The 2015 Aircel Chennai Open finalist Aljaz Bedene had a rollercoaster ride last year. The Slovenian-born Brit came through the qualifying rounds to reach the final here and climbed 100 places in the rankings last year. Most importantly, he became a British citizen after a wait of few years.
Bedene, however failed to make it to the Great Britain Davis Cup squad, because of a new ITF ruling that bars players from playing for a second Davis Cup country after change in nationality. In an exclusive chat with Sportstar, he opens about his reasons for leaving Slovenia, showing his support for Andy Murray and more.
Q. You came through the qualifying rounds last year to reach the final. Are you hoping to go one step higher this term?
A. It was a nice way to start a tournament here in Chennai and winning it (this time) will be perfect. I have worked hard in the pre-season to improve my game. I am confident that everything will go well.
Thoughts on a successful 2015 season…
I did not have a great 2014, had a lot of injuries and was struggling to find the motivation after few injuries. I worked hard during the 2015 pre-season. Reaching the final here, playing Stan (Wawrinka) was a great experience and was a great motivation for the rest of the year. I am ranked 45 now which was a big step, but I know I can do even better this year.
Q. How frustrating was it to not play the Davis Cup final against Belgium?
A. It wasn’t easy because I had to go to Prague for a meeting (with the ITF) and it was postponed. But it was great to see them winning. It was frustrating, but I am now focusing on my game and waiting for the next hearing in March.
Q. Andy Murray vouched for your place in the Davis Cup squad. Your thoughts on that…
A. We were practicing on clay before the final and it was nice of him. Both the Murray brothers backed me and when you have their support it helps. So let’s see what happens in March.
Q. You faced a bit of abuse online for changing citizenship and had to delete your Facebook account…
A. I did that sometime back, but I am back on Facebook now (laughs). There were some bad comments, but it was not as bad as it was made out, though it wasn’t easy. But it is actually quite good now.
Q. Are you ready for the scrutiny of the British media?
A. Yeah! I played Wimbledon the first time this year and it was quite a lot. They are on it during Wimbledon and it’s the most difficult time for British players but it is fun. So no problem!
Q. In hindsight, do you regret playing those three Davis Cup matches for Slovenia?
A. I mean I can’t change it now. When I played the rule was different and I just hope the ITF will see reason and make an exception in my case.
Q. Your reasons for leaving Slovenia?
A. The environment was not ideal for me to progress as a player and there were no support from the federation. We did not even have hard courts and I was bad on the faster surfaces. I understand that Tennis Slovenia did not have money, which is fine, but it was just the way they were treating me and tennis players in general. I have shown that moving away was the right decision and if they are not going to change maybe other players too will need to do the same because it is not fair on the players.