Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
Jiri Vesely recorded his first main-draw win in Dubai with an upset over former US Open champion Marin Cilic on Day 1 of the 2022 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. We know you’ve been through a lot emotionally with COVID and everything. Now that you have your family here, how much does this mean to you emotionally to go and possibly even win the title?
JIRI VESELY: Well, it’s still very far away, still two matches. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment right now. I think it’s still very early after the match. I deserve to just a little bit enjoy the win tonight.
But, you know, of course the tournament is still going on. Once I wake up in the morning, it’s all focus for the next match again. Of course, it’s an unbelievable run. Of course I will try to do my best to go as far as possible, to maybe of course try to win the title. You never know.
I’ve beaten three — actually I played five matches, but now in the main draw I’ve beat three amazing players. Had a very tough draw. I never thought to really go that far. Yeah, I’m really, really happy about it, especially after the last 12 months.
As I said on court, it’s been a big struggle. Yeah, I was losing my faith a little bit also. It wasn’t really easy. This tournament especially will give me so much positive for the upcoming weeks and months. Hopefully I’m on the right way. I hope to accomplish my goals that I have.
Q. Could you elaborate a bit on the role your family, your team, your coach and everyone, the role they play in helping you back on this path.
JIRI VESELY: Yeah, of course it’s very important. Once you have a family, it totally changes your priorities. Of course, having them here is a big support, is a big help. You know that everyone’s safe at home or here actually. You don’t have to think about what’s going on at home. Everything is fine.
I’m really happy to have them here, as well as my team. I think they all are doing their best to help me to accomplish my goals and to make me a better player every day.
Of course, also for sure the last couple months haven’t been easy for all of us. If things are not going well, you lose patience, you lose a little bit of the faith. You are moody, yeah. Sometimes it’s hard, of course.
But I think this tournament really means a lot to me, to my team, to my family. Just going to try to build that up in the future weeks.
Q. Do you mind sharing a little bit of what you’ve been through, give us some details.
JIRI VESELY: Yeah, last year in March actually or middle of February, end of February, after I came back from Australia, just before the tournament actually in Doha and here in Dubai, I was supposed to play here as well, I got COVID which wasn’t a very bad time during COVID. I was quite okay.
Once I started to practice, it was really, really hard to breathe, for me to work, to be able to practice for one hour, two hours. I had these struggles for maybe two months, three months.
Of course, it makes you really frustrated, depressed sometimes because you don’t really know what to do. I was making all health checks, talked to many, many doctors. Nobody really knew how long this could take.
Of course, once you don’t practice enough, once you don’t play enough, once you don’t win matches, it’s all coming together. Then after three months, I finally found more energy to work harder again. Suddenly we had a car crash. It was again one month out of tennis.
Yeah, it’s been just a very, very tough year with all the problems around. Dropping outside of top hundred was another sad moment in my career because I’m always trying to actually go the other way, go up. It wasn’t really going well for me the last year. Really been fighting with my health lots of times.
I really hope this tournament is really the first step into the right direction. I will really do my best with all the people around me to really stay healthy and just try to get better.
Q. You were hurt after the car crash?
JIRI VESELY: Luckily it wasn’t anything bad. It was just reaction after the car crash against the tree. I had some problems with the neck. But it wasn’t anything serious which I have to be… We all are very lucky and very happy for that. Of course, it just takes time to really get back to just live without pain. Yeah, it was just before the US Open last year.
Actually all the year was really very, very complicated. We started later because of COVID. Yeah, so I’m really happy to do well now. Yeah, hopefully it’s not the last one here.
Q. This automobile accident, where did it happen?
JIRI VESELY: It happened in Czech Republic.
Q. Obviously you had great success earlier in your career. You were very highly ranked. Did what happened last year come as a baseline which made you think of all the things that you were capable of doing? In a way did it push you to come back? Was that the turning point for you?
