3:00pm on Stadium 1

A win today would guarantee Jabeur’s top 10 debut next week.  But that will be a tough ask against the WTA’s hottest player of the last two months.  Since adding Dmitry Tursonov as her coach, who previously guided Aryna Sabalenka during her rise to the top of the sport, Kontaveit has been on fire.  She was the champion in both Cleveland and Ostrava, with her only loss coming at the US Open against another of 2021’s best players, Iga Swiatek.  Anett has not dropped a set through three rounds, though Jabeur has been dominant as well, allowing her last two opponents only eight games across four sets.  Ons has taken both of their previous tour-level encounters, and she’s the last person not named Iga to defeat Kontaveit.  Two months ago in Cincinnati, she outlasted Anett 7-5 in the third.  But based on Kontaveit’s current level of confidence, I give her the slight edge to advance after what I expect to be a tenacious battle with some grueling rallies on these slow-playing courts.

Angelique Kerber (10) vs. Paula Badosa (21) – Not Before 6:00pm on Stadium 1

This will be the first career meeting between the three-time Major champ and the 23-year-old Spaniard, who has had a tremendous year despite a terrible start.  Upon arriving in Melbourne, Badosa tested positive for COVID, which forced her to spend three weeks in full quarantine.  But she’s now vying for her fifth semifinal of the season, and her first since May.  Kerber had a pretty miserable season until June, and even pondered retiring from the sport.  However, she has been an entirely different player since the grass court season.  Her only losses since mid-June have come against world No.1 Ash Barty, or fellow lefties (Leylah Fernandez, Jil Teichmann).  But these court speeds are not conducive to Angie’s game.  They are playing more at the speed of a clay court, and that’s never been her best surface.  By contrast, Badosa thrives on clay, compiling a record of 17-3 this year.  In the last round, Paula defeated Barbora Krejcikova in straight sets, and Krejickova has been one of 2021’s toughest outs.  I like Badosa’s chance of achieving her fifth semifinal of the season.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Diego Schwartzman (11) vs. Cameron Norrie (21) – Schwartzman easily dispatched of Casper Ruud on Wednesday.  Norrie has won three consecutive three-setters this fortnight.  Cam leads their head-to-head 2-1, which includes a four-hour, five-set victory at last year’s US Open.

Hubert Hurkacz (8) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (23) – Hurkacz was a semifinalist here in 2019.  Dimitrov pulled off an incredible comeback on Wednesday, after falling behind a set and two breaks against top-seeded Daniil Medvedev.

Su-Wei Hsieh and Elise Mertens (2) vs. Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (3) – When these two teams met in the Wimbledon semifinals, Hsieh and Mertens prevailed 6-3 in the third.

Rohan Bopanna and Denis Shapovalov vs. Aslan Karatsev and Andrey Rublev – This quarterfinal features three players in the top 15 of the Race to Turin singles rankings.  The last time Karatsev and Rublev teamed up, this past March in Qatar, they won the title.

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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