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Dominik Hrbaty Blogs From Toronto

Dominik Hrbaty© Dominik Hrbaty

Friday, August 11, 2006   
 
Greetings everyone from Cincinnati, the U.S.’ Queen City.

It hasn’t been too exciting since Wayne Arthurs and I lost in the doubles quarterfinals last night in Toronto. I got back to the hotel at midnight and then had a 1:45 p.m. flight to Cincinnati today.

We went to the airport three hours early, thinking security would be real tight. But we were able to go through with no problem. I was expecting chaos, but it went well. It was a small plane, so they just took our racquets when we got on, stored them in the back and gave them back afterward.

Once we landed, I checked in at the hotel and then practiced for an hour with my coach. I spent half an hour taking serves – probably about 100 – because I wasn’t serving so well in the singles at Toronto and wanted to find a rhythm. I already started serving better in the doubles last night, and I’ll hit more serves tomorrow so I don’t lose the feeling.

Tonight I’ll go for dinner and have baby back ribs. They have good ribs everywhere in Cincinnati. I first learned about them from some cousins who used to live in Cincinnati. I’ve never had better ribs than here in Cincy and will enjoy some good ones tonight.

It’s relaxing being at a tournament before the matches have started. When I came on the practice court, there was no one here in the evening. The weather is beautiful. Players have more fun before the event starts and are able to have a nice dinner.

It’s really a nice time before the tournament starts. You have a feeling like it’s just another day and can enjoy yourself. Once the tournament starts, you feel more tension. It’s not that the players are any less friendly, but they’re focusing on their matches. Some guys like to talk before their matches. Others get introspective and like to do their own thing, maybe going through tactics in their mind before their match starts. Then there’s a relaxation after the match. But now you just don’t feel the same stress.

I looked at the draw. I play Paul Goldstein in the first round. You don’t get any easy opponents in these Masters Series events. It’s the first time I’ve played against Paul in singles, though we’ve faced each other in doubles. It should be a nice match. We both play an all-court game from the baseline. So any of you in the Cincinnati area might enjoy coming to have a look!

Wayne and I hope to play in the doubles again this week. We were the last ones to make it in the draw at Toronto based on rankings. But I hear this week the draw may be a little weaker, because some guys, especially the top singles guys, aren’t playing doubles to save energy. So hopefully it’ll be easier for us to get in. It’s always stressful when you’re near the bottom, because you can get kicked out at the last minute.

There won’t be too much time for fun before the tournament starts. Usually you want to save all your energy for the matches. You want to concentrate on practice: it’s important not to lose your rhythm on the ball. So players don’t like to do too much before the tournament.

That being said, I still might have time to see a movie tonight or tomorrow afternoon. I don’t know what’s playing. But I like all different kinds of movies – sometimes for the special effects, sometimes for the actors etc. I even like children’s stories and animation.

The only thing I don’t like is horror movies. A lot of them are just stupid. There are some like Sleepy Hollow that have a story, and that’s nice. But other ones like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Freddy on Elm Street or Friday the 13 th Part 100 just seem pointless.

I told you earlier the week that I read War and Peace. You might be interested to know that I read it in Slovak. And I liked it so much, I might read another Tolstoy novel: Anna Karenina.

It would be hard for me to read a book like that in English. The only books I have read in English are Harry Potter. There are always a few words I don’t understand, but I’m usually able to pick it up from the context. The last Harry Potter book I finished in 10 days.

If you’re curious about my language skills, beside for Slovak and English, I understand German pretty well, but I speak it badly – I learned it in school and from watching German TV in Slovakia. I speak a little bit of Russian – the basics. Because it’s a Slavic language, it’s similar to Slovak.

It’s been a fun week on the blog – thanks for reading!

Dominik

 
Thursday, August 10, 2006  
 
Good evening everybody,

Last night we went to the CN Tower for dinner. There’s a 360-degree rotating restaurant on the top. We got there late at 9:15, because that was the earliest we could get a reservation.

Before dinner, we looked down from the all-glass floor. It’s amazing how high up you are, and there’s nothing underneath you. I don’t have a problem with heights, so I wasn’t scared. It was the second time there for me and my coach, and the first time for my buddy Jan Hernych. We enjoyed it and took pictures.

Dinner turned out to be long. I don’t know if they forgot about us, but we waited one hour and 20 minutes for our main course. As the restaurant is turning, you can see the whole city. We got to know it pretty well, as we made more than one turn until we got the food.

The manager was very nice about it. She said they were sorry, and in the end, we didn’t have to pay for dinner. So for us it was good. They knew we were tennis players and had a game the next day.

