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Dmitry Tursunov Blogs From Estoril

Dmitry Tursunov & Bryanne StewartATPAnother chance to take out my blogging competition!

Friday, May 5, 2006   
 
So ATP has asked me to tone down on exclamation points! Oh really?!?! You don’t like them?! Maybe that’s how I feel! Maybe I feel like putting exclamation points!!! Maybe I just like them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It smells like Bryanne’s hand has been in it. She’s been turning ATP against my exclamation points!!! The only way to battle it is to put more exclamation points!!!!

Today is a day off, meaning there is no matches for me to play. So I practiced a little bit and the rest of the day Bryanne and I spent taking shots for the videos, some interviews for ATP, etc…

I really have a feeling that the blog is getting popular because of the way drivers act when I get in the car. It seems that they really want to be noticed and try to stand out anyway they can. When we were leaving the hotel this morning another car was driving up. Our driver and the driver from that car both got out as the other car started rolling away. These guys go to extremes to become famous!!!

I guess he didn’t put the car in park and it was pretty funny to watch as the car started moving forward because thirty feet ahead there is a 1950s Rolls-Royce. Ok, ok! I get the point! Sheeesh… You don’t write about them for one day and they get all goofy on you!

At the site Bryanne and I took some photos for ATP and bothered people in the lounge. We also went to shoot the bow and once again I proved to be hopeless. Or so I thought until Bryanne took the bow. I don’t know if it’s physically possible but she shot the arrow into the ground when the target is only ten feet away. Wow!!! That deserves more than three exclamation points but I will resist the urge. Than she had to go type her blog and I was left all by myself but that was until Walt or Waltczek Lantzcerovski saw me and decided to explain to me how your body extracts sugars from your liver rather than your muscles.

Waltczek is a massage therapist and an occasional fitness trainer. This week he works with Nikolay Davydenko. I guess Nikolay hired him to retrain his body to extract glucose from his liver instead of his muscles. Waltczek is Polish. But he is a self proclaimed communist and had to change his name and residence so he can practice his beliefs without Big Brother breathing down his neck. Now he resides in Las Vegas where he opened a small school for marathon runners. After about half an hour of pointless conversation and fruitless attempts to find out why he changed his name I have to go back to the hotel so I get my racquets and go to transportation. Once I get to the transportation desk I get a pen and add couple of things to Bryanne’s “WANTED” poster. She looks so lovely with eyeglasses and mustache!!!

When I got back to the hotel I received some bad news. Marat rolled his ankle and pulled out of doubles!!!!!!! S%*t!!!!!! We had such a good chance to win the tournament!!!!!! Grrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!

How did it happen?! “I was walking downhill to get a haircut at the site and I rolled my ankle!” he says. How is that possible?! I get my injuries off court as well but at least I’m not in semis of doubles when I get injured. You’ve got to pick the right time to get an injury. At least tell me that the excavator ran you over or a kid shot you with a bow. But not rolling an ankle while walking! How can you expect people to respect you on court when you get injuries like that?! Oh well! Hopefully he will get better for Rome so we can win there.

We reserve the plane for Saturday noon so that means that my obligations with the blog are fulfilled. I have to go pack my bags now and get some sleep. It was fun here in Portugal but all roads lead to Rome!

P.S - I’d like to thank you for logging onto this site to read my blog. Thank you for coming out to tournaments, and supporting our sport. It means a lot to us, players, to know that we make a difference, that we are a role model for someone and that we can leave memories engraved with our names, even if it’s just for a little while. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

PPS - Please check out my web site .

PPPS - Oh, I couldn't leave you without one final thought on driving in Portugal!

Let me tell you about roundabouts. Those sections of the trip are the most “exciting.” And since there is plenty of them on our way to the courts you tend to be a bit petrified. It would almost seem that it’s something unnatural for Portuguese. I guess one day they all woke up and there were roundabouts scattered all over the streets so they have no idea what to do once they get to them. Maybe they are like those rings that showed up in the fields for no reason. Maybe those field rings are also roundabouts! One thing I figured out for myself is that it’s actually a game they play here. It’s called “Dodge the Granny”. So here are some rules that I’ve learned by riding shotgun for a few days.

