Zelenay: Challengers are only about survival

Igor Zelenay, EMPIRE Tennis Academy, interview

Recent Bratislava challenger Peugeot Slovak Open doubles winner Igor Zelenay (33) did not dream about such a good season at its‘ beginning. After surgery on his left knee, he felt pain, which limitated him, results were bad and he dropped down in the ranking. It is very different now in November. He won his fith challenger‘s title, is No. 81 in the doubles rankings and he wants more!

THE INTERVIEW WAS PUBLISHED ON THE www.tennis-arena.cz website.

In March this year, you said in interview for daily SME to quit if results will not come. After winning five challenger titles in current season, you probably changed your mind...

"When a player is back in TOP 100 of the ATP ranking, it is great. You can get onto the bigger tournaments, earn some money, motivation comes. To play all the time at challengers, is no fun. One does not earn much there and the players are more or less equal. It is more about surviving. I said in March to quit, because I was frustrated, No. 130 in the rankings. And to spend your savings, that’s not very pleasant. Everyone told me it would be stupid to quit because I play well."

Signing up for EMPIRE Tennis Academy and TC EMPIRE club will help you?

"Definitely, we also agreed on financial compensation, regarding tennis Extraligue. I will play for Trnava. It is closer from home, because we live in Nove Mesto nad Vahom. I am aware, Mr. Hlavna from the club gives me excellent conditions and I am very happy he helped me this way and has interest in me. Every euro than athlete earns is welcomed. It is the best contract I have ever signed."

What about the knee?

"It is great, knock on the wood. After the surgery in December 2014, my left knee was in pain for three months. I had bad feelings about it, pain was my limit, I only played under medicaments. I said to myself, come on, it is worse than before surgery. They shortened my tendons and it was matter of getting used to full usage, until it got into flexible position. Now I do not feel any pain."

Coach Rene Hanak will help you with the trainings. Did you know him before coming to Trnava?

"I did practice long time in Nitra, from 10 until I was 17. Then I moved to NTC. Rene Hanak played Extraleague for Nitra. I know him since I was 14-15 years old, I used to be ball boy at his matches. After his move to Greece we did not stay in touch. Rene Hanak knows me as a player, he can only help me."

Will you have regular doubles partner for the next season?

"Now I do not have regular doubles partner, some players asked me about it. I talked with Australian Rameez Junaid, Frantisek Cermak and Brazilian Marcelo Demoliner. I would really like to play in Australia but also at Roland Garros and Wimbledon."

How does your family and two years old daughter bear yours travelling?

"It is difficult for my wife, who works. Grandparents help us. For me it is difficult because I am far from the family and I do not get to see my daughter so often. When I play around here, my wife tried to take a break from work and we are together."

Do you know personally Brazilian Marcelo Melo, new doubles world number one?

"I know him and I have to say, I did not expect him to be world number one. But we all make mistakes… They co-operate well with Dodig, but I never thought he has any special weapon. He is equal in different aspects of his game, has no weakness, he hits the points. He could advise me technique, tactics so I can hit points like him (smile)."

Do you also see Bryan’s fall? After eleven years, they did not take a grand slam title…

"Definitely it is more difficult for everyone, lot of singles players take part. They are relaxed because it is no priority for them. Game is fast, serves are better. Bryans were first for very long time, not every season can be great. But I can imagine being on their place, second third in the world (smile)."

Is popularity of doubles increasing?

"I think, ATP cares more about top single players in the Top 10. Not many people know, who No. 30 player in the singles ranking is, they know maybe about first two in doubles ranking. Only the best are seen and known in every sport. Motorsports, F1, I don’t know if that can be changed. Maybe more advertising can be useful."

Your goal for the season 2016?
"First three months will be fine, because I have no points to defend. Next year I would like to get back into Top 50. I have to get on to better tournaments than challengers."

Photos by: 
Ivan Kopcani, www.empire-tennis-academy.com

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