I enjoyed it up there. It was only my second dinner out in the city this week, because I was always playing. I didn’t have a main course. I was so hungry before we went that I ate dinner at the tennis center. I did have a nice chocolate mousse and fruit for desert. The other guys had a main course. They waited so long for their lamb that we joked that they might have gone outside Toronto to hunt it down.

I practiced twice today -- once with my coach at noon, and again at 2 with Wayne. I went through my shots. With Wayne I hit more volleys to practice for doubles. I’m staying here at the tennis center until my match tonight because the hotel is 45 minutes away. I’ll eat dinner and maybe watch a little of Roger before our match.

I generally prefer to play during the day, because at some tournaments the lights aren’t so good. But here they are, so I don’t mind an evening match. It’s good that we’ll be playing on the Stadium Court. I like the big courts, and I’ve had a good experience with Hawk-eye. I enjoy it and so do the fans.

I went on the Internet today. I like to talk with my parents over Skype, to talk with my girlfriend, my physical coach and some other friends. I also like to read the newspaper online and look for good information. You can find such amazing stuff on the Web!

It’s a way to kill a few hours. Sometimes, I’ll play ping-pong or cards or read a book. I brought two books with me to North America and already finished them. My girlfriend will have to bring me a couple more when she comes to New York for the US Open.

I read one book with a story similar to Lord of The Rings science fiction and the other was Tolstoy’s War and Peace. That’s a very nice book. It’s quite heavy, but I like all kinds of different books. Sometimes I even read children’s books like Harry Potter. I’m always reading different stuff.

Talk to you tomorrow,

Dominik

 
Wednesday, August 9, 2006  
 
I had some quick pasta and a good rest between my singles and doubles matches today. It was only 1-1/2 hours between matches, so there wasn’t time to do too much. I talked with Wayne about tactics. The time flew by fast.

During the match we try to concentrate on our opponents. But one time today Wayne was saying he should have a two-handed backhand. And I asked him: ‘Wasn’t anybody playing with a two-handed backhand in Australia when you started playing?’ And he said, ‘No.’ Usually we talk about how we should play the next games, what we should do on the return of serve.

Today we played a good match – our second match decided by a Match Tie-break. With the way we play, it’s nice in the tie-break, because with his serve, he can hold so easily. That gives us a mental advantage over the other guys, because they know it’s not easy to get a point on his serve.

I served well too today and yesterday in the Match tie-break. Then we concentrated on the return ‘ to steal one or two points from the opponents’ serve. The tie-break goes fast, so you have to concentrate on every point, especially at the beginning, to get an advantage.

I’m not a very big fan of the Match Tie-breaks, because a lot depends on luck. With one or two good shots, it can all turn around. With a full set, if you play better, you win. In the tie-break, even the guys not playing well can win by hitting one or two lucky shots.

After the doubles win, I went for a massage. I still have to practice for tomorrow evening. We play on the Stadium Court, so we get to use Hawk-eye. I like it. Tonight I’ll go out to dinner. It’s probably the only thing off the court I can do this week because I’m playing singles and doubles. So we’ll go for a nice dinner with my coach and Jan Hernych.

The hotel is very nice. Tennis players usually get a good hotel. So they all seem the same. But at this one, the breakfast is good - very European, good bread. It’s much different from breakfast in U.S. hotels - scrambled eggs or pancakes. I’m not a fan of those breakfasts. I like European bread with ham and cheese, maybe tuna. To start with, I’ll have some cornflakes, good fruit, a little bit of vegetables like tomatoes.

Coming to Canada from the first couple summer tournaments in the U.S. always gives me a boost from the food - that it’s more French and European. That makes it very nice to come here.

I don’t have a favorite hotel on the tour, but my favorite place to go is Melbourne. That’s because I’ve stayed with a Slovak family for many years. They cook for us and come support me. We are great friends. They call me ‘son,’ and I call them ‘father and mother.’ They are beautiful people. These are the two weeks on the tour I enjoy the most.

I always take presents, and we have a very good time. That’s maybe why I always play well in Australia ‘ it feels like home. They had a relationship with Miloslav Mecir in the 1980s. So for about a quarter century, they have been hosting tennis players. Every generation there comes a new player. Maybe after me there will be some other young player who will go there, and this tradition will continue.

Talk to you tomorrow,

Dominik

 
Tuesday, August 8, 2006  
 
After I made my post yesterday I had a great conversation with Ivan Lendl and Roger Federer in the player lounge. Lendl has always been a big hero of mine.

