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Dmitry Tursunov

Ask Dmitry: agony uncle Dmitry Tursunov


Readers of a delicate disposition should click away now. Dmitry Tursunov has been described as ‘The Tolstoy of Tennis’, he has been called the wittiest and most outrageous man on the tour, and he has also been described as ‘complex’. Now, as The Tennis Space’s agony uncle, the world No 86 is here to help. Well, sort of. The Russian never promised that he would answer your questions with any sensitivity.

My dearest uncle,
There is nothing I find more irritating in this world – nothing at all – than doubles players touching hands after every point. I would love to hear your thoughts. Am I wrong?
Maria, Toronto

While it is a bit annoying to watch players touch hands it’s a lot less annoying than a pat on the butt they do in American Football or Basketball. I think they could allow butt-pats in women’s doubles but men touching hands and chest bumping is where the line should be drawn. There is a psychological basis for this behavior though. If, for example, your partner misses an easy volley or whiffs an overhead on a deciding point, you wouldn’t want him to feel like the idiot that he obviously is. A hand touch, or a little fist connect is a subconscious sign of reassurance.

There are times you get down on yourself, and this seemingly unimportant gesture is a reset button – “Next Point!” It’s a lonely place out there on the court so the emotional support and reassurance from your partner is helpful to snap you out of the downward spiral of getting down on yourself for missing an important shot at a key time. In a fast paced game like doubles it’s important to stay focused on the next point and not chain errors while you dwell on a mistake.

Dear Dmitry,
I think I’m addicted to bouncing the ball on the ground before I serve (like Djokovic, just much worse). However much I try, I can’t bring myself to serve before I have bounced the ball around 30 times, sometimes as many as 40 or 50 times. I’m getting a reputation.
Don, New York

Well it just gets so peaceful once you pass the 30 bounces mark, doesn’t it?! Serenity takes over… Could be a good substitute for yoga or meditation! In reality though it’s similar to meditation. You’ll see pros do all sorts of shit to get their mind together before the point. Imagine you are facing a breakpoint, it’s fifth set, tons of people are watching you, lots of cash on the line, ranking points coming off, coach is foaming at the mouth, parents are threatening to disown you if you lose, opponent is breathing fire as he chews through the ball, umpires are snoozing on the lines, ball kid is watching birds in the sky… After a while you’ll be bouncing balls for eternity, skipping over lines, adjusting strings, sweating over where to place your water bottles, trying to stuff balls into umpire’s throat… Anything to get the edge off!

There is nothing wrong with bouncing the ball a few times, BUT, you have to be mindful of your opponent. If more than one person complains, it might be time to review your routine. Unless you are local Djokovic and bring in millions to your club by just appearing there to bounce the ball for an hour or two, chances are you will be quietly hated by a lot of people. There is nothing like quiet hate! Slashed tires, key marks on your door, balls rolling under your feet as you warm up, a little super glue in your shampoo, laxative in your Gatorade… Long list of benefits! I would come up to the players you often play against and ask them if the bouncing before the serve bothers them. If the majority admits to hating you for it, wishing that you’d bounce the ball enough to open a portal that would suck you into hell, you should cut down. Focus on toning it down in practice and you will feel more comfortable in the match. There is a certain rhythm that everyone has. Internally they play at a certain speed, but going to the extreme where you are is more psychological so adjusting it might get you out of your comfort zone in the beginning but you have to understand that and be aware of the fact that it’s mostly in your head.

Dear Dmitry,
They say that you should never look in a lady’s handbag. Does that same rule apply to a lady’s racket-bag?
James, Brisbane

They also say that a lady should not look through your phone for texts, emails, phone numbers, pictures of Las Vegas trips and instead believe every lie you come up with, but that just doesn’t happen in real life, does it?! There is no number of locks that will stop me from trying to look inside a bag or a purse. In “Mission Impossible” Tom Cruise originally climbed through an air duct and was lowered by cables to look through a girl’s purse but they cut that part out. I’d totally go through something similar to see what’s inside a purse! Sometimes, I get the feeling the universe was created from all the random crap the chicks keep inside their purses.

Nothing is wrong with curiosity, but I would go the extra mile! I would… get this… I’m a freaking genius!.. I would, buy a present, something cheap and mushy to get her all gooey when she catches you in the act. You put it into her purse and then start “exploring”. If she catches you in the act, just say you were trying to surprise her by planting that cheap mushy thing in her purse but thanks to her the surprise is ruined, she is a heartless “you know who”, how dare she accuse you of invading her privacy and not trust you – the benchmark for a perfect boyfriend! Reverse this on her, guilt trip her into oblivion, demand an ice-cream and a minimum of one week without nagging as you attempt to become a king of the video games among your buddies, and go jail-free! Technically that should work! Although I’ve never tried it…

Dear Uncle Dmitry,
Thanks for all the entertainment through the years, you are great. Besides yourself, who do you think are the funniest people on tour?
Rob, San Diego

No problem, Rob. I entertained myself for 29 years every morning I looked in the mirror so no need to thank me. There are a ton of fun guys on tour. 99% percent have a sense of humor and the other 1% percent most likely has it as well but I never bothered to find out. With some I don’t see eye to eye but that is not to say that they do not have a sense of humor. We all find different things funny so for quite a few people I am too abrasive and harsh. Can’t win them all! :) Quite a few guys change the moment the camera or the microphone is around them. We’ve all had some bad encounters with the media where you say, – “tomato” and the reporter hears, – “Woman’s place is in the kitchen!” so it’s hard to joke around or be sarcastic.

