Janko Tipsarevic, the world number nine and the new columnist for The Tennis Space, discloses that he is to mentor young players.
If I had the chance now to speak to my 18- or 19-year-old self, I would tell him to stop being a baby on court. When I was that age, if a match wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, I would be like a crying baby who couldn’t have the doll he wanted. I really regret that I was like that.
I wish I had had a different mindset then, the sort of attitude that I have now as a 27-year old. I wish I realised then you must always give everything on the court, that you have a short career, that every freaking match counts. That’s what I’m going to be telling the young players who are going to be spending time with me this year, as part of a programme with my sponsor Tecnifibre. Five players will spend a week each with me this season, starting in Indian Wells in California next month, and then in Monte Carlo, Gstaad, Shanghai and Belgrade. I would have liked, when I was their age, to have had an opportunity to spend time with a player on the tour, to hear what it takes to be a professional tennis player. I like helping people how to do things, and I’m very excited about this.
The juniors, who will also be my practice partners at tournaments, will be hearing from a guy who has been through almost all as a player. I was a successful junior, then I was a failure, a disappointment, then I broke into top 100, then I got stuck, and everyone was saying, ‘when is he going to start playing good tennis?’ Then I broke into the top 50, and then I got stuck again. It was only at the start of 2011 that it all clicked, that it all came together. So I’ve had my ups and downs. When I was a young player, my management company had me in a ‘rebel with a cause’ programme. I’m not going to be recommending to these players that they try to be a tennis rebel, to be the guy who doesn’t give a damn. You have to sacrifice a lot if you want to make it as a tennis player.
As a young player, you don’t appreciate that this is a short career, and you have to make the most of your time on the tour. As a teenager, I didn’t sacrifice enough. I would like to tell my teenage self to just be a boring, stupid professional, to sacrifice everything to tennis. Back then, I never missed a training session, even after going out and getting drunk, but I thought that if I did everything in practice, that it would all be okay. It wasn’t okay. It’s about the small things. Are you eating properly? What time are you going to bed? Are you stretching after every match and practice? Are you watching back videos of your defeats? Are you going on to YouTube and looking at how Roger Federer moves on court? Are you showing a Nadal-like attitude on every point? You need to be thinking about all of these things. I still occasionally go out and have a drink, so I have a life, but I recognise that everything comes second to tennis.
I’m looking forward to spending time with these kids, having lunches and dinners together, and getting to know them. I also like practising with young players, as some of my best results after practising with juniors. Maybe that’s because they are so pumped-up about being on the court, and also I can always make sure that the training session is more focused on what I need to be working on. My coach doesn’t always like it, though, when I train with juniors as I can sometimes spend too much time trying to help them improve their game rather than concentrating on myself. Especially when I can see that the young player wants to learn, that he is interested in more than just getting the ball back. Hopefully, I can find a golden middle.
This programme with Tecnifibre is something I genuinely want to. I know that it won’t be a pain in the ass. And I hope they will learn something.
For more information on Janko’s Next Generation Tour, please visit http://www.tecnifibre.com