When you get to the roundabout the people that are entering have to yield to through traffic and that’s where the fun begins. You never know if the car in front of you is going to go or not. Of course you don’t want to be sitting and waiting for the next opening so you try to squeeze in behind the car that’s in front. That’s all fine and dandy as long as the driver in front of you takes off. In Estoril it’s not that simple. They floor the accelerator and then the brakes right after accelerator. I guess the whole idea is to lead the person behind you to believe that you are going to go and then stop on the dime halfway through. It’s actually quite amusing to watch. They have bleachers surrounding the actual site, or the “ring” and people come to watch who is going to kiss the airbag on that particular day.

Of course there is always an old lady with a pickup truck. She is about as hyper entering the roundabout as a bear in hibernation. Once she is in, the game officially started. She sits behind the wheel so that you can only see the knuckles on the steering wheel. Her turn signal is on and she is making lap number seven because she forgot where she entered and where she needs to exit. The windshield wipers are on full speed and her pet cat is spread out with inertia on the side window like a Garfield toy. You see that the game has already begun at the other yield signs and there is some honking by which a driver behind identifies a good move by the car in the front. The point of this game is to sneak through to the other side of the roundabout without hitting other cars. It is really an art of modulating the accelerator and the brakes to trick the old lady and the driver ahead of you, and our driver is the best in the game.

Of course it helps that he has better equipment. The desirable C-230 with optional “Acme InstaStop” brakes, five-star crash rating head-restraints and seatbelts. As good as the granny in the pickup was today she didn’t stand a chance. We got through with plenty of margin and not once did I feel like we were in danger. Of course my eyes were closed, so I might be exaggerating…


Thursday, May 4, 2006   
 
I would like to summarize my entire singles match into one sentence, “Clay is for girls!” I have important things on the agenda, like the “Blogging War” with Bryanne and “Cold War” with Katerina so I can’t be losing sleep over some loss. While Bryanne’s weaponry is her laptop and a squad of writers, Katerina is not so fortunate so I feel like I owe her an apology. Really, the only reason why wrote that is that I was extremely jealous that she picked Marat and not me. She should know that! Besides, it’s not like I said anything bad… I think people should be able to laugh at themselves. In any case, Katerina, I’m sorry! Let’s be friends!!! We can practice on adjacent courts anytime!

Now, let’s get to Bryanne. It’s not fair! She gets the whole day to do her blog and I do mine in the evening. I see her with the laptop everywhere! Lounge, press room, even on a tennis court… She should sign up for Blog Addict Anonymous.

So she guessed right about me flirting! Boo hoo hoo!!! Logic shmogic… That’s why I hate combined tournaments. Always some smart girl gets in the way… The only way is to get rid of the adversary.

I guess it’s getting fairly late in the week and everyone is leaving. Elena Vesnina couldn’t take any more abuse in billiards, so she left. So did Rodionova, my best friend when it came to gossip. She probably went to see her BF who is a DJ. Now that’s a smart move! If you want quality dance music for free then just date a DJ. Don’t spend time ripping music off the internet like Dinara Safina.

By the way, fans don’t realize how much time tennis players spend online. Dinara probably has every song on the planet into her laptop. Marat downloads so many movies it feels like he is planning to open Blockbuster Video in Moscow. Gael Monfils is nuts over MSN. A couple of days ago he was sitting in the lobby and, I’m not kidding, talking on six MSN Windows at the same time. The guy is like Neo in Matrix. He has no idea what he is writing anymore or who he is writing to. He just puts “lol” and moves on to the next window. The girl is probably telling him that her kittens died and he just says, “lol.” At the same time he is listening to Bow Wow and tries to sing along. The funniest stuff on Earth. A French dude is trying to rap! Impossible to watch without a condescending smile!

Then there is ATP trainer Michael Novotny. Sitting in a locker room staring at the screen from 30 cm. away. Hypnotized by Skype, Yahoo! and MSN. His computer is lighting up like a Christmas tree with all sorts of warnings, new message alerts, incoming calls, etc. Between his computer and sniffing all the glue for the taping jobs he is slowly turning into a zombie.

