At the ASB Classic in Auckland this week, Jiri Vesely has had reached the quarter-finals, upsetting the third-seeded Sam Querrey in the second round on Wednesday. After a sluggish start to the 2018 season at the Maharashtra Open in Pune, in the opening week of January, in which Vesely – the sixth seed – lost in the first round to Spanish qualifier Ricardo Ojeda Lara, this has had been quite a positive turnaround for the Czech no. 2.
But, it wasn’t an unexpected twist to the plot and Vesely indicated as much, when Tennis World USA caught up with for a brief chat in Pune. Not as a prediction about his (then) expected performance in Auckland, but about needing to be patient to get positive results on the Tour.
“I will just keep working hard and wait for that time when it [the results] will come and everything will click together,” the world no. 64 shared. “I think every player has their waves, ups and downs. In tennis, especially, you have to wait for your time and just try to get that momentum,” he added.
And, given the way injuries have forced him to cut his tennis calendar short repeatedly – and most prominently, in the past two years – Vesely has had made patience one of his strengths, along with his shot-making skills. Side-by-side, however, he has also been pulling out all stops to ensure that his physique co-operates with him instead of rebelling against him.
“I have been injured throughout my career, quite often,” shared Vesely. “So, I tried to change that thing. [I] tried to take a physio with me, [and] spending more time in the gym now with my physio. In the off-season, I did a lot of work, so hopefully this can pay off. Hopefully, my body can really hold together,” mentioned Vesely. The southpaw also shared that he had also tweaked his game in a bid to prevent any further injuries from cropping up and derailing his prospects in the year.
Ready as he is, then, to delve into the season’s rhythm of playing tournaments week in and week in, the 24-year-old is also tempering expectations simultaneously. Not just those that come his way externally, but even those that he has had placed upon himself.
Thus, while Vesely came up a word of caution to his onlookers that he would need time to get his momentum back, commenting on his expectations from himself in the season, he said, “I have always had expectations. You have to have goals and try to fulfil them. On the other side, I am [that] kind of a person who sometimes takes too much expectations on myself. [So], I am trying now to take [a] little bit pressure off myself, just try to play my best.”
The only way to do so, feels the junior world no. 1, is by remaining impassive towards wins and losses, irrespective of how the results sway in each tournament he contests. “If I play well, I don’t have to be nervous. If I lose or win, I don’t have to care about the losses or wins because if I play well, I know I can play with any player,” observed Vesely, who tacked on that beyond any – and all – expectations on the results’ front in the 2018 season, this was one change he sought to make as a player this year.
Vesely’s matter-of-fact reminiscing about his famous – both, then and now – win over Novak Djokovic at the 2016 Monte Carlo Masters is, then, in-line with his decision to not let his results affect his focus.
Back in 2016, Vesely’s promising career looked to have reached the next level as he beat the in-form Djokovic in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters for his first-ever win over a top-10 player. His second top-10 win, the same year, over Dominic Thiem in the second round at Wimbledon, was yet another boost to this early success of his. But, defining as they have been, there’s also been an inevitable downside to them. In that, much like the spate of injuries that have kept crisscrossing his path, his career has also been restricted to these initial highs of his on the Tour. And, Vesely went on to acknowledge, not much has had changed in his career in these intervening years, even without injuries waylaying him.
“Maybe, in the first couple of months after that [win], yes, but now I am back in the position where I was two years ago,” stated Vesely. Having said so, Vesely however pointed to one significant takeaway from these wins of his – experience.
Stating that he hoped his experiences in playing against the “best guys” would hold him in good stead in 2018, Vesely concluded, “It’s about staying a bit more consistent [and] having better days. It will definitely take its time, but tennis is a sport and we have to take it as it is and have fun out there.”