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Kristof Vliegen Blogs From Auckland

Kristof VliegenATPKristof Vliegen

Friday, January 12, 2007

I am happy to have played our doubles match indoors this morning. Olivier [Rochus] and I did not want to hang around after such a long day Thursday. Jeff Coetzee and Rogier Wassen played really well and were too strong [winning 6-1, 6-3]. It was tough to play our best level.

Beforehand, we passed by Stephane before the match. My legs were in a bad state following the [David] Ferrer match yesterday. I was feeling bad physically last night and needed 20-25 minutes of stretching with my lower back. Olivier and I are now in a good state to prepare Melbourne.

It was a hot and long day Thursday, but I know I am good for five-set matches now. Olivier and I had a bite to eat in the hotel restaurant last night and were a little sleepy already. I returned to my room and slept for six or seven hours. I’m still not used to the time difference.

Although we played our doubles at midday, I am flying off to Melbourne in the next couple of hours so this will be my last blog. I’m of the opinion that when a tournament is over it is best to leave for the next tournament. Now we go to Melbourne, which is a main goal for every player. We will try to prepare ourselves over there for a couple of days, where the weather is 36C compared to 15C here.

Right now, I’m not really thinking about the Australian Open, but when I get to Melbourne; into the stadium, the locker room and see everyone trying to prepare for a two-week stay. You’ll see the favorites [Roger] Federer and [Rafael] Nadal trying to play their best level, but others are there as well.

When I came off court my coach told me about the draw for Belgium players. I know it a little bit, but we’ll see what happens Monday and Tuesday.

I am playing German Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round. He played well here this week. We played once last year, in Munich on clay (head-to-head).

But next week will be completely different. Philipp is a hard-hitter and plays well from the baseline. We played some club matches in France during the winter, so we got to know each other a bit better. It will be 50-50.

The winner will play Nadal, who I played in Monte Carlo last year. Nadal will play [Robert] Kendrick again, who he struggled past en route to the Wimbledon final. Obviously Rafa lost to [Xavier] Malisse in Chennai last week, so he is losing matches, and perhaps we have a chance.

My coach has just gone to collect some sandwiches at Subway, while I need to pack my bags back at the hotel. My clothes are all over the room. After a couple of days, my clothes are normally under the bed, which means I have to really search the room before I leave. I may forget something!

When I came here from Doha I didn’t have matches under my belt, but at least now I have played three singles and two doubles matches in Auckland. Three wins out of five is not too bad. My level is getting better and better and I have a few days to get ready.

Some of my friends have read the blog, as they have text messaged me. I haven’t told anyone really, but friends are following from afar. My first coach I ever had, who gave me lessons at 12 and 13, is a great guy and still supports me. He came to the Roland Garros last year. It’s always good to see him. Also a few basketball players in the Belgium league, who I train with occasionally, are reading it as well.

Wish me luck next week.

Fly

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Hello, today I’m writing to you between my two singles matches in Auckland. It’s pretty rare that we play two singles on the same day.

I just played a really long match against Nicolas Almagro [winning 7-6(2), 2-6, 7-5]. It’s the first time it has been hot here, the crowd was large and both of us were fighting to play our best with the last five or six games the highlight. There has to be one winner and I am glad to have survived!

My level was not good at the end of the second set and start of the third. The crowd has been very good this week. They do not support one player, but watch the game and appreciate good strokes from both players. That is nice.

At times I was frustrated and talked to [ATP umpire] Gerry Armstrong, but it was no problem. He is one of the best umpires we have. You can always talk to him and he will always answer you. If you put me in the chair I know I would not do a good job. It is really tough to be an umpire of line judge, or even a player! Sometimes it is tough, things are going bad and I go to the chair to talk to the umpire. Sometimes it relaxes me and gets me back into the game. We talked a couple of times, but nothing bad.

After my match I called my girlfriend, Catherine, who was looking at the live scores online in bed back in Belgium. I always have contact with ‘home’. We don’t talk about tennis a lot, but about things that are happening in Belgium. Catherine told me she didn’t look at the score when I was down 2-0 in the third set. She had seen the final score, when I called her though!

This morning, I didn’t do anything different in preparing for potentially two matches today. But when I was in my first match I did think, ‘If I win this one, I could be playing a second match in a couple of hours’.

Having won I had a massage with Stephane [Vivier], with the ice bags, just to get my legs ready for another match. My next opponent, David Ferrer, will be a tough opponent; he lost one game in his second round win [d. Daniele Bracciali]. If I can start as well as I finished my first match, then I have a good chance.

