Tennis Prose



Biofile: Andrei Cherkasov Interview

By Scoop Malinowski

Status: Former ATP no. 13. Winner of two ATP singles titles, the first two editions of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Reached QF of US Open, AO and Roland Garros. Currently a coach at IMG in Bradenton, FL.

DOB: July 4, 1970 In: Ufa, Soviet Union

First Tennis Memory: “Probably when I went to school for first time and I start playing tennis. I remember I went with my mom because my sister went two or three days before I went first time. She liked it. Never forget that day. I was seven years old. I never forget that day. First day in school and first day in tennis. September 1, 1977.”

Tennis Inspirations: “Bjorn Borg. Ivan Lendl. Of course Roger Federer [smiles].”

First Famous Player You Met Or Encountered: “I think the first ever meeting against one of the best players in the world – Brad Gilbert [smiles]. So it was Olympic Games 1988 and my second five set match. I won my first round. I almost made the history – I won 60 60 61 against the player from Paraguay (Hugo) Chapacu, who beat Jimmy Arias at the Davis Cup (1987, 64 61 57 36 97 in five hours and five minutes – Chapacu had match point at 5-4 in the third set, but comes back from a 1-5 fifth-set deficit and saves three match points to win a force a fifth and decisive match in the tie in Ascuncion). Actually I talked with (Jimmy) the other day about this [laughs]. I played Brad Gilbert, it was a tough first two sets (64 16 61 62). I was able to win one of them. It was a good experience. I never forget.”

Greatest Career Moment: “I think match against Pete Sampras at Olympic Games when I won in five sets from two sets down. Very hot conditions. Very few matches at the Olympics where a player was two sets to love down and able to come back. And of course bronze medal. Probably number two is winning first ATP event in Moscow, Kremlin Cup (1990). It was history. And the perfect match in the finals against American Tim Mayotte. So those were the best matches in my memory. There were some others but I say these two.”

Most Painful Moment: “I would say I was always thinking tennis as a game. I didn’t try to analyze though maybe… I lost not many but some matches from match point up. I said to myself: I have another chance tomorrow is another day. It’s only a game. But looking back I would say I gave my best always and I cannot blame myself that I was not enough professional or I did something wrong.”

Favorite Tournaments: “Moscow. And Olympic Games. And from Grand Slams I would say Australian Open is the best organized tournament.”

Funniest Players Encountered: “I was talking to my friend from Germany and he sent me a video of when Patrick Rafter played Goran Ivanisevic in the finals of Wimbledon. They showed it on Italian television. So neither of us speaks Italian. But I understood something they said about how nice Rafter is as a human. When I played him in Adelaide in Australia I never forget that it was a point when he hits the volley long. And the linesman called it in…it was in Australia of course [smiles]. And I said, I protested. And Rafter turned around to the chair umpire and said the ball was out. So instead of set point and serving for the set – 9-8 set point for him – it was 9-8 and match point for me in the second set. And then I won the next point and then I won the match. I don’t remember in my career an opponent doing something like this. And it was an important match for him, at his home in Adelaide, on the center court and on TV. And he did this. It was a great match. We played extremely well. What he did is like…that never happened to me before or after.”

Funny Tennis Memory: “It was travel. When I went to – instead of one city, to a different city. Then I wait overnight in the hotel. It was in France, in the small town. By one letter I bought the ticket. I called to the tournament – they (rescheduled) my match [smiles]. I was there the next day. I went directly to the court. I had match point – my opponent served an ace. Then I went by train to Frankfurt from France to make Davis Cup (in Moscow in 2000) and I eventually played with Marat Safin. I played my last Davis Cup match with Marat Safin in doubles. Match in five sets (vs. Rochus brothers 46 76 16 61 63). It was decisive match against Belgium. So it ended up turning into a good way.”

“I went absolutely opposite way to Belgium instead of going north to Normandy [laughs]. And the next train was next morning. I never forget stepping off the train – no people. There was nobody in the village, people don’t go outside. I walk to the door (and ask), Where am I? Because no answer from the transportation from the tournament. They say, You are right here, they show me the map/ I say, No way! I am absolutely lost. So they drive me to the hotel. I stay overnight till the next train in morning and I came to the right place. Back to Paris, to Normandy…”

Strangest Match: “I played one against German player, his name Christian Geyer. That was at the moment he was a pretty good player. And he was doing all these things, exercises on changeover. And it really affect my concentration. It was strange. He would never sit. And the end we finish 76 in the third and I lost the match. And I remember I was crying after the match. Everybody said I was the favorite because I was very young. I was 18, he was much older but I was the favorite. He was very weird to play. He’s also very funny off the court. He was coached by Gunther Bresnik.”

Best You Ever Felt On Court: “Probably in Moscow, 61 62 vs. Tim Mayotte. He was serving great but somehow I return unbelievable that day. I think I served 80% first serve myself. And a lot of aces. So it was a perfect match. I probably played some good matches but that was in the final 15,000 at the match (in) Olympic Hall in Moscow.”

“Against Sampras it probably wasn’t perfect match. It was tough first set. He won the second set to take the momentum. Then in the third set it was very close. I won 76. Then I won 60 fourth. I had a feeling he was very tired. Then in fifth set I made one break and that was enough. Against Pete it’s so important to return because I knew after the fourth set it’s not over. In the fifth set he was still serving big. And he knew he had a chance with me because he has a great serve. But on clay it’s tough to break a good baseline player. I did well on my serve. Eventually I had one chance. I remember I read on the deuce court – I said he’s probably going wide and I was there and I returned down the line. That was the key. I remember (on the break point) he served double fault. He was probably frustrated at what happened. Because he hit a very good serve and I was there. It wasn’t probably his perfect match but good memory for me [smiles]. We played a couple of good matches. I won actually two matches. I won the first meeting. And then it was close in Bercy – I lost first set tiebreak and then one break in second. And I almost beat him in Munich when he won Grand Slam Cup. I lost to him 5 in the third. And then he won quite easily except that match with Ivanisevic. Me and Ivanisevic gave him a lot of trouble. I lost to him three or four times. But I lost only once easily at Wimbledon which is understandable. He’s great on grass and he played perfect.”

Favorite Sport Outside Tennis: “Hockey. I follow the Tampa Bay Lightning. Couple of Russian players. I like the way they play.”

Why Do You Love Tennis: “I love any sport with a ball like volleyball, basketball, handball. I like also team sport. I played hockey and soccer so I was good on my feet. I felt comfortable on the tennis court. I just like it. Even now when I’m coaching (at IMG). I have a chance to play with my kids. I love to play.”

(Andrei Cherkasov with daughter Anastasia Sysoeva: Photo by Joe Jordanou.)

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