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Stars Of Tomorrow: Jiri Vesely

Vesely© Getty ImagesJiri Vesely will make his main draw debut at Wimbledon next week.

As the recipient of the ATP Star of Tomorrow Award presented by Emirates in November 2013, Jiri Vesely has continued his rise this season and is now looking to establish himself among the best players in the world.

Jiri Vesely’s philosophy is a simple one. He hates losing. “I was always asking my family before a tournament, 'How many matches do I need to win to win the whole tournament?'” joked the 20-year-old Czech. “It really forces me to work on myself and play better tennis every day, hating to lose.”

It’s a trait that has served him well. In the past 18 months, Vesely has shot up nearly 200 places in the Emirates ATP Rankings. This week, he reached a career-high World No. 66 after two strong showings on the ATP Challenger Tour. After his initial breakthrough last season, the powerful left-hander has continued to make progress, despite now commanding the attention of his fellow competitors.

“Last year was a very successful year. It was a little bit of a shock, racing from No. 280 to No. 80,” Vesely told ATPWorldTour.com at Roland Garros, where he won a main draw Grand Slam match for the first time, having reached his first ATP World Tour semi-final a week earlier in Dusseldorf (l. to Karlovic).  

“This year is tougher. Everyone is watching you, following you and expecting a lot. I want to be in the Top 100 and try to be as close as possible to the Top 50. That would be great.

“Confidence has been a progression,” continued Vesely. “It's not come from one or two matches. You need to know you can beat these guys. I had a tough first few months and lost some tough matches against these guys. But I knew that I was very close. Finally, I was able to beat them.

"I'm definitely playing more aggressive, serving better [this year]. It's very important that I'm playing more aggressively, having the chances to go to the net and finish the point. That's something I've improved a lot. Also, definitely, [I’ve improved] my physical side. I'm able to play longer matches, move faster on the court.”

Watch Vesely Uncovered Feature

It was announced last week that Vesely is the recipient of one of eight wild cards into the Wimbledon main draw. He lost to Dustin Brown in qualifying last year and will relish his opportunity to compete on one of tennis’ grandest stages at the All England Club for the first time.

“Being at the biggest events is something that was always my dream,” said Vesely. “I'm happy to be part of the biggest tournaments and in the Top 100. I'm trying to enjoy it, but still looking forward and trying to improve every day. I wake up every day and try to improve in the [Emirates ATP] Rankings.”

In his early years, Vesely’s tennis was nurtured by his father and his grandfather. Jiri senior was a tennis coach and Vesely caught the bug aged four after watching his father practising. But more recently, the presiding influences have come from his Davis Cup team-mates, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek, as well as a psychologist, who Vesely began working with two years ago in a bid to temper his emotions on court. 

“It's always pretty hard because sometimes there are situations on the court where you can't do anything, the opponent just plays a better point and you have to respect that,” explained Vesely. “So it's very tough to improve mentally. But I would say that staying calm a little bit and controlling my emotions is something I've really improved in the past few months.

"Definitely being [around Berdych and Stepanek] really helps me, seeing them prepare for a match, seeing what they do before a match and also after the match. We talk with Tomas and Radek quite a lot. It makes you feel like you are a part of the team and that you are someone who plays good tennis. It makes you feel confident."

And the best advice they’ve given him? "They've just said, ‘Work hard, never be proud of yourself, just keep going'."

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