Youzhny: 'I still enjoy the game'

34-year-old Mikhail Youzhny is eager to "fight back" and "take some steps forward" rather than "look back", in the current phase of his career.

Mikhail Youzhny..."We must decide, if we are ready to continue, and I am ready to fight."   -  R. Ragu

Now in the twilight of his career, Mikhail Youzhny would only set realistic targets for himself, but he still has enough fire in his belly to fight it out with physically better players. Youzhny feels the “easiest things is to stop” and reflect on a successful journey.

From winning 10 career singles titles, making two Grand Slam semifinals and getting a place in the top-10, Youzhny has seen it all in a career spanning almost two decades. Despite tasting success at the top level, he does not mind playing at the Challenger level now. He had started the 2016 season with three Challenger titles and ended it with a first-round loss.

Youzhny is also one of only 10 active players to have reached the quarterfinals of all Grand Slams. So what keeps him motivated and getting down to Challenger circuit?

“Lot of things keep you motivated. I had a good career and good results. I had some tough years, I dropped a lot (in ranking) some years ago. Easiest thing is to stop and say you had a good career and do something else. But I try to fight back, try to take some steps forward. We must decide, if we are ready to continue, and I am ready to fight. I still enjoy the game, I feel I can still play,” Youzhny said after making the second round of the Chennai Open with a win over India’s Saketh Myneni.

Youzhny said instead of looking back he will look forward but he himself was not sure how long will he continue. “We can always look back and say, I have played those semis (U.S. Open in 2006, 2010), I was World No. 8. It’s interesting how long I can keep it (body) in good shape. There is good motivation for me inside to continue. Interesting to make some right decisions to try and continue well. I don’t know what happens tomorrow. Can I do something more? Last year was pretty good for me, I showed I am not bad, I can beat some good players.”

Youzhny said it would be prudent if he stays realistic and not think about past achievements. “I don’t think about it. If I make a goal to be top-20, somebody will say you were top 8, why top-20 now. It can’t be No. 5 or 1, you have to be realistic, lot of younger players are playing, there are physically better than me.”

'Great Moments'

Asked if there was something he could have done to convert those semifinal finishes at the U.S. Open into wins, Youzhny said it’s difficult to say.

“You never know. I tried my best to play well. I don’t think about the results and rankings now. For me important it is to be healthy. Now I look at tour from different side. When you are 18-19, you want to play Grand Slam on the centre courts against top players. When you are 35 and dropped, you understand they were great moments of your life.”

The Russian has come to Chennai Open many times and won his career's 10th title here in 2008. He says Indian tennis has moved forward since then. “There are lot changes. Many Indian players have come to tour in top-200. There are good facilities now. I enjoy here.”