People in a press room are a different breed. They are more advanced than aliens when it comes to technology. When you walk in there you see a bunch of tables with laptops and people firing away at the keyboards. It looks more like a third world sweatshop. They have a few big screens in front of them, with matches and scoreboards, and one TV in the middle is playing a Walt Disney cartoon. Ummm… are you writing a story on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? They aren’t the eight people who get into Shanghai at the end of the year! But everyone in this room is equipped with the latest gadgetry. They look like Rambo with all that equipment:. Laptop, cell phone, PDA, beeper, Blackberry, Blueberry, even Strawberry! These guys are ready at any given moment to send, receive, print, copy and download any report on Snow White.

Anyway, I had a long day today so I can’t write that much anymore. Two matches, a draining war with Bryanne, and a late dinner with the doubles crew. We went again to the same restaurant and poor lobsters got a heart attack inside an aquarium when they saw us walk in. But it was the crab that should have been scared. I’m sure he’ll be missed!

 

Wednesday, May 3, 2006  

My day started out with a trip to the hotel’s restaurant. I agreed with Peter, Marat’s coach, to meet at the lobby at 11 to go to the courts so I got out of the room an hour earlier so I could have some breakfast. When I got there I found waiters cleaning up the bar. I didn’t mind seeing the walnuts and Corn Flakes being carried out of the room, but the croissants were the last straw! I knew that they close at 10.30 but its 10 and all that was left was some weird fruit that I still don’t know how to eat. Do you peal it? Do you eat the seeds? Is it a decoration?

So I got ready to lay down the law! I walked up all puffed up like a rooster ready to complain when he tells me it’s 10 past 11! Huh?! “10 past 10?” – I ask. “No. 11.10” the guy says. Hehe! That’s a good one. I’m supposed to warm-up Marat and I’m 10 minutes late without my bag and not remotely ready to go. I sprint to the elevator and catch Marat in it. Thanks to me, we leave at 11.30!

Today I really got some looks from the other guys in the locker room. I understand their concern and it’s kind of expected. I try to play down yesterday's win, saying that the guy is just 15 years old but all of us know that I’m just being modest. You are aware of the tension. The air is electrified. It is like the calm before the storm. I see Jaroslav “Monica” Levinsky putting his shorts on backwards, - he’s so nervous! Gilles Muller stutters “G-g-good match ye-ye-yes-sss-terday!” Guillermo Garcia-Lopez walks into a bench with his shin and David Nalbandian is hiding in the corner trying to cover up with a towel. In the next room I hear people talking of Nadal being dethroned and that a new sheriff is in town but I really feel that it’s too early to be talking like that. I just want to focus on my next match. These discussions don’t really bother me; you know they will happen when you win. Rafa’s got six matches to tie Vilas for the most consecutive wins so I think he’ll be okay. It is what it is and I’m not out to stop someone from getting into the record books but if I and Rafa happen to play I’ll have to do what I’m best at! Seek and Destroy!!! Or we could just battle-rap! Whatever…

The warm-up went pretty well. Not counting Peter watering my racquets while watering the court and a mini cyclone blowing through the tournament site. I even built a sand castle right behind the baseline. With towers and little soldiers in them and everything. But really today I don’t have that much good stuff to write about. I feel like I’ve been talking about my game and how I’m getting used to the courts and bla bla bla...

I was going to talk about a certain female player named Katerina, who has been chasing Marat for the third day now. “Coincidentally” bumping into him, eating when he is eating, lounging in a chair in front of the locker room right after his match and changing practice court from #8 to the one next to his. All of this has been extremely hilarious to watch but what has really been bothering me for two days now is that our physio, Michael Novotny, thinks that my $300 headphones are junk! How can he say that?! He talks about his noise-canceling headphones that require a backpack-size battery to operate for one flight and all they do is just put more noise in your ear so you can’t hear the noise that’s outside. Wow! Yeah, those are great! They make you look like you are that guy at the airport who waves with carrots at the airplanes. You know, the one you see on the ground when you look out the window of the plane, right before you leave the terminal.

