TENERIFE, November 3, 2021
Andrey Kuznetsov was sidelined from the courts for three years, dealing with a lifelong hip injury. Between October 2017 and August 2020, the former World No. 39 from Russia only played one professional tournament, falling in the first round of the Koblenz Open ATP Challenger in Germany in February 2018.
Now, the winner of eight ATP Challenger crowns has become a regular member of the tennis circuit again. Tennis TourTalk met 30-year-old Kuznetsov at the Tenerife Challenger, on the largest of the Canary Islands, after his 6-4, 6-2 first-round win against Filip Cristian Jianu of Romania.
Tennis TourTalk: Congratulations Andrey, straight-sets win. What was the key to success today?
It was not easy at all. I had a good start with two breaks but then he started to play better. The key was to focus on my own game, because in the middle of the first set it was very hard for me. He started to return better. At the end of the first set, I found my forehand, hit a couple of them down the line. In the second set, I was able to dominate the game.
In July, you won your first Challenger title in six years. How important was this victory in Nur-Sultan?
Incredibly important. My ranking situation was not very good. I was ranked about 320 in the world and the US Open was up next. But it did not only help me ranking-wise, it also helped me a lot to gain some confidence.
You were sidelined from the courts for three years with a hip injury. Do you feel like being back on the circuit now?
For sure I am back on the circuit but there are still a lot of things to improve. I need some time to feel completely comfortable on the tour. I have played for more than a year now, starting in last August. The most important thing that my body is okay. I just hope that it will continue like this and that my best results are still coming in the future.
How about your physical situation right now?
I have been having problems with my hip for my entire career and have been dealing with this issue all the time. It’s good enough now. It is even better than in 2016 or 2017 when I was ranked inside the Top 100.
During this time off the courts, did you feel certain to make a comeback?
Not at all. It was changing a lot. The first month, I was sure that I will be back within the next two months. Then, I thought that there was no chance and so it was changing all the time. I already started to work as a coach and as a commentator for Eurosport Russia. I was doing some things for the living, as two and a half years is a long period. The first year I was only concentrated on my recovery but after that I started some kind of “normal life”. It was not easy to change back to the life on the tour, as I was used to stay at home for a lot of time. I became a husband and a father (his son Max was born last December). Many things have changed and traveling is still a difficult part for me. But I enjoy playing tennis.
How was the experience, being part of the media staff?
That was actually pretty easy. For me it is not hard for me to talk about tennis. Physically it is a very simple job. You just sit and talk, comparing to competing on the court (laughs). It was a lot of fun. I watched a lot tennis, which I didn’t do when I was on the tour. It also helped, as I could watch a lot of good matches, doing some analysis and learning from it. Coaching was also useful, as you get a different perspective.
You worked with Evgeny Donskoy, right?
When you returned to the courts, you faced him in the first round in Istanbul in September. Was it a bit of a weird feeling?
No. We are very good friends. I lost to him, so it didn’t help me being his coach before (laughs).
Is it your first time in Tenerife? And what do think about the place here?
It’s my first tournament here but I have returned to Tenerife for the fourth time. I spent some holidays here at about the same season as now. It is properly the warmest place you can find in a European country in November. I explored many spots here, went up the Teide (Spain’s highest mountain) twice. It is very nice to be back.
Thank you and enjoy your time on and off the court.