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Dmitry Tursunov

Expert help from Agony Uncle Dmitry Tursunov


Dmitry Tursunov, the world No 75 and The Tennis Space’s agony uncle, answers readers’ cries for help (but not always with a great deal of sensitivity). To contact Dmitry for next month’s mailbag, please send your concern or confession to mark@thetennisspace.com with the email marked ‘Dear Uncle Dmitry’. You can follow Dmitry on Twitter: @tursunovtales

Dear Uncle Dmitry,
I need some help about how to get a psychological edge during changeovers. I’m generally a polite person, and when I get to the net to change ends, and my opponent arrives at the net at the same time, I always allow him to cross first. Is that a mistake? Am I telling my opponent that I’m subservient to him?

Or is it saying that I’m above caring about nonsense, that I don’t have to resort to silly tricks by walking straight on and making him wait? If it comes to it, and we’re both crossing at the same time, should I indulge in some shoulder-bumping? Maybe you could ask Venus for her tips? I hear she likes a good shoulder bump.

New York

Well Seb, it’s not a mistake to let the guy go through first. You are just being polite. At times, though, you feel like certain people are having a pissing contest with you at everything they do. You go up to the gate at the airport – they sprint to it just to get in front.  You take the escalator, they are running up the stairs tripping over themselves with their carry-on bouncing behind. You pee in the urinal, they pee harder, longer, with more precision hitting targets along the way as if it’s a shooting range.

With those types of people, (Alpha-Males) you have to assert yourself because this is how they view the world. They feel they are the lion in a safari fighting over a lioness so the way to get into their head is to beat them at the game that they play by – body language. Little things that do not matter to you are a matter of life and death to this King of the Jungle. But shoulder-bumping will just result in him trying to out bump you on the next change over and if you will shy away from this challenge he will feel victorious.

If you are evil, you should deny him that feeling of victory. March-on through that narrow passage between the umpire’s chair and the net on change-over first. Wink at him. Sarcasm is a good way to get to him. On the next change-over get to the net first and then when he gets there give him way – “Ladies first!” Guide him through – you are the one showing him the way. Like a father showing his son a way into the world. That’s a nasty one for those who are into body language.

A little trash talk on the change-over is a good way to get under his skin. Tell him, – “You used to hit the ball a bit harder in the past, no?”, “Have you been using “Rogaine”? You seem to have a fuller head of hair!”, “How do you move so well with so much weight?! It’s truly amazing!!!” Identify his weakness and pick at it. Make him think about that instead of the match.

Disclaimer: You might get your ass kicked after the match, or even during the match. I take no responsibility for any damage or injury incurred during or after the process.

Dear Uncle Dmitry,

A member at my local club has an annoying habit of going for winners throughout the five-minute pre-match warm-up. I sometimes respond by doing the same back to him, but I don’t want to resort to his level. Do players do that on the pro tour? How do you deal with them? Please help.


Well how do you tell a dummy that he is a dummy? Of course there is that old remedy of calling him/her an idiot a few times but if that doesn’t work, hit some winners of your own! There are a couple of guys on tour who come out a little aggressive right out of the gates and try to intimidate with big shots in warm-up so you have to be prepared for that. Preparation helps dealing with situations and not just a psycho warming up across the net, but all kinds. Have a plan of NOT reacting to that.

Another way to disarm some of this lunacy before a warm-up is to acknowledge the fact that you are aware of the member’s wretched ways, but in an nice politically correct way, hopefully in front of people or an umpire – “I hope you won’t be crushing those winners down my throat in a warm-up! It takes me about five minutes to warm-up before I can start responding to those!” Or if there are people watching on the sidelines say loudly during warm-up when another winner goes by – “You put the ball away so well in a warm-up! Don’t you EVER get nervous?!?!” Ridicule is the best way to make friends in my opinion!

Dear Uncle Dmitry,

I believe my question is rather urgent and your timely reply is much appreciated.

I’m going to Roland Garros, your favourite surface and favourite slam. I need your advice how I get to sit (read sneak) in a player’s box, you know the kind that gets TV airtime again and again. Not that I want to be on TV (though I wouldn’t mind that), I just hope my player(s) can see and hear my support. Some players’ boxes have a lot of seats left; I thought that’s quite embarrassing for them. Your tips will help both players and fan-girls.

Thank you.

Love you always,


PS. I saw your new hair-do, are you going to have a brain surgery after that clean shave? I’m worried.

