Friday, February 26, 2016

South Tyrol's Finest : Andreas Seppi Interview

Here is an interview that had been planned for a couple of years but for whatever reasons hadn't happened until the Australian Open this year.

Andreas Seppi is an example of a player who has made the most of his talents. He has won 3 titles on grass, clay and indoor hardcourt and has reached number 18 in the ATP rankings. There are players with more natural talent but don't have the dedication or work ethic to maximise their potential which is all one can ask at the end of their careers.

Seppi is from Kaltern in South Tyrol which is a region more famous for winter sports, hiking and where the majority of its citizens speak German as a first language which Seppi does along with Italian and English.

Seppi on the left

You're from South Tyrol. How did you start playing tennis in a region which is famous for skiing. How did your interest in tennis evolve?

Actually I was skiing until I was 14, I was also playing football and tennis. No one in my family was playing tennis. My father was playing ice hockey and the tennis courts were close by, so I saw them and wanted to try.

Then a good friend of mine who was playing, we are the same age and started playing tennis together. That was the beginning.

Massimo Sartori has been your only coach on tour. How did you meet and how long have you been working with him?

He was playing club matches where I grew up and the club president asked him once he retired whether he would do some coaching at the club. He lives 2 hours away from South Tyrol, he agreed and moved to the region in 1996. I’ve known him since I was 12, it’s a long time, he’s like a second father for me. When you’re travelling 30-40 weeks a year it’s very much like that.

When you started playing on the tour, how difficult was it to find a sponsor to help with the initial costs? Did you ever have thoughts of giving the game away in the most difficult times?

It was very tough, you know. At the beginning when you play a lot of Futures or Satellites when I started out. For us it was very difficult, you had to find someone to help you out, there was a bit from the federation.

With the federation once you made the top 100 you had to pay back the money. It was good when you are young to get some sponsorship, because there are a lot of expenses.

When you were starting out how advantageous was it to have a lot of tournaments in Italy ?

For sure, we always tried to travel by car, also in Germany and Austria where there were a lot of tournaments. We never took the plane to South America or somewhere else where it was easier to get points. It was too expensive, so we travelled by car to events that were closer to us.

Do you remember your first Futures title ?

Yes, it was in Germany in 2003 when I was 18 and a great feeling.

Once you graduated from Futures level, you played more main ATP Tour qualifying events instead of Challengers. What was the reason behind that?

My coach wanted me to practice with better players. Even if I lost in the qualifying of an ATP tour event I’d stay around for the week and practice to improve my game. I think it was a very important point to do it this way.

What were your earliest memories on tour and when did you realise that you could make a career on the ATP Tour?

After high school when I was 19 or 20 I started to have some better results. I was feeling comfortable on court and then I realised I can make a living through tennis.

What are your favourite tournaments?

Monte Carlo and the clay season leading up to Roland Garros, the grasscourt season. Wimbledon is my favourite tournament and playing in Rome is always special.

What’s your worst hotel experience and why?

Not sure if should I say (laughs). I played twice in Casablanca but didn’t enjoy it too much. The food was tough and especially us Italians we’re used to good food. There I was going crazy and the hotel wasn’t the best. I’ve just played twice and in the last ten years I haven’t gone back there.

How would you summarise the current state of Italian tennis?

It’s at a good point. We have some good players Fognini, Bolelli, Lorenzi, Cecchinato, we have 5 top 100 players. We’re at a good level, of course we are missing a big champion. In Davis Cup we can do well especially if we stay together and are focused. We have some young players coming up, so we’ll see.

What do you remember of the Bobby Reynolds match at the Australian Open which finished at 3.49 am?

Ja, I remember it was a long day I was supposed to be 3rd match on, but it was so hot that they suspended play. They didn’t start again until 9pm in the evening, there was still one match before mine and we started at midnight.

Of course it was a long match that went 5 sets and finishing at 3.49 am. It was very tough after of course you have some adrenalin. You can’t sleep straight away and ended up sleeping at 7 am, so yes it was tough.

It must have been awful for the next match?

Yes, you sleep 4-5 hours and then you practice a bit, but it’s tough to get into rhythm. It was a nice win.

How do you describe your win over Roger Federer in the 2015 Australian Open and the feelings after the match?

Of course it was the best win of my career for sure. I think beating him in a Grand Slam is very difficult you know. In the last 10 years he was always in the quarters and semis, so beating him was something special for sure.

I’d have to say this was a match where I was very calm and in the important moments I didn’t get very nervous. It’s hard to find that feeling again as I don’t know how it happened. I was feeling very calm and never had that feeling before on the court, so it was a strange situation and that’s how I could beat him.

The ATP awarded your match against Stanislas Wawrinka the most exciting comeback of the year. What are your memories from this dramatic match in Rome?

