ORIGINAL REPORT FROM NEW YORK – Turn the match point, hit the ground and enjoy the moment. That is, to use… Jiří Veselý thought only that he wouldn’t get a cramp. Devastated but happy, the Czech tennis player came to the post-match press conference after winning a big battle and advancing to the 3rd round of the US Open. “I tightened it with my head, which very often fights against me. Today, however, I passed the important conditions,” he was pleased.
Since 2016, Jiří Veselý has not won a single match at the US Open. His return from injury has only been gradual this year, so it was definitely not expected that he would go all the way to the 3rd round at his unpopular Grand Slam. But the Czech player brought to Flushing Meadows the form he had been waiting for for a long time.
He defeated world number 20 Francisco Cerundola in four hours and seven minutes after sets 7:6(5), 6:2, 3:6, 2:6 and 7:6(6). One more win and he will not only match his Grand Slam high, but also likely face the all-star Novak Djokovic.
You played the second five-hundred-thousand, together you spent more than seven hours on the court. How do you feel?
I’m broke, a lot. But I think the worst is yet to come. It’s hell, I’ve probably never played two 500s in a row before.
What was going through your head when you were lying on your back after a converted match point?
So that I don’t get convulsions. (laughs) The last exchange was terribly long, intense. Then came the euphoria. But I also told myself not to get a cramp. When the body suddenly shuts down, it can be a shock to him.
And there was also your typical lion roar…
It somehow goes by itself, in euphoria one needs to get everything out. Physically, I was already KO. In the tiebreak, it was developing promisingly, but at one point my head got confused. In the end, I’m glad I managed the ending somehow.
You were quite energetic on the court. Does fitness training with David Vydra bear fruit?
David says that only in the fifth set does the match begin. That’s the problem with training with someone who has done an Ironman. (laughs) I think galleys like that satisfy him the most, but I’d rather win in three. I’m still not in top shape, I haven’t played in almost a year and now I’ve only been in tournaments for four months. I can be satisfied with the third round, but the tournament is still not over. I must not allow myself euphoria.
The last time you won the US Open was in 2016. When you arrived at Flushing Meadows, did you think about this not-so-flattering statistic?
I’ve had it in my head for a while now. I’ve never been very successful here, I’ve only won three games here this season. But the older I get, the more comfortable the hard surface is. Courts here are fast, so if I serve well, it’s easier. I have the upper hand on serve and can afford to take risks on my opponent’s serve.
Advancing to the 3rd round in front of a packed auditorium must therefore be a great satisfaction. Are these the moments you play tennis for?
I confess that at the end I didn’t notice how many people there were. My head was on the court, perceiving ball after ball. I squeezed people out, but the atmosphere was definitely great. That’s why you play – big tournaments, lots of spectators. I would like to collect more similar results, which is why I kept coming back. I would like to last as long as possible at the highest level.
One more win and you’ll play Novak Djokovic. And you can do that…
I know about it. If I can manage the next match, then the round of 16 with Novak should actually be fine. (laughs) No, I’m just kidding. That would be a reward match, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Exactly. You still have to defeat Borna Goja. What do you know about him?
Playable on paper, but he’s a hitter who serves well. He climbs the rankings every year, on the other hand, he has probably never been to the 3rd round of a Grand Slam, I can use my experience. But we’ll see how I do physically. It may also happen that I will be completely settled.
US Open (Men’s Women’s USA $65,000,000 Hard Court)
2nd round of men’s singles
JÍRÍ VESELÍ (437.) – Francisco Cerundolo (ARG, 20.) 7:6(5), 6:2, 3:6, 2:6, 7:6(6)
Michal Hladký, photo: IG – veselyjiri