Then of course he listens to “Coldplay” so much that no one wants to show up for treatments any more and a few players ended up with depression related disorders. That completely explains why he is incapable of hearing the difference between his BOSE and my headphones with built-in crossover.

Then there is a problem with copycats from WTA. They steal all of our great ideas! Fist-Pumping, Grunting, Blogging, Sleeveless Shirts… They steal everything good ATP came up with. I’m surprised they haven’t stolen Feliciano… Ok, ok! That was uncalled for! But c’mon! Blogging was our idea to promote ATP. Women don’t need that. They have enough fans as it is. They have so much attention and promotion that their fans don’t even play tennis! They don’t know the names, they don’t know the rules, they don’t even care who wins! Hell, they are so consumed cheering for their player they sometimes forget to even watch the ball! That’s what blogging was supposed to do to men’s tennis. Get us more fans. And then cunning Bryanne Stewart tries to steal our glory. And what’s this stuff about me flirting with the driver? Never saw any of this. It must have looked like that from the third row, but you can’t assume things!

In any case, if it’s war you want, Bryanne, then war is what you’ll have… On the other hand maybe I’m rushing into this whole war thing. Maybe we can combine our efforts to dig up some dirty stuff on players and post it in our blogs. I’m sure the fans wouldn’t mind hearing some gossip from men’s AND women’s locker room.

I also went to a “KidZone” to shoot a bow. Man! I suck at it! There is a little kid with glasses 3 inches thick who is no more than 10 and he hits the bullseye twice out of five and I miss the target completely. Can I feel any dumber?

After massage and press I’m ready to go back home. I go up to the transportation desk and find my blogs on the wall with parts about the drivers highlighted in yellow. Ooopsy! Someone is going to get in trouble... But they all laugh and tell me that they are going to give me the coveted C-Class. Once we’re on the road I realize that we aren’t going to be breaking any sound barriers. Maybe a wind barrier at the most! There is a lot of traffic and the driver is a guy. Man, do men drive slow here! It’s like a twilight zone. I guess they all heard from their boss about driving safe and how Bryanne Stewart was hanging on for dear life and how she wanted to play “Enya” on the radio so he put in some Jack Johnson CD or something similarly depressing and we drove in tears all the way back to the hotel. Thanks, Bryanne!!!

PS - If I haven't talked your ear off by now and you'd like to know more about me, please
visit my web site.


Tuesday, May 2, 2006   
 
Got up this morning around nine! I have a late match so getting up early doesn’t really make sense because… I don’t like to get up early! I really like sleeping!!! That is quite possibly the only thing I’m really good at and my philosophy is that you should focus your attention on your talents.

I got out on a balcony! The day is beautiful and it’s nice to be able to enjoy the weather and the view and not have to rush out the door to warm up or practice. I also took my laptop with me so I could check up on how my “Magnum” modeling shot (“to anyone who saw “Zoolander”) looked like when downsized to a web page size. I must admit I am a freaking handsome devil! Just not very photogenic!!!

To my surprise there were loads of emails this time and when I opened my mailbox; most of them happened to be from Marat! Apparently he felt I was really downplaying his ability to hit forehands in the middle of the court! I would have to disagree with him on that! I was just being factual. I even gave him a compliment! He did serve a couple of good serves at 7-8 in the ‘breaker! But anyway, I felt kind of bad so I went to have breakfast with him as an apology!

We sat on the terrace and had a good conversation. I ordered hot chocolate and he had coffee with milk. I apologized, and then we talked strategy for our next match and it was so great to really have a good heart-to-heart talk without all the girls running over and handing phone numbers to me and asking me to pass it to Marat! Towards the end of the breakfast we really bonded and I felt like we became a REAL doubles team. I braided his hair and he talked about this cute bag he bought at Louis Vuitton store! Unfortunately he had to leave soon for a warm-up so I hugged him good bye and wished him luck! He is soooo cute when he pouts!!!

The ride to the courts is similar to the one on Monday. We are pushing the boundaries of physics and I can’t help but wonder if we are riding on Firestones. Seems to me that the drivers read my blog and are trying to get their name on pages of my blog by driving as crazy as possible! Surprisingly you never feel like they are out of control. They are very good actors!!!

