Tennis Prose



Book excerpt: Gabashvili on “Facing Federer”

ATP veteran Teymuraz Gabashvili has finally earned his rematch with Roger Federer. Gabashvili first played Federer at Wimbledon 2007, which was his debut at the AELTC. He did reasonably well and had some opportunities despite falling in straights sets. Now, seven years later, could the more seasoned and experienced Gabashvili pull off the big upset over the supposedly decling Federer?

Hey, if Sergei Stakhovskiy can do it, you never know.

Last spring I was able to interview Gabashvili for “Facing Federer” at the Longboat Key Sarasota Challenger. Here is what he had to say about the experience…

“He’s so easy to play. He’s difficult to beat.”

Teymuraz Gabashvili: “Actually it was my first Wimbledon main draw I think, or second. Center court. So for me it was not because it was Roger Federer, for me it was center court of Wimbledon one of the most prestigious courts for all tennis players, like the biggest in history. It was such a feeling of something special because first day, full stadium, a lot of crowd. I played before in front of a big crowd – against James Blake at U.S. Open also center court, biggest in the world. But it was a different feeling, Wimbledon is a classical tennis tournament for the world wide. Of course it’s a special feeling a little bit more because it was with Roger Federer. I think that year we played he already won it four or five times so it was nice, it was nice. I remember I slipped and fell down in the first game or second and commentator Boris Becker was laughing about it.”

Question: You could hear him commentating while on the court playing?

Teymuraz Gabashvili: “No, when I was watching a tape of the match. It was actually a good time for me but it was a bad draw for me, I was playing good. To play Roger Federer is not a good draw [smiles].”

Question: How do you feel about your performance against Roger that day?

Teymuraz Gabashvili: “Ups and downs because first set was quite easy. We start at 1-all, then he broke, broke me again. It was 6-1 first set. Then it was a little bit more of a fight. Third set I had a couple break point chances I think. I remember I was really close to coming back in the set but I couldn’t do it. But the first set I just gave up because of nerves and, you know, I feel nervous going into the court and I felt that he played pretty relaxed. And he could come up higher but also it’s first match for him and anything can happen. And so if I break him back in the third set he would get nervous and he wouldn’t feel comfortable. Yeah, I think it was a good match to watch for the crowd, I enjoyed it.”

Question: Why is Federer so difficult to play do you think?

Teymuraz Gabashvili: “He’s so easy to play. He’s difficult to beat [smiles]. You know? For example, it’s much more difficult to play Rafa because he doesn’t give you any points. Just fight, fight for every ball. Not like Roger, if he feels comfortable score he can, you know, doesn’t run to a ball. Of course, he knows when it’s time to make an ace. But the difference I felt that he had such unbelievable touch, couple of times he did serve and volley and I actually return pretty well, I remember he made unbelievable half-volley drop shots that I never saw it before. I showed a couple of guys, Yeah, only Federer can do this ball, you know? I felt like it was my point but the ball goes back two centimeters on my side. This was different, amazing.”

Question: Do you have any relations with Federer off court?

Teymuraz Gabashvili: “For the biggest champions, no, with Nadal it’s more friendly than with other guys. But Federer is much older than me, I think four or five more. Federer, he is different, so only hello and goodbye and how are you pretty much. Not like friendship.”

Question: Lasting memory of Roger, on or off court?

Teymuraz Gabashvili: “He has a pretty simple image. The same image always since he became No. 1, the classical player. The same image that he makes on the court you can feel he’s very, very confident. Very, very confident. And only the biggest champions can be like this. I feel playing Rafa at Roland Garros was pretty much the same feeling. He kind of knew it’s his home. I think Roger is like the greatest player ever, his results show it. Unfortunately I only played him once but I wish I play him more. Still I have chance. So we’ll see [smiles].”

2007 Wimbledon R128 Federer 3-6 2-6 4-6

PHOTO CREDIT: Sharon Eckstrom

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