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Vesely Looks To Build On Breakout Season

Vesely© Getty ImagesJiri Vesely won three titles on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2013, vaulting to a career high No. 78 in the world.

The ATP World Tour turned back the clock in 2013 with 19 titles won by players over 30 years of age, the most since 1975. Led by the likes of Tommy Haas, Nicolas Mahut and Tommy Robredo, the old guard resurgence certainly dominated the headlines, but many emerging young guns also sprung into the forefront and began their assault on the Emirates ATP Rankings. A handful of rising stars caught our attention, particularly Jiri Vesely, who will be seeking to build off a breakout season with an even stronger 2014.

Vesely, the inaugural recipient of the ATP Star of Tomorrow presented by Emirates, exceeded expectations in 2013. Having started the year at No. 263 in the world, the Czech ascended to a career high World No. 78, surpassing his goal of reaching the Top 150. “I never expected to make the Top 100,” said Vesely to ATPWorldTour.com. “At the beginning of the season I won two Challengers, which helped to give me confidence and win many more matches. And now I'm here.”

Vesely Honoured in London

Standing at 6’6”, Vesely’s style of play is counterintuitive for a player of his stature. A natural mover on clay, as evidenced by his five Challenger finals on the surface, he already possesses the ability to complement his powerful serve and big forehand with effective drop shots and a solid slice backhand. “With my height it is a little strange to say that my favourite surface is clay but I really feel comfortable on it and I do well there,” Vesely added. “I have more time to create my shots and if I get my rhythm it’s easy for me.” Akin to fellow budding star Jerzy Janowicz, Vesely represents a new age of tall players with great touch and shotmaking variety.

A winner of three ATP Challenger Tour titles from five finals in 2013, the 20 year old was a dominant fixture on the circuit, amassing a 31-8 record in his first full season competing at the level. “I started the season on the Futures circuit so of course my goal was to come to the Challenger Tour and do good there,” reflected Vesely. “I didn’t expect to have the success I had. I’m trying to focus on my game, move forward and move to the ATP level.

“Early in the year I played a tournament in Sarajevo, in Bosnia, and I beat [Blaz] Kavcic, who was the top seed and No. 85 in the world. That was a match where I got the confidence and believed that I could really play with the guys in the Top 100.”

As a qualifier, Vesely made his tour-level main draw debut at Roland Garros, falling in a tight four-setter to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round. “My expectations for the French Open were to qualify. In the match against Kohlshcreiber it was really close, but the experience will be an advantage for me. It gave me confidence for the other tournaments and it was a big motivation.” Having posted a 0-7 record in tour-level matches in 2013, the left-hander acknowledges there are growing pains in making the leap to the ATP World Tour, but he expects 2014 to be a rewarding year.

Another source of motivation for Vesely has been his relationship with World No. 7 and countryman Tomas Berdych, who he has considered an idol through the years. “I have the chance to practise sometimes with Tomas so it’s a good experience to learn something from him, for example, what he does before a match and how he prepares. He is playing at the highest level for a really long time so for me it’s great to have the chance to be around him.”

Vesely will seek his first tour-level victory when he opens his 2014 campaign Monday at the Aircel Chennai Open, before heading Down Under for the Australian Open.

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©Neven Gerencir

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