Within the sand, rocks and surf, Alexandr Dolgopolov put within the pre-season onerous yards, creating his core power on the peak of his powers. There was not a dumbbell or gymnasium in sight, simply sand dunes and sea for health, rocks for power work and a rented home to retreat to in Horseshoe Bay.
9 years in the past, southern Australia’s media all got here to Port Elliot, south of Adelaide, to witness Jack Reader’s cost, who’d risen from outdoors of the High 300 and into the High 20 inside the area of three years. A Fox Sports activities tv crew filmed his each transfer one December afternoon, however when the director mentioned lower, Reader mischievously shouted out, “‘Sascha, we would like you to run alongside the rocks once more’ … ‘Hey Sascha, we would like you to run up the steps once more…’”
It was a ruse, and the crew pretended to movie Dolgopolov’s each transfer. “I bought an additional half-hour out of him,” Reader advised ATPTour.com final week. “If they’d stopped, he wouldn’t have performed it. I conned him. I solely advised him the reality yesterday. He thought they’d filmed the entire time… I mentioned, ‘They didn’t, however I didn’t need to inform you.’”
It was an episode that the 32-year-old, who at the moment retires from the game after failing to beat a proper wrist damage sustained in Could 2018, would have fumed at — but secretly loved — had he recognized on the time. For Dolgopolov at all times competed with a way of enjoyable, to entertain followers and, along with Reader, a full-time father and travelling companion from 2008 to 2012, the pair loved a few of their biggest moments: a run to the 2011 Australian Open quarter-finals, a career-high of No. 13 within the FedEx ATP Rankings one 12 months later, and loads of off-court high-jinx.
“I hope I used to be enjoyable to look at,” Dolgopolov advised ATPTour.com. “I by no means broke any tennis data, however I hope I performed entertaining tennis for followers. My wrist damage occurred in Australia [three years ago] after mis-hitting a return in apply. I felt ache, however nothing severe. I reached the Australian Open third spherical and returned to Europe, however I by no means realised that it could be profession ending. I’ve tried for a few years, had two surgical procedures and I nonetheless have ache.”
Photograph: Robert Prezioso/Getty Photos
Having at all times believed that he’d first picked up a racquet on the age of three, Dolgopolov not too long ago discovered, by advantage of his mom, Elena, digitalising previous video footage, that he’d in reality performed so at some point after his first birthday, when his father, Oleksandr Dolgopolov Sr., was teaching former World No. 4 Andrei Medvedev. So by the point the pony-tailed Ukrainian took his first steps as a touring participant, he was already a seasoned traveller. Reader, who first watched a 16-year-old Dolgopolov beat his Australian cost at an ITF Futures occasion in Cremona, Italy, remembers, “He was second to none, what he did with the ball and his racquet head was unbelievable. I didn’t find out about his head if he bought into difficulties, however his athletic capacity and sport was second to none.”
Little fazed the 5’11” right-hander, when his thoughts was settled. Dolgopolov first made a big breakthrough at Melbourne Park in 2011, with five-set comeback wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and World No. 4 Robin Soderling en path to his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final, which ended by the hands of Andy Murray. “I wanted to be in temper to play my greatest tennis,” admitted Dolgopolov, who completed within the High 70 for eight straight seasons (2010-2017). “It was so simple as that. Typically I used to be drained or in a nasty temper and I actually wanted to need to compete. I wanted to be wholesome. If I needed to compete, I at all times had good outcomes firstly of the 12 months. It was the desire to struggle and compete, and typically that didn’t occur. It was a sense.”
Dolgopolov loved problem-solving and captured three ATP Tour singles titles from 9 finals, together with on the 2011 Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag (d. Cilic), when his rapping abilities entertained followers off the court docket. There have been additional trophies on the 2012 Citi Open in Washington, D.C. (d. Haas), when he “discovered it initially unattainable to regulate the tennis balls in apply”; and later, when he “performed nice tennis” two-and-a-half years after proper knee surgical procedure on a ruptured meniscus, on the 2017 Argentina Open in Buenos Aires (d. Nishikori).
Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Photos
Reader believes that Dolgopolov might have risen larger than his career-high of No. 13 on 16 January 2012, but it surely wasn’t to be. “We as soon as had a dialog that killed me,” mentioned Reader. “‘You’ve bought to No. 13 with uncooked expertise and steering, however if you happen to deal with your physique and weight loss program higher we will go additional.” Sascha responded, “So do I have to work tougher Jack?” And that was a kick within the n***. If he’d began to do issues like the large boys do, he might have gotten larger.
“We had lots of enjoyable collectively, together with a memorable street journey from Kiev to Moscow and St. Petersburg in his Subaru, which picked up issues. If he was having time and having fun with himself, then he’d play effectively. If he went onto court docket with issues, he couldn’t play. With Sascha and I, I believe I stored him smiling. I gave him an extended leash and he began to relax. He’d typically search for at me with a smile in matches. His hand-eye coordination was ridiculous.”
Reader continues to stay in common contact with Dolgopolov, lengthy after their five-season partnership got here to an finish in October 2012. There have been later two ATP Masters 1000 semi-final runs — on the 2014 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, when Dolgopolov beat then World No. 1 Rafael Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) within the third spherical, and, as a qualifier, on the 2015 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, the place the Ukrainian skilled maybe his hardest defeat. “I had a extremely good probability in opposition to Novak as I led by a set and I used to be up 3/0 within the second set tie-break and at 5/4, serving,” mentioned Dolgopolov, who recorded 10 High 10 victories in his profession. “I had all the possibilities that day, however I didn’t win the match.”
Photograph: Matthew Stockman/Getty Photos
Dolgopolov additionally captured his solely doubles title at 2011 Indian Wells with Xavier Malisse, after they gained all 5 matches in Match Tie-breaks in opposition to a who’s who of High 10 expertise and distinctive doubles groups. “That was tremendous humorous as we entered 10 minutes earlier than the on-site sign-in closed,” mentioned Dolgopolov. “We gained 5 matches that had been utterly unbelievable. The draw was powerful and we beat Roger [Federer] and Stan [Wawrinka] within the closing.”
When he performed Djokovic on 14 Could 2018 on the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, Dolgopolov had no concept that it could be his closing skilled match. He underwent proper wrist surgical procedure three months later and commenced his restoration. One other surgical procedure adopted…
In the present day, having spent all his life in tennis, don’t anticipate Dolgopolov to return to the game anytime quickly. The Ukrainian will proceed to indulge his love for vehicles — he presently has a Nissan GT-R for racing and a Porsche Cayenne for every-day driving — however he expects to return quickly to Kiev, to be nearer to his household. “I’m not going to return to the game over the following 5 or 10 years” mentioned Dolgopolov. “I have to get away from tennis balls. I first picked up a racquet after I was barely strolling. I now want a while off from the game. In the intervening time, I believe I’ll pursue a enterprise profession.”