My first hit of the day is supposed to be with Tomas Zib. I say that because that’s who I signed up with but when I got to the courts I was in for a surprise. Partially it was my fault, like most mishaps, but this one I didn’t think all the way through. You see, on Monday I went to the practice desk to sign up for a warm-up for Tuesday and the girl who works there told me to write my name myself. So I decided to play a prank on her and instead of my name wrote “Thomas Zib + Bill Clinton” and left after that. This morning when I showed up to see what court I was on, I see, “Thomas Zib + Bill Clinton + Nicholas Massu” Apparently, Thomas thought it was a joke, (I guess he was correct in that assumption) and in fear that he was going to be left without a hit decided to hit with Massu.

Thank God, there was my second round doubles nemesis Mariusz Fyrstenberg bumming around otherwise I’d be in trouble. Actually, people always ask me, “Who do you like on tour? Who is nice?” Well to answer your question, Mariusz is a great guy! He is nice and has a good sense of humor. His only problem is it’s impossible to spell his name properly. He should make it like Yeu-Tzuoo Wang or something…

After the warm-up came the usual trip to the lunch table. Got some greens and a little bit of pasta. I had a match coming up pretty soon so I don’t want to eat too much because you only get one toilet break and you want to use it wisely!

Right before the match I tried to do some sprints and some jumps to get the blood going, then I stared into the mirror and said, “You talking to me?!” When you are playing someone who is 15, it’s always good to scare the life out of them the moment you get out on the court!

IT HAPPENED!!! They told me, “Just keep pluggin’ alone and you will win a match!!!” and it happened! Of course the kid was 15 but c’mon! I’m blond! We all have our excuses… I don’t care what anyone says. I matched my best clay court season record so from now on it can only get better! The match wasn’t too long and I tried to work on some things as it progressed. It was a bit tough, though, because the crowd reacted to every mistake by me as if the guy hit the shot of his life, so you don’t want to lose a single point because they are eating you alive. I guess that kinda goes with the territory when you play a local kid and they want to show him that they are backing him up!

After the match I went for a little run in the park and then got a massage and a stretch. I’d say that’s the hardest part of the day. You know… The massage… We are all fighting in there for massage time and fans don’t really see it but there are some scary cat fights between Marat and Massu. Jerry Springer should have a “Locker Room Special”

When I’m finished with that, they take me to the press room for an interview! Today is a change of pace! The lady really felt embarrassed when she found out I mentioned her in my blog so I will mention her again today! Yeah, you know which one!!! The, “What do you think about Marat?!” one. Today she came prepared. She started the interview and today she asked, “What do you think about Gastao?!” Ahahahaha!!! She is going to hate me tomorrow! But it’s true!!! That’s what she said!!! After today’s blog they won’t ask me to show up at press conferences anymore. They will be too scared of me. They’ll just say, “You know Dmitry, just talk about something you want to talk about! We’ll just listen!!!”

Similar ride back! We are at 160kph now! I love it!!! I’m tired of going in a van though! We should take the C-Class. See how fast that thing can go!!! The funny part is that it’s the women drivers that go nuts behind the wheel in this country! So much aggression!!! Maybe it’s because Marat is in the van! Hehe…In any case, no doubt they win “The Best Women” prize in my book! Not only they aren’t afraid to drive that fast but they can also text on a cell phone at the same time!

8:30 Ride to the Players Party! Once we get to the place we get these really cute wristbands. They were orange! Really would look good with Marat’s orange adidas wristbands… Anyway, inside is a lounge filled with glamorous people all having glamorous conversations with each other and couple of crazy photographers running around like tourists frantically firing away at the shutter! I feel like it’s a strobe light at the disco!!! Models scattered all over the floor! Still standing, however! Perched up against the bar and the wall!!! Some players got there early and setting up warm-up times for tomorrow! Lukas Dlouhy, rejected by all the models, is playing Tic-Tac-Toe with himself. Women’s coaches pacing the floor, monitoring their players with proximity sensors. Of course everyone is looking nice and sparkly, but I’m starving!!! At this point the models pose only a nutritional interest and since that is the case I move closer to the chubby ones!