Many older players say that Ivan Lendl, for example, is a very funny guy but the press never really liked him so it is the case with many of the players. Many are too afraid to be misquoted, or misunderstood. I would have to point out Michael Llodra, though. He is a complete lunatic! The only player that I would never be able to out-do in terms of doing something crazy. Last year in Beijing… And this is probably the only rated PG story I have about the guy, I came out of hotel and was putting my bag into a trunk of a tournament car, as a plastic laundry bag hits the back of my head. Michael has arrived from the airport! Of course I have a reputation to keep, so I take his bag and throw it up onto a tree but the plastic gets ripped off and all of his laundry with thongs and the little cartoon-boy-shorts that he likes to wear lands all over the hotel parking lot. Keep in mind that this is in a parking lot of a 4-5 star hotel in China. People are more confused than amused at what is happening… He grabs my racket bag and runs off with it; while he is running he takes out the rackets and throws them around. One in the tree, one in the bush, another one he hands off to a taxi driver leaving the driveway (just throws it in his window) and ultimately the bag goes flying into the tree as well. I was going for my match that day so I just picked up the rackets that I saw, along with the bag, and leave before anything worse can happen (not sure what can be worse than that).

In the end, I lost the only good racket that I had left. I must have missed one of his throws. Three of the rackets were cracked, and they literally folded in half in the middle of the match. The one that I ended up winning the match with was OK with the exception of bad balance and weight, so essentially unplayable under normal conditions but on that day that was the only stick I had left and if the string broke on that racket I would have had to borrow rackets from Bellucci. Moral of the story, NEVER EVER %&^K with Llodra!

Dear Uncle Dmitry,
Recently I was playing my biggest rival in my club final. He was a set and a break up, when I rolled my ankle. I was in a lot of pain, and decided to retire from the match, as I didn’t want to do myself any long-term damage. He is now telling people at the club that I faked the injury as I wanted to deprive him of the moment of victory. When I walk into the club bar, people suddenly stop talking. I need your help. What do I say to him, and to everyone else at the club?
Andrew, London

Over the years I have learned that you would never be able to please everyone. As logical as it sounds, most people still do not like to realise that they can be disliked. It’s hard to accept the fact that some duffus is so self-absorbed that his blinders do not let him see the real world. The best thing is to move on and forget about it. It’s easy to accuse someone and watch the rumour spread. Defending yourself, being logical, showing a hospital bill, an X-ray or an MRI will only make you guiltier in the eyes of those who believe you roll your ankles just to escape a loss. Professional athletes view and measure themselves by the victories. In fact, in some cases, certain players tend to converse or pay more attention to you when you are doing well.

What’s interesting, however, is that some doctor/lawyer/big shot who looks absolutely paralyzed on the court thinks that buying a Roger Federer bag, painting a logo on his racket, and adorning a pretty flashy visor on top of his head full of transplanted butt hair will somehow make him better than the other guy. My point is, your success or failure at your hobby, and even in your profession, does not define you as a good or bad person, although we often forget that. We all are guilty of comparing ourselves to others in hopes that our self-worth will be higher if we win. I’m guilty of it trying to take a corner in a parking lot, passing granny on the right, thinking I’m Tom Cruise in “Days of Thunder” you are guilty of it, thinking you are saving Private Ryan as you step on the landmine and rolling your ankle, he is guilty of it Thinking he is unstoppable God of ATP/WTA/USTA/WTT and even some squash league and that the only strategy people will resort to against him is self-detonating just so they have an excuse. C’mon! The guy wants his glory so I’d put up a giant poster in the lobby of a club-house professing his all-mightiness, begging forgiveness, and requesting his approval to move on with life.

But in all seriousness if you look at it from afar, it is a pretty insignificant incident that happens all the time, even in schools. The days when we are just being introduced to society, public opinion about our actions and our choices, and fears of being an outcast are very similar in experience. Very little changes even though we get older, we still seek approval of others, sometimes going great lengths and in this case scenario both of you are guilty; you seeking approval of the people when you enter the clubhouse and him trying to portray himself as a bigger player than he really is.Those whose judgment is important will value how you get up, not how you fall!

Dear Uncle Dmitry,
We’ve got the idea of running a speed-dating tennis event at our club. Instead of five minutes of chat, you play five minutes of tennis, with some mixed doubles. Everyone then meets in the bar afterwards, where you can chat to who you want. What do you think? Any suggestions? Also, do you do personal appearances?
Jane, London

I’ve always liked speed-dating! Although, my dates have never shared my enthusiasm… I’ve always tried to fast-forward to the best part but some dates were pretty determined to watch the intro, in some cases, re-watch it a few times, worrying they might have missed something hidden between the lines. In my opinion, just skip to the ending. Hollywood movies always have happy-endings that’s why they are so popular 😉 My suggestion would be to do the drinking part first. That way is more fun I think… Just watch out for anyone trying to quit matches by rolling their ankle. Some guys just can’t take a loss! Do you have a signup sheet? I might do this event instead of the Wimbledon mixed doubles, I keep trying to clarify to WTA I like to get hit ON by women not get hit by them. The devil is in the detail!

To contact Dmitry with your concern or confession, please email mark@thetennisspace.com with your message marked ‘Dear Uncle Dmitry’.

  • http://twitter.com/10snut Donna

    Thanks for another really funny column! 

    And you’re right about the solidarity shown by touching hands with your doubles partner.  But when they walk away and you are chasing them trying to touch hands after a whiffed easy overhead it’s tough on the psyche. 

  • tnosnibor

    Is that Llodra story really true?  If so, madness.  Don’t %&*k with him, indeed.

  • http://twitter.com/kyla_reese cyndi

    Bravo, Dima!!! You are truly the Tolstoy of Tennis…the crazy version, that is.  Clearly you are damaged beyond repair… :)

  • Rob Cross

    Way funny!