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Facing Federer: Dimitry Tursonov’s take

Scoop Malinowski, who contributes to the Tennis Frontier, has released his new book “Facing Federer“.

Here is the first of three exclusive excerpts:

Dmitry Tursunov:

“It depends. If everyone talks about Roger as being the greatest, then you come out on the court against him feeling a little threatened. So you start making a little bit of mistakes that you normally don’t do. So I think a lot of it sort of happens in your head. You think to yourself a little bit, you force yourself to play too good for your own level. And if you get used to playing him, then you start playing a little bit within yourself and usually that’s the best chance for you to do your best. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, if you’re trying to force yourself to play outside of your comfort zone, you’re always going to make mistakes, whether it’s against Roger, my grandmother, it doesn’t matter, so.”

“Obviously, he’s a great player. There’s no point in denying that. He’s able to play consistently, play well consistently, he’s a very good tactician, so if something doesn’t work for him, he’s able to switch the game patterns. He’s able to come into net, he’s able to slice, he can hit topspin. He can be aggressive, he can be defensive. So that allows him to be very flexible with his gameplans.”

Question: What was your most memorable match with him?

Dmitry Tursunov: “I think, again, usually when you ask players like that it makes it sound like you played against such a great player. We’re all professionals. The guy can do a lot of things better than me but it’s not like playing him is such an awe-inspiring moment, like you meet Jesus for the first time in your life. And I think that’s what a lot of people tend to make it to be. His fans and the press make him sound a lot more threatening than he is. And he’s a very good player, there’s no doubt about that. But again, he’s lost plenty of matches. And it’s not that you don’t have a chance going out against him. He’s a very good tactician. Physically he’s talented. But he’s not the most talented person in the world. He has great timing. He’s able to slice and he’s able to use his slice in an offensive way which not a lot of people can do.”

“But again, the most memorable moment…I’ve played three matches against him. I’ve lost all three of them. In one of them, I did take a set off of him. In my last match against him, it was in the Olympics. I kind of defeated myself there in that final set. I was so nervous playing him that I made a lot of mistakes and all he had to do was show up on the court. If that makes him the greatest player of all time – by forcing players to crap their pants when they come out to play against him, then I guess that’s the definition of a great player. And I’m not a great player. But I think I probably have the same effect maybe at a lower level. If I come out playing in Challengers, maybe I’d put a lot of pressure on the person. He’s thinking, ‘Oh f***, it’s Tursunov, he’s won two rounds at an ATP tournament last week. Now I have to do something extra to beat him.’ And that’s not the case. And a lot of times I beat players like that.”

“Again, I’m not trying to downsize Roger and he doesn’t need downsizing. I don’t think it’s necessary to bring him up to like a deity level of a player. He’s not. He’s defeatable. And Rafa’s proved it. Rafa doesn’t get affected by that. Mentally, he’s very disciplined. He’s able to just play his game pattern regardless of who he’s playing. He could be playing you, me, Roger, he doesn’t care. If Jesus comes down and starts floating on the court, he still plays the way he’s playing. And that’s why he’s able to defeat Roger, in large part. There’s a lot of other things. It’s not like Rafa doesn’t have any weapons. My point is, a lot of defeats against Roger happen psychologically. Players force themselves to step out of their comfort zone and they start making mistakes. It’s like going out on a date with a really hot girl. You’re probably going to try to make stupid jokes and then you’re going to feel like an idiot after that. That’s kind of how it feels. Just to sum it up [smiles].”

Question: Your lasting memory of Roger on court or off court? An anecdote?

Dmitry Tursunov: “Well, he can’t. He’s got an image to uphold. So he can’t do anything less than, you know, like his hair is glowing.”

Question: But you stole his bag once and hid it on him?

Dmitry Tursunov: “I did, in Toronto. I think that’s probably why I got the set off of him [smiles]. I mean, he’s a pretty mellow guy off the court. I’m pretty sure that he knows that he’s really good in tennis and he’s got a lot of records. And I think of Roger showed up at the Corona Bar (adjacent to our interview at a practice court at SONY Open in Miami) we’d have like 15 heart attacks in the Corona Bar. And people would just start praying and, but, I think, again, it’s a part of the image. And a lot of it is press and how you present yourself. I really can’t say any anecdotes because he’s not going to put himself in a position where he can be embarrassed in some way. He’s not gonna fart in front of people [smiles]. And then, after a certain amount of time, you start feeling like Roger never farts. So that’s probably the anecdote in itself. That he’s never farted in his lifetime. He never has to take a shower after his match. He doesn’t smell. He smells like vanilla [laughter].”

Tursunov’s record against Roger:

2006 Miami Masters Round of 16 Federer 3-6, 3-6
2006 Toronto Masters Round of 16 Federer 3-6, 7-5, 6-0
2008 Beijing Olympics Round of 64 Federer 4-6, 2-6

Tomorrow: Read Gilles Muller’s take on “Facing Federer”

You can purchase the whole book at Amazon:

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About Owen Gigg

Owen Gigg was one of the original co-founders of the Tennis Frontier and is an avid follower of the sport.
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