Attila Savolt Compares Playing Federer and Rios

Yesterday I had the enormous pleasure of meeting up with Attila Savolt at Stabucks at St. Armand’s Circle. The former ATP #58 agreed to meet up after his afternoon of work at the Water Club on Longboat Key, just a few miles north, to discuss in detail his 2002 Australian Open match against Roger Federer in exchange for a copy of my book about Marcelo Rios. Well, he would have chatted anyway, he’s a great guy, I just wanted to give him a copy.

Savolt retired in 2005 from the ATP Tour. He was a top 60 player from Hungary, good enough to have set point vs. Federer at the Australian, and record Top 10 wins over Tim Henman, Jiri Novak, Thomas Berdych, Nikolay Davydenko, David Ferrer, Mikhail Youzhny, Fernando Gonzalez, Nicolas Kiefer, Karol Kucera, Gaston Gaudio, Guillermo Canas, Sebastian Grosjean, Rainer Schuettler and Paradorn Srichiphan.

Savolt competed for Hungary at the 2000 Olympics, made the third round at Roland Garros twice and posted a 20-15 Davis Cup match record.

Today, Savolt has a successful private coaching career in the Bradenton/Sarasota area. He also has done some sports commentating in Hungary for Sports 1. Check out his website www.AttilaSavolt.com

Our entire discussion lasted about 20 minutes (I’m going to save the rest for the Federer book), but here is an interesting excerpt about Savolt’s comparing of Rios and Federer:

“They had very different styles. With Federer, I felt all the match (his) intensity. With Rios (whom he lost to 61 62 in Palermo also in 2002) I really felt he was more like playing on the court. He was playing on the court. I definitely felt against Rios that I didn’t have the weapon or I didn’t find the way to put him in trouble or how to beat him. Against Federer, at the end of the match I had the feeling I could have done so much more, if I play better. Against Rios, I didn’t feel good on the court. I felt that the way he played, it was very uncomfortable for me. Like, the angles that he was playing, the rhythm that he changed. I didn’t like the game, he was very effective.”

By the way, earlier in the afternoon Savolt ran into the soccer star Thierry Henry at the Ritz Carlton who is here for a week with his team the New Jersey Red Bulls for a training camp. He said they talked a little bit about Federer and tennis.

For your information, Savolt was wearing those black, blue and green Babolat Propulses, he ordered a juice, and he drives a spotless white VW.


  • Steve · January 29, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    It amazing how some of these retirees look like they can still compete at the highest levels. Really is a tough sport.

    You shoulda rushed over for a Thierry Henry Biofile!

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 29, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Yes, it seems he was pretty approachable by the photo I saw of them together in the lobby. Would love to get a Biofile with Henry, also some of his thoughts about Federer and about their friendship. Henry was on the court with Federer on Armstrong before the Open a couple of years ago, Fed let him be on the court for his practice session. They are obviously good friends.

  • Dan markowitz · January 30, 2013 at 5:05 am

    I don’t like this, Scoop. Seems awfully like you’re paying this guy for an interview by using your book that way. Bad policy to follow. And I don’t know about this guy Savolt. What was his record against Spadea? Who made the bad choice to give him the first name of Atila? This is kind of suspect all around.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 30, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Haha, 0-0 vs. Spadea.

  • Harold · January 30, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Hate to be cynical(NYer in me, I guess), but ever notice their “friends” all have the same sponsor or agent?

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 30, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Not sure what you mean Harold?

  • Harold · January 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    And assorted others, too many to name

  • Robert · January 31, 2013 at 2:02 am

    Before you do the Titi Henry biofile, know that he plays for the New York Red Bulls, not New Jersey.

    Love the blog!

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 31, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Robert, the Red Bulls play in Harrison NJ though. Still find myself calling that team the Metro Stars, it’s confusing. Welcome to the site and thanks for the positive comment.

  • Andrew Miller · February 1, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I’d love to play tennis like Attila described Rios – just making it “not fun at all” for opponents. I played a lot of players in juniors, and occasionally it would be more than just beating me…it would be toying. I think one top 10 player from Texas even got some girl’s phone number during his match with me. He had time during the break points to score points. I would have liked to beat him. The other kid I mentioned before, top 20 18s in the U.S., I was up on him 2-1, then he won every game and nearly every point, going on an 11 game run. He would hit a 120 mph serve ace down the T on the ad side, then hit a drop shot serve on the next point, acing me both times given that I backed up against the fence to prepare for what I thought was another 120 mph serve. That’s called playing with your opponent. You’re pulling all strings known to the tennis world.

  • Andrew Miller · February 1, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    And his cousin beat me also. Maybe 1 and 0. When you get good enough to return the favor you know you’ve progressed in the tennis world. No wonder Federer keeps playing…never gets tired of returning the favor.

  • Dan Markowitz · February 1, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    That’s a new one, a guy got a girl’s number when he was playing me. I haven’t heard that one.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 2, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Wow Andrew, that is a display of toying, ace then a drop shot serve ace. That is some fine ball control. Michael Joyce said Rios drop shot him about 30 times at a match they played at French Open, he said he fell so many times and was covered in red dirt. Said Rios was relentless with using the drop shot. Also, the first time I Biofiled Spadea he said he once got a girl’s phone number during a pro match, said her name was Sunshine )

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 2, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Nobody ever gets tired of winning and especially a player who loves the sport like Federer will not lose the love. Even just to play the game is such a pleasure and joy, even if you lose. I remember reading Gar Mulloy’s book and he said Charlton Heston told him he enjoyed playing tennis more than sex )

  • Dan Markowitz · February 2, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Yeah, Charlie Heston liked owning guns more than sex and tennis.

  • Andrew Miller · February 2, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Dan I think I embellished – I am going back about 21 years for that memory of the Texan opponent. Maybe he didn’t get the digits but he certainly was setting up for it! Some hot chick (they were probably in the same tennis camp in Florida) started talking to him during the match. I just remember thinking sheesh, you have time to flirt with this chick and kill me, you — lefty, and I can’t read your serve at all!

    And Scoop, yes, the other kid I played had wicked control. He was top 20 in the U.S., I am not sure if he made it to the U.S. National Team ( I don’t think so ). I remember watching one of the players that DID make the U.S. National Team and then went on to play at one of the ACC schools (I think). He didn’t hit harder – just played smarter. Supposedly the kid I played (the one who would serve at 120 then at 4 mph) had some head problems – we always thought he was pretty arrogant but actually he was pretty nice when I played him, didn’t seem like a punk at all. Just knew how to toy with people.

    I did play one other guy who was one of the top players in the country, some kid from New Jersey. He beat me badly also, I think 0 and 0. That guy was skilled – just super steady. I was in a division that was younger than Spadea – Spadea was always #1 in his division and he played “up” against the older opponents (and beat them).

    Spadea was playing in one of the toughest divisions in the country. Not sure if many know but Florida was brutal – players from all over the world came to play the juniors every summer, so if you were top seed there was a chance your opponent was #1 from Colombia or somewhere else who just happenned to be there for the summer. Shows how good Spadea was – and he kept improving as a pro (with the adjustments to his forehand).

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 3, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Owning guns is a part of Americana, part of the Constitution, as set by the Founding Fathers!

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 3, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Always enjoy your junior match tales Andrew. Sounds like it was a lot of good experience.



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