JIRI VESELY: Yeah, you know, of course it’s great to be successful at an early age at some point. But also I think you have to be prepared for it. I think I wasn’t really prepared for that.
I was the youngest player in the top hundred at the age of 19, which in that moment nobody was younger. I had great results from the beginning on. I finished juniors, and I was in I think 16 months in the top hundred. It was really a huge progress.
Suddenly people started to follow me, sponsors, managers. Everybody was looking after me, how I will do. I think I haven’t been able to make the next step just to establish in the top 30, maybe top 20. I was 35 at the age of 21, then something just broke down a little bit. I started to fight more with myself than with the opponent.
Yeah, I think you really got to be ready for it. Maybe now I’m in a different age, I have much more experiences. I know how to play against the good guys. Of course, it’s harder to play against lower-ranked guys where I’m the favorite. But I’m still learning, trying to take all the experiences I had from the past seven, eight years, take that with me.
Yeah, I’m still in a good age I think to do good things. Hopefully I can find a way this year to really make the breakthrough and go out there.
Q. A question going back in time and now. You played Novak the last time in 2016, Monte-Carlo on clay. What did that win mean to you at the time? Now you’re playing him on a hard court years later. Talk about what the win meant then and what this win means now.
JIRI VESELY: As I said, I think maybe also that win came maybe too early. Again, it was a big win. He was at that time I think unbeaten in that year. He won Australia, Indian Wells, Miami. I was 22 years old. I thought maybe I am on the right way, it’s going to go along.
Always when I had to play against lower-ranked guys, I was always struggling with myself. I wasn’t able to beat them. I was always looking after what people think about me after the loses maybe. It wasn’t really easy.
After some time you get used to all the things. Winning and losing is just part of the sport. I think it’s much more important to be able to not care so much about losses, just go step by step further and further. Every single week you have a new chance.
But all this comes with the age I think, with experience, maybe also with people around you, the closest ones that they tell you also at a young age. It’s hard to say. I think everybody has his own way.
It was great to be really successful in that early age, but I think I just wasn’t prepared for that. Maybe now this win can help me actually much more than it did in Monte-Carlo.
Q. For the most part of the match it felt like it could go either way. Did you at any point feel nervous? How did you keep yourself strong throughout the game?
JIRI VESELY: Well, I felt pretty nervous in the beginning of the match. It’s always important to start good because once they start with a break or something, they loosen up a little bit, get more relaxed, then it’s very hard to stop these guys.
Of course I was also nervous at 5-4 in the second set, 4-3 already when I knew it’s not far away. I did maybe some little easy mistakes. But Novak played a great game to 5-All anyway.
In the tiebreak of course you go point by point. I started well again, I was 3-Love up. It’s just really hard to stay focused, to not really think too much about what can happen if you win that match.
It’s been very physical, to be honest. At the end of the second set I already felt pretty tired because Novak, he can play for hours and hours. The match was really pretty intense, especially in the first set. I think the first set was really very, very close. I broke him, then he broke me back. I broke him again. It was really just about one or two points. Actually also the second set. I think in the second set, the rallies were not that long maybe anymore, maybe they were a little bit more service points. It really mixed up a little bit.
The match overall was very, very physical. At the end I was really pretty tired. But maybe this helped me to not think too much about the potential win, if I would make that service game at 5-4. Also in the tiebreak I was always leading.
Yeah, I was just so tired that I wasn’t really thinking too much about it.
Q. Can you introduce us to your daughter. Does she understand much about your job? Does she know you had a big win today?
JIRI VESELY: Yes, she also says she wants to go play also, that mommy is going to watch on the TV.
Of course it’s great when kids start to watch you on TV, to follow you. Sometimes she goes with me for practice. It’s really great just to be in this place between players, just in the sport atmosphere. I think it’s really great and helpful.
Hopefully she will like tennis or whatever else. Yeah, let’s see.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
117189-1-1004 2022-02-24 18:28:00 GMT