I had just finished dinner and was walking back to the player lounge with two chocolate cookies. I'd eaten one and was holding the other one when I saw Ivan and Roger. I didn't want to eat the other cookie in front of two guys who own 16 Grand Slam titles between them, so for the 45 minutes we were talking I held it in my left hand. By the end there was chocolate all over my hand, but fortunately I could still shake hands with a clean right hand.

It was funny for me to see Lendl's youngest daughter ask Roger for an autograph. I guess Lendl's kids just think of him as dad rather than as one of the game's great players. In my country Ivan is considered the greatest tennis player ever. When I was growing up he was No. 1. And for me there is an extra connection because our games are similar with a high toss on the serve, we play from the baseline, try to have fast rallies and we rely a lot on fitness.

I'd say for 90 per cent of the time Ivan was doing all the talking, but that was fine with Roger and me. He had so many funny stories to tell. He also was teasing Roger a little about the fact that I have a 2-0 record against him and giving him tips on how to beat me. Roger was like 'Tell me what I need to do' and I was saying 'Don't tell him anything!' As if Roger needs help, anyway!

Ivan also told us about his oldest daughter who is now about 16 and she's just won a golf tournament. You can tell he loves his kids very much and that he's very proud of them. I'm also sure he makes them train very hard!

I made a picture with Ivan today and I will put that in a special place. I also asked him if we could play together one time for 30 minutes. He promised he'd hit with me, maybe at the US Open

It was great to hear from a legend and when you talk to a former great you probably pay attention twice as much.

Today I played (and won) a doubles match with Wayne Arthurs. We practiced together in LA and he knew I was looking for a partner in Cincy and Toronto and he asked me if I wanted to play here. He's about 35 in doubles so I knew it would be close and we were the last team in here. Next week it may even be tougher to get in in Cincy.

I played with him once before when we reached the Tokyo semifinals. He's a great doubles player and he has one of the best serves of any singles or doubles player in the world. Today against Acasuso and Nalbandian they were just laughing at times about how good Wayne's serve is. It's just amazing how he spins the ball both sides with slice and spin. You never know what you're going to get.

Talk to you tomorrow,

Dominik


Monday, August 7, 2006  

Hi everyone,

I arrived into Toronto Friday evening from Washington and basically it was my day off. In Slovakia we have a celebration on the Catholic Calendar - it was my name day, so I celebrated over a sushi dinner with my coach Tibor Torth.

Having battled the heat and humidity in Washington it's like a holiday to come here. When I walked onto the court for my first practice Saturday I sat down and thought to myself that I could just sit here, drink a coke and do nothing other than enjoy the sun. It was around 29 Celsius and dry. Just perfect. In Washington the humidity was so bad that I needed to change my shirt after the warm-up!

I knew that I was playing a qualifier most likely Monday, so on Saturday I had a couple of easy practices for an hour - with Bjorkman in the morning and later with Grosjean.

In the evening we went to a restaurant in Masaryk Town where they have really good Czech food. I love it and there are very few times in the year when I can find a Czech restaurant. I went for the roasted duck with a big dumpling cut into pieces and some sweet cabbage. I ate like half the duck so my coach had to roll me back to the hotel.

They are closed on Monday and Tuesday so we'll have to find somewhere else to eat the next couple of nights. Unfortunately I'm not a big enough star for them to open the restaurant up for me especially. Maybe if I win the tournament they'll open it up next Monday night for a celebration!

The restaurant is owned by a Slovak person but he has Austrians, Slovaks and Czechs working for him. One of the guys in the restaurant said he saw our Davis Cup semifinals and final - I'm not sure if he was on site or if he saw it on TV. But I got him a ticket to the Rogers Masters and he came out to support me today. There were quite a lot of Czech people in the crowd today. Where ever you are in the world you'll find Czech people supporting Slovak people and Slovak people supporting Czech people.

On Sunday night we went to a modern Italian restaurant where they gave you giant plates with tiny meals in the middle. I'd need to eat five main courses just to get a decent feed at this place! I felt like I needed to call into McDonald's on the way back to fill my stomach. We won't be going back there - that's not enough food for a sportsman.

Today after my win I received text messages from my family and girlfriend. I switch my phone on straight after I finish a match and either start reading or sending a message on the way back to the locker room. Ninety-nine per cent of the time I normally send a message to my parents and girlfriend first and, depending on how long the walk is, I may have sent a message before I even arrive at the locker room. I just say basically the result and what I felt I did well in the match. I also usually talk to my father.

I play doubles tomorrow, third from 11, so I'll make my next post after that.

Thanks for reading.

Dominik

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