Passion for tennis
Why tennis? “The sportive live style and the rivalry are things I enjoy for many years now,” tells Igor Sijsling, born on the 18th of August, 1987. The passion for sports was already there at a very young age. As a three-years old Igor played street soccer, attended ballet classes and loved basketball. At the age of five the sportive boy discovered his tennis talent. From that moment on he spend lots of hours on court with his parents. Especially with his mother Elena, who also has a great passion for sports. Igor’s childhood idols were Michael Jordan en Dennis Bergkamp.
Hungry to play
Sijsling makes a nice, thoughtful and calm impression. But don’t be mistaken, he is a passionate professional sports man. His coach Raymond Knaap, with whom he works since August 2014 has slowed him down this summer. Igor himself thought: “I will go on, I want to play matches.” Knaap on the other hand, preferred to slow down a bit and work on some physical and technical things. “You have played enough and playing too much is not good for a player. It can even get boring,” was his opinion. A few weeks without running from match to match have done Igor well. “Especially mentally, as I’m even more hungry to play now.”
Junior world top 10
At the age of twelve Igor made his choice: tennis it was! Clearly a good decision. He played in the Dutch Junior selection ‘jong Oranje’ and became two times Champion of The Netherlands under 18. He also became runner up at the Junior European Championships in Switzerland. That same year the talented player even entered the world top 10 under 18. Meanwhile the hardworking Igor also finished high school and got his ‘gymnasium’ degree in Amsterdam. This was the right moment to start his prof career. During that first year in 2005 he won a Challenger in Russia. And in 2007 Igor became Dutch Champion again, this time as an adult and he won the masters in Rotterdam. That same year Igor made his début in the Davis Cup against Great Brittan, where he lost unfortunately of Tim Henman in straight sets.
The typically Dutch feeling
What is the first thing that comes into your mind, when you think of the Davis Cup? “The feeling of being together, which you normally don’t have in the tennis sport. This really makes the whole Davis Cup experience so special. Normally you are on your own or with your coach, now everything is happening within a team.” Gives that extra pressure or more confidence? “It is a fantastic experience to represent The Netherlands and to play with the other Dutch guys. In that case, my goal is simple: If I play I focus on winning the match and win a point for the team.” Unfortunately this did not happen in his opening duel against the Croatian player Mate Delic. The number 154 made his début in the Croatian Davis Cup team and had even never played a best-of-five match in his live. “Yes, I felt obliged to win this match, looking at the difference in ranking and experience,” told Sijsling disappointed after his match. The defeat seemed to be have had two main causes: tension and physical fitness.
No fake behaviour
Though Igor barely shows emotions on court, he really cares about his national team. “Though I feel like I did everything I could to win this match, I feel like letting the team down.” He admits to have felt a lot of tension before the match, more than usual. “I also didn’t sleep well and couldn’t eat much.” That tension seemed to have caused exhaustion on court as well. Where players like Haase and De Bakker seem to get an energy boost from interacting with the crowd, Igor has a different personality. “Showing a fist and interacting with the Dutch crowd is very difficult for me, especially when the match isn’t going the way I want it. That behaviour costs energy. Though I understand that some people would like to see extravert players on court, I’m not busy with that during a match. If I would behave that way, it would be fake. I just hope to be able to entertain people with my game, not with my behaviour,” tells the introvert Sijsling.
His new coach Knaap gave Sijsling quite some hard physical workouts. “We worked hard and physically I actually felt pretty good. Because of that I was really disappointed that I had to retire for physical reasons at the US Open.” And now with the Davis Cup, the problem was there again. “I turn out not to be physically strong enough after all and that sucks. It’s a problem I’ve had to deal with in the past as well. What I can do to really solve it, is difficult to say. My blood has been tested in every possible manner and I focus on my nutrition. At first I put in 60% of my effort, but now I’m really making steps towards giving 100% to deal with this physical problem. Possibly I’m also going to talk with some Australian experts. Besides that, I think my body structure is not ideal to play long best-of-five matches.”
From rebel to calmness itself
Though some tennis fans might prefer to see emotions on court, it is also quite some achievement to stay calm when playing important matches. No fists in the air celebrating points, no shouting, no tossing with rackets. Does Igor feels this calm also from the inside? “No, definitely not. In my head it can be chaos. But I feel comfortable to just stay calm on court and not express myself. This because positive thoughts can easily turn into very negative ones.” If he has a natural talent to play this way? “No, when I was younger I was quite a rebel and noisy on court. In the end I changed that. I honestly don’t know how I did that. There was no coach pushing me to change my behaviour. I just feel better playing this way.”
The most important goal
In his career the guy from Amsterdam experiences ups-and-downs. Igor knows the bitterness of being injured and how hard it is to lose matches. “Continuously falling and getting up, that’s tennis. Still, I see myself going up in my career. In general I see an improved ranking and you don’t have to compare every half year. I believe I can get better and I’m hungry to make improvements.” Right now he still needs a few points to secure his place within the world top 100. “That’s the most important goal right now. To achieve this I’m going to play some Challengers in France.” The Dutch tennis player admits to prefer the ATP tournaments which are more beautiful than the Challengers. “Sometimes you play these Challengers because you have to. Because you won’t get directly into an ATP tournament or because it’s easier to get points for your ranking. I make those decisions very consciously.” Luckily there is good news for Igor. His favourite surface is coming up: indoor hardcourt. “So I’m really looking forward to the upcoming tournaments,” he says smiling. He already experienced some glory moments on this surface. In 2013 he reached the finals of the Australian Open with his compatriot Haase. And his most beautiful victory ever was also on hardcourt in Rotterdam in February 2013. There he beat the Frenchman Tsonga, at that time world’s number 8. Let’s hope for some good tournaments on the French indoor courts for Igor. So he can reach his goal and finish this year with a beautiful pace within the top 100 of the world.
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