Q&A With Potito Starace
by Nima Naderi|
Italian Potito Starace, who on Wednesday plays Rafael Nadal in the second round of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, shares his outlook on the new 2010 ATP World Tour season and more in this interview with TennisConnected.com.
Q: What are some of your goals for the 2010 season?
A: I feel a lot better than last year. My main goal is to win my first ATP [World Tour] title, get back into the Top 50 and play [in] the [ATP World Tour] Masters 1000 events in the main draw.
Q: What did you work to most improve during the off-season?
A: Mostly the mental part and the physical part. The mental part I worked on; [I'm] trying to keep the intensity high during practice, trying to reproduce the intensity needed in the match.
In previous years there was a big difference between my intensity in practice and in the match. Because of this low practice intensity I often had trouble keeping my concentration during the [whole] match, costing me some games when I simply wasn’t there.
This year I hope it will be better. Physically, together with Stefano Baraldo (trainer since 2007) we have worked double sessions through the whole month of December, and I feel much stronger than I did last year.
Q: Last year you excelled more at the Challenger level than at the ATP World Tour-level. What would you say is the biggest difference between the competition on the Challenger circuit and the main Tour?
A: Last year I had the best results in Challengers and a few good results at Tour-level. I think it depends on two factors - at the Tour events, if you check, I often lost to the future winner of the tournament, and I played my best tennis during the summer, when most of the Tour events on clay had ended.
I crushed [Juan Carlos] Ferrero in Umag in the first set, but it was 40 degrees and I didn’t keep up the rhythm in the third set. After that the clay tournaments had ended and I performed well in San Marino and in the events thereafter.
The level is completely different. In Challengers you have a few really good players; the others have a regular level. There I win matches even on a really bad day. At Tour events they are all strong players; I need to be at 90 percent at least to win, and sometimes that isn't even enough.
Q: What is your favourite court surface and why?
A: Clay. I was born on clay, grew up sliding, and it's my natural way of moving. When I slide I get more power out of my legs when I hit, and I'm more dangerous.
Q: When changing court surfaces, what would you consider the biggest change a player has to make in order to adjust?
A: The position. I can’t keep my core close to the ground [on hard courts]. I'm less explosive because I can’t slide. My legs are not spread out and I stand higher, although I force myself to stay down.
Q: What career highlight do you most cherish after being on the Tour since 2001?
A: I have played a lot of great matches [during my career]. I played a good match against [Nikolay] Davidenko in Rome, in Beijing against [Rafael] Nadal and against [Marat] Safin in Paris. Also, last year I played a good match against [Robin] Soderling, when I beat him in Barcelona a few weeks before the French Open.
Q: How did the passing of your good friend and fellow Tour player Federico Luzzi change your perspective on life and tennis? Did it make you want to give more on the court, or value the other areas which life has to offer?
A: His death devastated me; it's been very hard. We were closer than brothers; we had been sharing the same apartment for almost five years. No, I couldn’t find any motivation from his death, just a lot of anger and negativity. I didn’t care about anything and it took me a whole year to get back some motivation.
Q: Have you given any thought to what you would like to take part in after you finish your tennis career? Is coaching or commentary a possibility?
A: I don’t know yet. Although I'm 28, I'm not thinking about it. I will stay in tennis for sure, commentating or coaching would be nice things to do, maybe commentating in the first place, in order to settle down at least for a few years.
Q: Do you feel extra motivation when playing in front of your home crowd during the Internazionali BNL d'Italia (ATP World Tour Masters 1000) in Rome? Do you feel more pressure or more pleasure playing in front of your fans?
A: Of course I'm more motivated. I don’t feel the pressure, just a great disappointment if I don’t do well. Last year I lost to [Albert] Montanes, but it was such a stormy day that it was impossible to build up a point or be aggressive. I was really upset afterwards.
When you do well, like when I beat [Juan Carlos] Ferrero on centre court (2007), it is the payback for all the hard work.
Q: Finally, if you could disclose one locker room story that you would like to share with the public what would it be?
A: The nicest thing has been shared already! When I ask Novak [Djokovic] to imitate anybody, he's always able and he makes me laugh! Some of his locker room performances have been published on YouTube.
Story reproduced with permission from TennisConnected.com