Yes, maybe emotionally this was one of the best matches. The crowd was crazy, it was almost like playing Davis Cup. Beating him from 6 match points down with the crowd was for sure something special. Of course doing it in Rome made it even better.

What was the worst ever match you played?

(Laughing) There were a lot of bad matches in my career. It’s tough to say, in the last 3-4 years not so much but before there were too many.

Can you describe your feelings when you won your first ATP title in Eastbourne 2011, especially after the tough loss against Mathieu at Gstaad in your previous final?

That first final in Gstaad was very surprising for me, because I came from a very tough moment. I wasn’t playing very well at all and it was the first time that I was outside of the top 100.

Just went there struggling trying to find my game. I played a Challenger the week before in Torino losing in the 2nd round. I went to Gstaad to play qualies, I won some tough matches 7-6 in the 3rd set twice and then I was in the final. I started to play some good tennis, but maybe I wasn’t ready mentally to play that final. I was leading 5-3 in the 3rd, maybe I was too nervous as it was very unexpected. It was tough to lose 7-5 in the 3rd but it was a good week as I made it back to the top 100.

Eastbourne was a strange final I was leading 5-3 in the 3rd set also, serving for the match and Tipsarevic retired It’s good to have one title in the pocket.

Seppi Eastbourne

2012 was your career best year winning Belgrade and Moscow, Finalist in Eastbourne and Metz, plus your best ever Grand Slam performance at Roland Garros taking Djokovic to 5 sets. What were the reasons behind your career best year?

Winning the second title in Belgrade was very important and for sure 2012 was one of my best years. If not my best year winning 2 titles and making 2 finals doesn’t happen so often.

What's your opinion on Davis Cup. Do you think they should give ranking points for playing?

I like the competition of course and it’s a pleasure to play Davis Cup. In the last few years we have had some good results and when we play at home we are very dangerous.

Not sure if it’s good or bad, but it’s ok they give some ranking points.

What do you think about the length of season?

It’s ok, in the end you can make your own schedule. Yes, there are some events you have to play, but you can find some weeks for rest and preparation. You just have to be smart with the scheduling.

The ATP is meant to be a joint union between players and tournament directors but it seems to favour tournament directors more so. Are the ATP improving in this field?

In the last few years they have improved a lot. They are listening more to the players and are more receptive to our needs. It’s improving year by year, that they are doing a good job now.

Most of the players are making their money through prizemoney and not sponsorship. How can they improve conditions for these players?

The ATP need to do more as it’s very tough for a guy ranked 200 to travel a lot just playing Challengers it’s tough to make a living. If they improve prizemoney and get more players trying to make it on tour it’s good for the sport.

What's your opinion on the ATP reducing the differences in the surface speeds, Do you think they can make some surfaces quicker or are you happy as it is?

Now it’s ok unlike 3-4 years where it was very slow. They slowed it down too but now it’s getting better. The courts are a bit faster and now here (Melbourne) it’s a good speed.

What do you think about doping on the tour and have you been tested at an unreasonable hour?

There is this WADA thing where every player fills in a form, where you state your whereabouts so you are available for at least an hour a day. It’s good to have doping control but a bit stressful for us players as well.

Willy Cañas said “The ATP practices discrimination from an economic standpoint, like any multinational corporation. It’s just another of millions that there are in the world. Point being that I accept it, but I'm not buying into it that it is a group of players that decide (players union) because it isn't like that”. Do you believe that Willy is correct on this particular issue?

Yes, it was like that but in the last 3-4 years they have improved a lot in this way. They listen more to the players which is a positive thing.

You got engaged recently. How did that come about?

We met three years ago and we’ll get married in September. So that’s another step in my life.

So you’re going to be a dad soon. Maybe, you can ask Massimo for some tips?

(Laughing) Not yet.

Word Association. I give you name or a subject and you have to name the first thing that comes into your mind.

Kitzbühel - Ski resort

Ferrero Rocher - Very good chocolate

Mario Balotelli - Crazy

Andrea Pirlo - Genius

Båstad - Blond girls

Silvio Berlusconi - Idolo

Denis Istomin- 5 sets

What shouldn’t be on pizza- Pineapple

I'd like to thank Andreas for giving up his time with this interview. He was a pleasant and an articulate subject which was to be expected. If anyone wants to translate or use this interview. Please ask me and credit the author don't pass it off as your own work.


Joey Davies said...

Top man, loved the Rome highlights, can't beat a Davis Cup kind of atmosphere. He's seen a lot of things on tour good to read his experiences

Michelle Groenings said...

Great interview once again, giving some insights into the player throughout his career. Keep up the great work!!

cobalt60 said...

What a great interview Nils! He sounds like a really sweet and natural gentleman. And I had not watched any of those clips you posted! Fun.

Denys said...

Sounds like a really good guy and glad you got to interview one of your favourite players.

Martine said...

Great interview! And Seppi being one of my fav players, makes it even better :-)