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Dmitry Tursunov

Dmitry Tursunov's Agony Uncle mailbag


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, he is here to help. Well, sort of. The Russian, who was in the singles draw at the Wimbledon Championships, never promised that he would answer your questions with any sensitivity.

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

Uncle Dmitry,  Is it true that Tim Henman used to stop practice sessions at Queen’s and Wimbledon to drink tea? Do other players behave differently in England than in other countries, because they think it’s the ‘home of tennis’ and because the Queen might be watching? Any tips you can pass on for amateurs? Also, what do professionals REALLY think about playing in England? Do they like grass, rain, warm Pimm’s and white clothes?

James, London

James, I’ll be nice to you as I’m in a good mood today but normally sending thirty questions in one paragraph does not equal to one question. Its still thirty questions! But since you sent only 5 questions my statement above shouldn’t concern you.  Tim did take tea-breaks during practices but he was unsuccessful in introducing it into his match routines. Sometimes I’d get the feeling that he served-and-volleyed just so he could get through games faster before the tea would go cold. He also had trouble controlling his weight during off-season as he couldn’t stay away from scones and cream that came as a part of tea-breaks during practices, something that Andy has been pretty good about. Andy attributes his will-power to the fact that he is Scottish, hence the defiance of the British traditions.

We, as players, get pretty intimidated by traditions in England. Roger wears a jacket. I iron my shirts and undies for the match, some players even WASH their clothes between matches in case the Queen decides to go watch a match on court 42.

Tips for the amateurs – quit while you are not so far behind and you can still blame it on lack of practice.

What do YOU think we REALLY think? We enjoy playing on a surface that’s better suited to growing potatoes for two days of the month, and sitting on our ass in the locker room for the other 28 days. We also worry about eating Indian take-aways since we can only wear white. One positive is we get to read the press “compliment” British athletes. Makes the rest of us feel pretty darn capable of playing some good ball. Oh, and that 3rd page is pretty popular with players as well..

Dearest Uncle Dmitry, Should Andy Murray wear a kilt at Wimbledon?

Amelia, Manchester

I think he should wear Borat’s mankini. He’s gotten buffer since his earlier years on tour and I feel he can take out the ensemble already but he gets a bit bashful about his deltoids. 

Dear Uncle Dmitry, I’m a British tennis parent, and more ambitious than any stage mum. I’m always hearing that young British players have the wrong mentality to succeed. I wondered whether you could tell me whether my son – aged 9 – could borrow anything from the mindset of other countries’ players? Are they tougher mentally? Perhaps we pretend that he’s Eastern European, maybe tell him that he was born in Moscow, and put a framed photo of Putin above his bed? If that gave him an edge, I would do it. Please help.

Damian, Bristol

Damian, Congrats on outshining the stage-mums!  I’ve heard the same about British players and I don’t believe that the answer is THAT simple. It never is! Yes a photo of Putin will yield success, but ONLY if the frame is made out of birch. I’m pretty sure that Rafa and Roger found some birch frames early on in their careers and are reaping the benefits. First and foremost it has to be coming from within your child not from within your daydream of sitting in the stands to watch him pluck his undies while serving for the match.

You can motivate by force, money, candy, and anything else only for so long and most parents lie to themselves in the process about how talented their child is or, even worse, on how much their child loves the competition even if that child only cares about dissecting frogs or painting doodles on canvas. There are no right or wrong approaches as every living person is quite unique but the child should want to do something on his/her own. One will work harder towards one’s own dream than fulfilling someone else’s. Your job is to find what motivates your child.

If that doesn’t work, you can always create a ten-year bootcamp for him and hope that he will flourish without hating you. There is a difference in being supportive and demanding his best effort rather than treating him based on a result. He should, in my opinion, be taught hard work and value of things in life as well as value of hard work. If one values only the result one can lose the motivation easily when the result does not meet the expectation. Above all if one feels lesser of a human being just because he didn’t win today one will have a miserable future. If you instill good values Putin will smile from the birch frame whether your son becomes the next Andy Murray or not.

PS. looking at options outside of rainy England to diversify and broaden his game might be a good idea. Tennis is often about adjusting on the go and allowing him to train on other surfaces will force him to develop other aspects of his game than if he always played on just fast, or just slow surfaces. The more skills you have the more flexible your options become. Just look at my game… I could surely use some volleys!

Dear Uncle Dmitry, My sons are three and one and I am not going to have a daughter. Although I am not a good athlete and enjoy my whisky, I am good at sports including tennis. I’m one of the best in my town. I know the limitations of my genes (lung capacity, height 5 foot 10 inches) etc but want my kids to be good tennis players in this tremendously physical era for tennis. How do I get them interested in tennis and see whether they have what it takes without being a nightmare tennis parent? Any advice at this early stage besides taking a hands-off approach?

Ashok Madavan 

Ashok, Tennis, unlike some other sports, is not ALWAYS about physical ability, it involves a lot of psychology as well. Sure there is a lot of psychology in swimming but that along with strategic decisions is not a predominant reason why someone swims faster or sinks. In other words, it’s a combination of many different things required in tennis that makes tennis stand apart from physically predominant sports.

Just to clarify I’m not attempting to make tennis sound an elite white-colour sport in a pool of second grade sports but if you look at tennis players they don’t always look like great athletes that you would see on a track, which suggests that there is more to it than just having developed biceps. With that being said, how do you identify if your kid has what it takes? I’d be damned if I really knew but I’d start with these few things; hand-eye coordination, competitiveness, desire for tennis.