Once they open up the food table, models set a new world record on a short distance sprint and attack the water and salad bar but soon realize that the salad already has dressing and the water is not diet! (I hope I won’t get sued by the modeling agency for this!) Anyway, after we had some food and flirted with random people we had to leave. It was fairly early in the evening but Marat has a match tomorrow and I have to report to you guys!

On our ride back we finally break the sound barrier banging our heads to Guns N’ Roses’ – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. Luckily no one answered!!!


Monday, May 1, 2006   
 
Well, today I had to wake up fairly early again. The previous day I had arranged a hit with Gael Monfils at 10. When you set up your hit, 10 doesn’t seem so early, but not when you just wake up! Well it’s a bit more inconvenient that the courts are a half hour away but at least you can listen to some music on the way there! The day is gorgeous again!

Seems like that’s the only weather they have here. In the morning you open the window and the sun hits the entire room and the air is sooo fresh!!! I can’t wait to get to the courts and slide around on my butt, though, so we get in the car and take off! Today is a holiday so even though it’s Monday, the streets and roads are empty and our driver decides to really take the van to the limit! We are driving about 140kph in a big van that feels like hurling down in a skeleton contest. I like speed so I really don’t mind it; in fact I feel a whole lot safer when the person is driving like Evel Knevil than when there is an old lady holding on to the steering wheel with both hands like it’s a life preserver ring.

The coach next to me definitely felt differently about our driver and was on the phone trying to upgrade his life insurance! The fun began when we got off the freeway and started driving downhill into the area where the tournament site is located. Apparently she decided to test a brand new brake compound called “ACME InstaStop” and we tested the seatbelts as well. Basically any sign of sleepiness that I had in the morning vanished and we arrived at the courts with a pulse of 175.

The first sign that I’ll do better today was when Gael told me that he forgot his tennis shoes. “My chance has come,” I thought! “Don’t choke now!!!” So we decided to start hitting and soon after the warm up he said that he can move okay and we played some points…. Ummmm…… Let’s just skip this part…. Ummmm…. Let’s see…. Oh yes! The lunch was great as always!

Actually, Marat called on Sunday wanting to hit with me at 12 because he was arriving late on Sunday and he couldn’t find anyone else, so me being a nice guy and all I had to fit him into my schedule. So I had to hit again at 12 but it was more of a warm up/photoshoot. Although I felt the attention wasn’t really evenly distributed!!! Perhaps it was because I haven’t shaved for a few days…

After the hit we went to have lunch and just caught up on things since Valencia. Marat was in Moscow at a wedding of our mutual friend, Dennis Golovanov. The guy who we couldn’t picture getting married in a million years, and to those who know him this news will be a shock as well. Anyway, I had to hear it for myself from Marat so we spent some time gossiping again. After that, I handed another round of “whoop-**s” to Vesnina. Now we are tied at 6-6. She is crushed! What does she want though?! She is playing with a pro!!! Of course she’ll get destroyed!!!

I guess I forgot to mention that we are supposed to play doubles today, last match on center court! We started around 6 and there were still some people in the crowd left so my main concern was not to whiff any volleys! It could be me, but judging by the crowd I’d say that in Portugal women make up 90% of population and for some reason they are very keen on Russian doubles teams! Hmmm….

The match was a bit awkward the first few games because this is our first time playing together and Marat doesn’t really understand the concept “my side/your side.” He tends to think that his forehand is much better than my backhand so I had to convince him otherwise. Thanks to me and my ability to convey logic to the two-meter embodiment of a female’s dream, we won the first set 6-3.

Then we got a break in the second and at 3-1 up we lost my serve. Actually, I shouldn’t say we, because I had nothing to do with it! I went to get some water and fresh towels and while I was gone Marat managed to lose the game. I guess if you want things done then you should do them yourself! After a couple of unlucky games (at deuce we play a deciding point) where we had deuces, we lose our serve again and lose the set 6-4.

