Youzhny enjoys playing at Chennai Open

"I like the Chennai Open. I have some good memories here personally, so I like to keep coming back again and again," says Mikhail Youzhny.

Mikhail Youzhny... “Professional tennis has improved a lot and it’s not like 10 years ago. A lot of the top players are around 30, but no one is thinking of stopping anytime soon."   -  AP

Mikhail Youzhny has seen all there is on the professional circuit. The 34-year-old Russian, who entered the pro circuit in 1999, is one of only 10 current players who have reached the quarterfinals of all Grand Slam events.

Youzhny is currently taking part in the Chennai Open, a tournament he won in 2008. He says he enjoys playing at the Chennai Open. “I like this tournament. I have some good memories here personally, so I like to keep coming back again and again,” Youzhny says.

The year 2016 has not been good for Russian sports, with doping allegations against some of its best athletes. Youzhny, however, does not trust the press reports completely. “It’s tough for me to say something, it’s important to have more information not only from the press but also the official committees. Anyway, I’m a tennis player and I try to focus on that only,” he says.

Russian tennis reached the peak post 2000 when players such as Marat Safin, Nikolay Davydenko, Maria Sharapova, Anastasia Myskina and Svetlana Kuznetsova competed. However, over the past few years, not many Russian players are in the Top-20, but Youzhny feels that it is just a matter of time before they make their mark. “Our rankings might not be great, but we have many good players, not maybe in Top-20 but in Top-100. Currently, Croatia is producing many top players, but I don’t know any country that has continuously produced top players. Even the USA, after Agassi and Sampras, saw a bit of a dip,” Youzhny explains.

According to the Russian, the improvement in facilities and services is a major reason why many tennis stars are now playing well beyond their 30s. “Professional tennis has improved a lot and it’s not like 10 years ago. A lot of the top players are around 30, but no one is thinking of stopping anytime soon. The team plays a huge part; recovery is much better now when compared to earlier days,” he says.

Talking of his own challenges, and how different it is now for him when compared to earlier days, Youzhny says: “When you’re in the Top-20 and Top-30 you can choose where you want to play. Now I cannot do that. To be in Grand Slams I need to play better in other tournaments, so the situation is a bit tough for me.”

He also says that his focus is now on enjoying his game rather than winning Grand Slam tournaments. “Obviously I want to go as far as possible, but I don’t think about that. For me the most important is my goal and second is to enjoy playing. You want to get good results but at the same time you have to be realistic.”