You can teach a person how to walk but it doesn’t guarantee that they won’t walk into a wall. It helps if they are coordinated. If they like competing, taking things away from others, and behaving like little alpha-males, it certainly helps in individual sports such as tennis. If they enjoy playing tennis not because you will feed them only if they practice for two hours but because they simply love chasing a ball and hit it at the person across the net than it’s a good start.

Yes it helps if the kid is on the taller side, if his lungs extend on his back like humps on a camel, or if he’s built like a cyborg but that’s like wishing for a perfect girlfriend – they don’t exist! Or they are very hard to get, which is all the same for the purpose of this answer. David Ferrer is not very tall. Davydenko, Hewitt, Djokovic are all asthmatic (I wish I was as well). Cilic looks like a mast on a ship.  Not all is lost to your limitations!

Whatever you do, it’s good to put your child into sports. Who knows which sport he’ll be more natural in, but all of them will keep him healthy, fit, and bring a bit of discipline into his life. We as humans were not designed to sit indoors in a cubicle so the more exercise he gets the better off he is. Tennis or not, you should support him in his choice of sport and instill that working hard, and not giving up is the first and foremost rule in any worthy endeavour.

Dearest Uncle Dmitry, I am a huge fan of your comments. Can you tell us what has been your best experience on tour so far? Also, I would love if you sign my boob.

Jamie, Venezuela.

Well, fulfilling your request would not be a horrible experience but flirting aside it would be hard to answer. I can’t complain about my life. Sure I’ve had to sacrifice certain things, but I also reap the benefits that some can not. I personally do not feel that I need to be treated to a red carpet to be happy. in fact, I like to lay on the couch eat chocolate and stare at the TV. So as glamorous as people think my life is, it really isn’t as posh as you would expect. I mean, I’ve never had Llodra jump out of my locker naked, the Queen hasn’t made it to any of my matches, and I can never get to Moscow in time for the sour-cherry season.

I’m pretty happy with acquaintances I’ve acquired over the years though, and I’ve had a chance to learn about people being very similar regardless of where they come from. There are quite a bit of idiots all over the world not just in one specific country as most people who have never travelled would tend to believe. Basically, I’d love to impress you with some wild story but now that I reflect on things trying to think of something to impress you I’m starting to realize that I’m a bit of a bore which is all the more reason for me to sign your boob. That way, next time I am asked this question, I will have something to talk about.

Dear Uncle Dmitry, You are a no-nonsense type of guy, who just gets on with playing.  Isn’t it time we got rid of the ‘let’ serve?  If the ball hits the net during a rally, the point is not replayed.  And how about getting rid of the five-minute warm-up? Shouldn’t players just walk on the court and play?

Linda Nathaniel, Sydney, Australia

Linda, I AM a no-nonsense kind of guy. I’d like to think I’m a bit of Chuck Norris sprinkled with Crocodile Dundee. There are a lot of things that could be changed to make the sport more fan-friendly and more exciting to watch. I think that, sometimes, the tournaments are an utter bore for fans, especially if I’m not participating in them.

Tennis has been seen for ages as golf or polo – a tightie-whitie sort of sport, where farting would draw an outrage and so finding a healthy balance between traditions and core identity of the sport and turning it into circus or an MMF blood-fest with men rolling around hugging each other hasn’t been the easiest of tasks. I think we can let the “let” be and introduce a butts-up for an umpire who, if hawk-eye proves wrong, will have to go baseline, bend over and face two serves from a player with his ass. There would be a whole lot of players practicing their serves the moment that rule would come into effect.

With regards to the warm-up… Even pandas in the zoo get their warm-ups when it’s mating season so all we ask for is just five minutes.

Dear Uncle Dmitry, Firstly I would like to thank you for taking the time to write this column, I like many others find it a source of great inspiration. So much so that whenever I am faced with a decision in the day, I stop… Take a deep breath and say to myself ‘What would Uncle Dmitry do’ (WWUDD). This line of thinking has served me quite well recently, however I now have a problem I just cannot solve. I desperately need your help as it has been weighing on my mind so heavily that I am struggling to sleep.

The dilemma I face is, I just cannot decide which Bondarenko sister I like the best. Alona is the same age as me, blonde and 100 per cent my type, but there is definitely something about Kateryna, not to mention that she is better at tennis. An option I have considered is converting to Mormonism, that way I would be able to marry them both without being a bigamist. I don’t really want to become a Mormon but if it means I will be able to marry both Alona and Kateryna it is a sacrifice I am willing to make. Please help me make the correct decision Uncle Dmitry.

Thanks in advance!

Chris, I absolutely feel for you. It is a tough decision to make especially if you will learn that there is a third sister. I have a friend who is a Mormon and believe me when I tell you that it’s not a fun ride, even if you get to marry both of them. Luckily for the well-being of your psychological health I can tell you that Alona is happily (unfortunately) married and Katerina also seems to be taken. I mean, there is still a chance for you to present your case to them but with Williams, Pliskova and Radwanska sisters still on the market you can find a substitute.

Uncle Dmitry wouldn’t swim against the current and surely wouldn’t convert just yet. The market is flooded with sister duos (duplex units in real-estate terms) so with a bit of research you can manage to forget all about that impatient Sister-Act. But as the saying in Russia goes, “Before you call a woman your bunny make sure you’ll have enough “greens” and your carrot will be able to handle it.” Twice the bunny at least quadruple the problems.

  • Pipsqueak

    This is the best advice column on the whole internet!

  • Ashok

    You are the bomb Uncle Dmitry… I try to watch your matches because of your writing skills, Tennis skills are not too bad either :)….