Friday, March 7, 2014

Tursunov returns to top 30 after battling injuries

No. 27 seed Dmitry Tursunov, a Russian who trains in the
Sacramento area, practices Wednesday in Indian Wells.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Dmitry Tursunov emerged from qualifying at the BNP Paribas Open last year before losing in the first round to then-No. 119 Philipp Petzschner in the first round.
   Tursunov returns this year as the 27th seed.
   "I've just been relatively injury-free and able to tie a few matches together," the 31-year-old Russian, who trains at the Gorin Tennis Academy in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, explained Thursday. "I didn't have any tournament wins, but I was able to get to the quarters and semis fairly often."
   The key word is "relatively." He skipped the 2013 Australian Open to heal nagging injuries, retired from his second-round match in the French Open with a pulled hamstring muscle, withdrew from Wimbledon lead-up tournaments because of the injury and retired from his third-round match in the U.S. Open with a thigh problem.
   For the injury-ravaged Tursunov, that represents improved health. In between his physical woes last year, he reached the semifinals in Marseilles, Valencia and Washington and advanced to his first Masters 1000 quarterfinal in Cincinnati as a qualifier and the quarters in Winston-Salem.
   Tursunov, who's scheduled to play former top-10 player Juan Monaco of Argentina in the second round at Indian Wells after receiving a bye, again has injury concerns. Troubled by a leg problem, he lost to Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic in the second round at Dubai last week.
   Rosol, who upset Rafael Nadal in the second round on Centre Court at Wimbledon in 2012, then lost to Roger Federer in Dubai. The winner of the match between Tursunov and Monaco, a right-hander who was plagued by a right wrist injury last year, likely will meet Federer in the third round.
   "I'd love to play him," said Tursunov, who's 0-3 against Federer. "I wish I played him in Dubai, but I was a bit hurt and couldn't really play to the best of my ability."
   Tursunov has struggled in Indian Wells, reaching the third round (including a first-round bye) in 2009 for his best result in seven appearances. That's also the last year he won a main-draw match in the BNP Paribas Open. Tursunov missed the tournament from 2010 through 2012 with -- what else? -- injuries.
   "It's the desert, so the ball flies here quite well," Tursunov said. "I have less control, and that takes away a lot of my weapons. I rely on heavy hitting."
   Indeed, Tursunov has had trouble harnessing his power during his career.
   "I definitely do much better than in the past, but it's always hard to find the right balance," he said. "It's easy to look in retrospect what you should have done different, but it's a lot harder to have that idea as you're executing your game."
   Tursunov climbed to a career-high No. 20 and helped Russia win the Davis Cup in 2006 but underwent two operations on his left ankle in 2009 and one on his left foot in early 2010. Since plummeting to No. 516 in the world in July 2010, he has soared to No. 30.
   "I'd like to not focus on my ranking, but it's always in the back of your mind," Tursunov conceded. "It determines if you're seeded or you get into a tournament, so it's hard to get away from the rankings as much as I'd like. In simple terms, I'd like to be inside the top 20 this year, but I would have to improve certain aspects of my game."
   Those aspects are mostly mental. 
   "I'd like to have a lot less focus on my results," said the candid Tursunov. "I'd like to focus a lot more on whether I'm doing the right things on the court, fighting every single game and staying even-keeled mentally. Sometimes I get tense and think too much about wanting to win and getting nervous about losing and being afraid to lose."
   Tursunov admitted he feels "the clock ticking" on his career.
   "There's really not much I can do about that," he observed, "so I might as well give up that fear and focus on how I can do well for the rest of the time that I do have available to me."

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