Match Tie-Break. Not the most pleasant thing because anything can happen and you really don’t want to be the one screwing it up. We traded mini-breaks a few times, mostly because we are gentlemen and generous guys by nature, and end up serving at 7-8. Actually, Marat was the one serving; my mind was blank! I was just praying for two aces! Two really good serves and we are up 9-8. Marat returning and I’m very happy that I’m playing the deuce side! He puts a return in and really creams a forehand that is scheduled to have a rendezvous with a spectator’s forehead in row 27 in the upper bleachers. David Skoch feels sorry for the spectator and reaches for it and his partner screams that it’s going out! David tries to pull the racquet out of the way but since it’s oversized he clips it with his frame and we win the match! Not the best way to win but the spectator is thankful!!!

Now it’s time for an interview. I got held up trying to explain to the kid that I don’t have any racquets to give out so when I got there Marat was already sitting with a microphone lying his shorts off saying how much he likes clay and how he wishes that the US Open series was held on clay. I sat down and was asked about my Tuesday first round match against a Portuguese player who got in as a lucky loser. I had no idea who he was so I said I know nothing about him but I hope I will win the match. And the second question - I’m NOT joking! - was, “What do you think about Marat?” Ummm… I’m speechless…. I wonder if the journalist woke up today and thought to herself… “Hmmm… I wonder what would be a good question for Dmitry?! I know!!! How about I ask him what he thinks about Marat!!! Yes, yes! That is indeed a brilliant question!!! I must write it down before I forget it! How didn’t I think of it sooner?!”

After the interview I went to set up practice for tomorrow and went to the transportation. They gave me a fire-retardant suit, a helmet and put me in a cockpit of a Mercedes Vito. After we got cleared for take-off the driver checked all systems, flipped the switches, lowered the flaps, and turned on the after-burners! Another day at the office!!!


 
Sunday, April 30, 2006  

SATURDAY

Hey everyone!

First off I’d like to say that I’m forced to do this thing and they told me they won’t let me play doubles if I refuse! Just kidding!!! Actually, I think this is a great way for fans to read up on how we spend our days so I’m happy to become Shakespeare for a week. So here we go…

I got to Lisbon from Barcelona on Saturday evening which is fairly late in the week for a player. You try to arrive around Friday so that you have time to get used to the courts the time zone and find a few local bars. I’m sure some of you know that some bars are fairly expensive so you want to look around before the tournament starts so that if you lose in the first round your prize money will cover the drinks.

The flight was uneventful! Just the way I like it. Although when we were landing the pilot seemed to have forgotten that besides the bags he had on board there were also some people! I guess skipping down the runway might seem a little more fun when you are steering up in front and not trying to get some SLEEP in the back!!!!!!

This being the first time in Portugal I wasn’t sure what to expect so I was excited to come here. Plus I like Portuguese better than Spanish so I was fired up to brush up on my swear words in this language. It took us a half hour to get the hotel which is REALLY nice. It looks out on the ocean, well not my room, anyway! I’m sure Safin will have a better view, hehe!

So the first thing I did I got on the internet to see if I have missed anything and of course…. I didn’t. Then, I unpacked. I don’t know why I even bother because I will have to pack again in few days so it seems a bit pointless after doing it every single week. Then, I got on the internet… Still no messages!!! So I went to the supermarket and bought some water and some cherry juice! Why you ask?! Because I like cherry juice!!! Anyway, I went to sleep around 11 and that was the end of Saturday!

SUNDAY

I woke up around 8am and spent some time on the internet downloading some music and replying to all the emails that finally got into my mailbox only to realize that they were junk mail. I’m sad now!!!

Then breakfast! Some tennis players, I won’t name any, get very anal about their food intake! They want to have omelet but just egg whites, not the yolks. They like margarine but not butter. They like their forks and knives balanced to their racquet specs so that it has the same swing weight. While some of those things make sense, some seem a bit bizarre but in general breakfast is very important. Breakfast is also the first battle of temptations vs. sensibility. The battle that will repeat throughout the day almost every time I see food. There is bacon, croissants, meats, sausages, and little cup cakes that are smiling at me and asking me to taste them.

