Watching Alexandr Dolgopolov play makes me happy.
He's not the most aesthetically pleasing player. Considering how much I like pretty tennis, my adventure into Dolgopolove is a little bit unusual. He's stylish, a showman, master of the trick shot (the way to my heart), but beautiful tennis? Not Sascha.
I think one of the reasons I like watching the Dog so much is because he's genuinely happy. At that makes him play better.
I don't know if you can tell he's happy just by watching him. I don't think it's that easier. But after reading the article in the most recent Deuce (you can find it here) I'm more and more convinced that this is the case. Sascha has risen dramatically lately - his form, his profile, his game, everything. And it seems to me it's just because he's enjoying himself.
The article talks about how Sascha's coach, Jack Reader, looks after Sascha as a person first and a tennis player second. Sascha grew up under the eye of his father, a very by-the-numbers, methodical sort of coach. Given how he spent his childhood on a tennis court in this kind of atmosphere, it's unsurprising that Sascha wanted something totally different. He must have grown up with tennis as work. It seems to me what Jack Reader has given him is tennis as fun. And quite apart from the tennis, fun in general. There's a great story in the article about how they once pretended to be a gay couple to get cheap flights. Reader really does seem to have made life on the tour an adventure for Sascha, and that's clearly working well.
Obviously the Jack Reader method isn't for everyone. A lot of players really wouldn't flourish in his 'I don't believe in gyms - the whole world is a gym' approach. But it has worked great guns for Sascha Dolgopolov. Reader has got him healthy and happy and confident in his game, and look how that's turned out.
And that, I think, is really important. Reader is for Sascha a mentor as well as a coach, and I fail to see how his 'take care of the person' thing wouldn't work for a lot more players. Tennis is a game and games are meant to be fun. I think there are a lot of players who could benefit from treating tennis as a game again instead of as a job. And the coach, well - he seems to be a dude who could do a lot about that.
Ask Jack Reader. Look at Sascha Dolgopolov. And look how that's turned out. Happy people play well in the adventure that is tennis.
3 weeks ago