Well some players are actually pretty apprehensive of who sit in their box. Once, I was trying to get to box adjacent to the player’s one. The only way was to climb through it. Boy, did I get some flack over that. I literally sat in it for one game to wait for the change-over. After the match the player’s coach came up to me and asked me to not sit in the box again, as it’s only for coaches and close people and the player was very upset. You can imagine my response to that. Some players are just a little creepy about these things. Damn screechers! (Guess who…)

I, for example, always leave room for an imaginary entourage that travels with me. Of course it’s not as big as Andy Murray’s but in terms of expenses even imaginary one is costing a pretty penny nowadays. Now if you are talking about the box that “…gets TV airtime again and again…” you are writing to the wrong person. I would be LUCKY to play on the court that has ball-kids, much less a box seating or a TV camera. Even umpires are refusing to watch my matches, which is why I get so many sh– calls.

P.S. I’m glad you dig the new do. Wouldn’t want Youzhnznhnzynzynyzy to steal my thunder with the girls!

Please click here:


Dear Uncle Dmitry,

Please help me to settle an argument I’ve been having with friends. Who takes longer to get ready in front of the locker-room mirror, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal?

John, Cornwall


It’s not a rivalry just on the court, believe me… These guys are competitors to the bone!

Dear Uncle Dmitry,

What’s the most crushing thing you can say to an opponent, after you’ve just beaten them?

Daniela, Hong Kong

Well I’m not a fan of trying to come up with something crushing to an opponent after you have just beaten them. Gloating is not a virtue in my book. With that being said, there are people that definitely need a reality check and need to be dragged down from the clouds that they live on. Tennis is a one-on-one sport and very often there will be, not only a battle of skill, but a struggle of egos as well.

It helps to be a little more self-centered than the next guy, to feel you are better than the other guy. Confidence and a projection of confidence sometimes is the decider in the match. For that reason the sport is often compared to Gladiator games. Minus the animals, blood, and other unsavoury moments.

To be honest there were quite a few moments, where I saw my opponent wanting it SO bad, and trying SO hard that I felt it wasn’t fair for me to win. I wasn’t applying the amount of effort, didn’t want it as much, and was better than him. At those moments I struggled to keep the pedal down. Eventually I would snap out of it and revert to my old usual, sarcastic self to try and finish him off. Especially if the guy was misinterpreting my moment of reflection and love for all man-kind as a green-light to steal the match away from me. That’s just irritating.

Anyway, my point is – let your racket do the talking. Act the way you would want your opponent to act towards you. You might get a (quick, flash, instant ) sense of revenge for crushing your opponent mentally after the match but it’s not a victory that you’re chasing. It’s not a long-lasting satisfaction knowing that you feel happy at someone else’s expense. Unfortunately, teaching a lesson with negative emotions doesn’t work, even though it feels pretty good at times.

But, if you absolutely must teach the person a lesson this is a good way to do it —>  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vfqp8QEsrds

Dear Uncle Dmitry,

I think I love Sue Barker.

David, Edinburgh

David, you have issues beyond my comprehension. There are so many fish out there why do you have to go after the one whose heart solely belongs to Tim? If she’s yours for the taking she will appear in your life at some point… Hell, who am I kidding… She is the only one who touched my heart in recent years. Right after she walked all over it!!!! …I went on the rampage back then… Played Tim a few times…

She is not worth your tears, man!!!

Dear Uncle Dmitry,

Is it ever acceptable to call an opponent for foot-faulting during a friendly match? There’s one guy I regularly play against at my club and he’s always a few inches into the court when he hits the ball. I know it’s not much, but it annoys me. However, I don’t want to be seen as being really uptight. Please help, Uncle.


Well Andrew, you will look rather silly calling someone for a foot-fault. Especially in a friendly match. I think the better question is, why does it bother you? A few inches have never hurt anybody.  It’s not like his serve will get better as a result. It’s not how far inside the court you are it’s how well you serve that’s important.

Seriously though if it bothers you, tell him at some point when you are not on the court. He might make a huge deal out of it if you mention it while you two are playing but in a non-competitive setting it shouldn’t be an issue. In all honesty though I doubt that his foot-fault would have an effect on your game anywhere close to the way you can affect it by letting it get to you.

I try to play small out-balls and try to not serve aces in practice so I can practice against adversity, so to speak. It helps you deal with these issues in practice so that when it’s game time you are ready for all sorts of exciting things. I do like an occasional squabble with a ref though. That’s my tickle-me spot.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, Uncle Dimitry, you are sooo smart, clever and funny.  Who would have ever thought that, from watching you play tennis?  :)   But I mean that in a good way. 

    Actually, I’ve been a fan since reading one of your ATP blogs many years ago. 

  • wendyF

    Hi, Uncle Dmitry! Glad I found you. I’ll be looking forward to this column. And I hope to catch you on the TV playing on the show courts with ballboys, umpire, players’ boxes and everything else.