Olivier [Rochus] was playing next to my match against Almagro. I caught myself watching some of his points. It is always strange playing on open courts. It was special; we spend a lot of time together. He was struggling [against Juan Monaco] when I was too, but as a crowd favorite they gave him their support. I heard he just lost, so that is a shame. He had a long game, but I’ll try to get him through for the doubles either today or tomorrow. Olivier is trying to get his best level for next week, but you can only do that with matches under your belt.

Wish me luck.

Fly

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hello again. Carl Maes, the ex-coach of Kim Clijsters, gave me the nickname “Fly” around 12 or 13 years ago. He went on to work for the Lawn Tennis Association in Britain. Flemish people, Dutch and Germans will understand. Players and friends call me “Fly”. I got a tattoo of it on my back. It’s fun. I like the nickname and when people call out “Fly” I normally turn around.

I got the tattoo in Brussels when I got back from holidays. I had been looking to get one for six years. The guy did a good job. It was only a ten-minute drive from my house. I went with my girlfriend, who likes tattoos. She has a sunshine, sunbird. Everyone seems to have a small tattoo in Belgium, so I’m now part of a club. Janko Tipsarevic has spiritual symbols, related to his family. I think Luis Horna has a couple too. It is always personal to them. I would never have tattoos all over my body though.

Yesterday Olivier [Rochus] and myself were supposed to play doubles, but lucky for us they cancelled it pretty early around 2pm due to rain. We came to the club had some lunch and we were waiting, so we played on the Play Station football game, which was a lot of fun.

In the afternoon we went to the shopping mall, not far from the hotel, and found three Starbucks in the space of 300 meters. We only stopped once for a drink. I always take a cappuccino. It’s the only thing I like – maybe a muffin, too! There aren’t any in Belgium. Every player seems to have come there.

I have still been waking up at 6-6:30am, having not gotten used to the hour here. My girlfriend stops working around that time, so I am able to contact her and catch up on the latest news. My Mum always keeps in contact and follows it on the Internet through the live scoring or sometimes on television. I was not the first to breakfast, as I went down at 8am. Some players have been waking up early too!

Whenever I play a match I get my feet taped, so that takes around 15 minutes. Stephane [Vivier] of the ATP helped me. Olivier and I played doubles [against Alberto Martin and Nicolas Massu] at around 2:20pm and were lucky to finish just before the rain. We played really well, winning 6-4, 6-2. Tomorrow I will play two matches, so I will watch what I eat and drink. For sure it is going to be tough, particularly if the weather is bad.

I was talking to Nicolas Mahut today about the Lotto contract he has just signed. I think we signed around the same time. I hang out with the French speakers off the court, as we are all around the same age. Unfortunately Nicolas lost today [against Juan Ignacio Chela], but he is a great player and has a bright future.

Tonight I’ll have dinner with Olivier and our coaches. Yesterday we went to the casino, but didn’t play as I only stayed 15 minutes. Normally I’m a player, but tonight I’m sure I’ll have a go. There will be money on the table, but not too much!

Wish me luck for tomorrow.

Fly

Team VliegenMonday, January 8, 2007

Hello! If you’re lucky enough to be here in Auckland for the Heineken Open, you’ll have to be up pretty early to catch up with me for breakfast. I only arrived from Doha two days ago and by seven in the evening I am dead.

At night I am trying to stay awake till 10 but the problem is I wake up at 5.30. Breakfast starts at 6.30 so I’m the first one lined up at the door at 6.20. I took all the same flights from Doha with my countryman Olivier Rochus: Doha to Dubai, Bangkok, Sydney, Auckland. It was a trip of 30 hours.

I’m also here with my coach, Philippe Dehaes, who got married last month. That was a funny story in itself.

On his wedding day I went to the church in the morning and then had to go play an exhibition before coming back for the dinner and party. I had to drive 300 km to do it but I didn't want to miss it. If I knew he was going to get married that day I would never have signed on to play the exhibition. I even had an exhibition the next day so I couldn't stay too long at the party.

The off-season was pretty busy and a little unusual for me after I finished the 2006 season as the No. 1 Belgian. I had to do a lot of things like play exhibitions and the press were always around me.

I had a one-week holiday in the Dominican Republic. I was there with my girlfriend. She also needed some time off because of all the traveling she had been doing and we enjoyed the time together.

I’m pleased to be writing the blog this week. I enjoyed reading the blogs last year and I thought Safin did a great one. I followed the blog of the Xavier Malisse at Indian Wells. He killed me in that one talking about my golf and football. I don't have anything to kill him with just yet. But the week is young!

Kristof

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