Of course in the other corner there are Corn Flakes, Rye bread, Walnuts, and Diet water. They don’t really smile at me because, unfortunately, I have to start eating healthy because if you want your car to run smoothly you have to put good fuel in the tank. I guess the walnuts know that!!! It is especially tough to eat right and not cheat on the menu because I’m here by myself. Usually it’s my trainer who watches what I eat and here you have the freedom, yet you know you should stick to the diet. Mostly, because my weight won’t lie when I reunite with my trainer, hehe! I do steal one croissant though!!! C’mon, it’s only 50 grams! That’s not too bad!!!

My first hit is with Vince Spadea! Arguably the best rapper on the circuit! Probably because he is the only one who tries it and everyone is too tired of asking him not to. So we just let him do it. We start off by throwing rhymes at each other and after I out-battle-rap him he asks for 2 out of 3. “Time to hit!” – I said and we started. Nothing too hard! We are very fragile, finely tuned machines so killing ourselves in a warm-up is not our style! After we warm up we play some points and… the result is really not so important! The important thing is that we enjoyed it! So, I lost… I hate clay!!!

I was in denial for a while, telling myself that it’s just a phase and that it’s the color that I don’t like but that’s not it! I just don’t like it! I’d say that clay here is a bit slower than in Barcelona and the balls are a bit lighter! FINALLY! Barcelona balls were like little watermelons. Every time you hit you feel your shoulder is going to pop out of the socket! But because there is more clay on the court my socks get dirtier so I’m not sure this is the best solution either! Anyway, I have a second practice so we’ll see how different I will feel. Now it’s time for lunch!

Lunch is really nice again, not mentioning a few battles with foods that were calling me like sirens called Odysseus. I had some salad some pasta and some fish and we had a nice chat with some Russian girls at an “All-Russian” table. Catching up on all the gossip, laughing, and in general making fun of people! By the way I forgot to mention that this is a men’s and women’s tournament so if you lose early and you are lacking confidence there is a good chance to challenge one of the girls to a match.

Second hit is with Lukas Dlouhy. If you can pronounce his name it means one thing. You are Czech!!! His last name won’t save him this time though because I’m ready to practice!!! We warm up and start playing points. He is very cunning player because he likes to drop shot! The first time he drop shots I get there and my foot digs in instead of sliding so naturally instead of hitting the ball I decide to wipe off the court with my back. Hmmmm…. Okay… Now I have clay all over me, half a pound of it in my underwear, and I lost the point on top of it!!! I will not chase those stupid drop shots next time!!!

Two points later I fall down again! This time on my butt! A girl on the next court is really enjoying this!!! So does the kid besides the fence! “Mommy, Look!!! It’s a clown!!!” At least this time I win the point! Who cares, though?! I got a full pound of clay in my shorts now!!! What am I supposed to do with it?!?! Besides the occasional “scooping” of clay, the practice is pretty good! We hit for an hour and I feel a little more comfortable although there is a really long way before I feel at home on this surface. I think the only natural habitat for this surface is on Mars so they should change Roland Garros to hard courts and make a clay tournament on Mars!

After practice I went for a run with another player. We were running on this nice soccer field for about 15 minutes when a man walked up and said that he needs to lock up the field. We pointed at a track behind and asked if we can run there and he said that he needs to lock it up as well but if we wanted to give him one euro we can run for an hour. On a public field?! Maybe I didn’t understand something but in any case, who the heck runs with a wallet?! He didn’t want to take a water bottle as a deposit so we finished on another field right across and then I went to sign up for a massage and to take a shower. After, I got stretched and returned all the clay I took with me to the locker room I had some time to kill so I went to the player’s lounge and destroyed Elena Vesnina in pool! Well I won 1 out of 4 games but that’s because of the stupid rule where you can’t sink the 8-ball until you clear all the other ones… Whatever!

Once I got back I went online and tried to explain to Andreev and Kirilenko how to find your own IP Address. They are hopeless with a computer. They should have bought typewriters!!! I couldn’t take it anymore so I went to dinner with Davydenko to a really good seafood restaurant on a small street not too far from our hotel. The fish was really good and for me being more of a fish eater this means that I will be eating at this restaurant for the rest of the week!!! We had pretty good time talking about the party on Wednesday in Barcelona but that’s a whole different story!!!

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