Tata Open Maharashtra: Vesely secures semifinal berth but struggles with nerves

Jiri Vesely fought his way to a spot in the semifinal of the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune but also admits he still struggles to calm his nerves on court.

Jiri Vesely prevailed in the quarterfinal clash against Ilya Ivashka 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(11) at the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune on Friday.   -  R Ragu

Czech Republic’s Jiri Vesely squandered four match points and saved two before prevailing in the quarterfinal clash against Ilya Ivashka 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(11) in a Centre Court match at the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune on Friday. 

The Czech didn’t have much going for him in the match except for his booming serves that constantly crossed 200kmph. Vesely committed forehand errors to concede two match points; even the serve deserted him in the tiebreaker of the third and deciding set, but had luck going for him as his opponent began erring more to camouflage the Czech’s shortcomings. After a lacklustre first set, the 26-year-old Czech played more aggressively in the second to reverse his fortunes.

As it happened:
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In the third set, it was just a case of the Czech not utilising his opportunities to break ( double breakpoint at 4-3 up) or waste matchpoints.  

“At matchpoint I didn't quite believe in myself. I didn't put any first serve in. So just to put the ball in was my focus. But sometimes it is just our day. You have to get through, stay calm, get every ball back. He can get nervous as well. And he did,” the World No. 107 said.  

Reflecting on that match, Jiri Vesely said he was lucky to win it. “He started the match much better. I lost my serve very early and he was much more consistent. I played the second set more aggressively because I didn't know pretty much what to do. I didn't put myself under so much pressure like in the first. In the third both were kind of waiting. He was the first one to have BP but I served well. I had the BP and then he served well. It was very close. I would say it was definitely luck,” he said. 

“He deserved it more than I did. I was very lucky. I was very nervous in the important moments. In the end, we both were.”

 

Luck, it may be, but the Czech has a truckload of experience fighting against the odds. He has a career-high ranking of No. 35, but his journey has been hampered by injuries since 2016: elbow, left shoulder, left forearm, ankle, neck, hip, leg, right toe and groin; he had to forfeit a few matches because of illness as well.

Despite history of wins over top players like Novak Djokovic (2016) and Alexander Zverev (2019 Wimbledon), he attributed his lacklustre display to nerves. 

“After all the things that have happened in the last two years. I injured my groin in 2018, I did have a good result at Wimbledon but then I got injured again and suddenly dropped in the rankings. 

“To comeback is not really easy. You have to go to the Challengers and beat the guys around 100. It's not easy. Everybody wants to get into the Slams. So I know what I have gone through in the last 12 months. The way back is really tough. Now, when I have the opportunity to earn the points to be safe for Paris, it made me nervous,” he said. “ “But I can enjoy it now. I will try and push it as far as possible and do well.” 

It has been quite a struggle, but things are looking up this year. On Friday, he reached his first semifinal since 2018 (Antalya) and is now confident of doing much better.  “ Last year I was injured a lot. But other than last year I have reached the semifinals every single year. 2015 was my last year playing in a final ( he won the Auckland title and finished runner-up in Bucharest) and I haven't made it past the semifinal since 2018. Now, I want to go forward and make it into the final. I have a good opportunity. I am confident. Now I can play free and just try to make it through,” he said. 

Jiri Vesely will face second seed Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania in the semifinal on Saturday. The Lithuanian rallied to beat Japan’s Yuichi Sugita 4-6, 7-6, 6-2.

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