Friday, August 17, 2018

Tursunov, who reached No. 20, unofficially retires

Dmitry Tursunov, right, chats with former world No. 2 Petr Korda, the father
 of U.S. prospect Sebastian Korda, during the Stockton (Calif.) Challenger last
October. It was the last tournament of Tursunov's career. The Moscow native
was based in Northern California from age 12 to 30. Photo by Paul Bauman 
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   The almost-nonstop injuries finally got to Dmitry Tursunov.
   The Moscow native, who was based in Northern California from age 12 to 30, has unofficially retired at 35.
   Fittingly, Tursunov's last match was in Northern California, and he was unable to complete it. As a qualifier in the $100,000 Stockton Challenger last October, he retired from his quarterfinal against U.S. prospect Michael Mmoh with leg problems after losing the first set 6-3.
   "It was going to take me three months to do rehab, which was going to be a little too long," Tursunov, who owns a townhouse in the Sacramento suburb of Folsom that he rents out, said this week. "There were too many uncertainties. At that stage, it wasn't worth the trouble to try to get back. It's muscular, tendon-related (in the quadriceps above both knees). I don't know the exact diagnosis."
   Then the irreverent Tursunov, who was perhaps the most colorful player in men's tennis, used one of his trademark analogies.
   "It's like a bad car alignment that starts affecting a lot of other things," he said. "Your tires wear, your springs and shocks get all weird, and your suspension goes bad. Then you say, it's time to get a new car instead of always trying to fix this one."
   Tursunov said his retirement "isn't official." But when asked if he's thinking of playing again, Tursunov replied: "Not so much really, no. A lot of people ask me that, but I think those days are over."
Dmitry Tursunov helped Russia win the Davis
Cup in 2006 and played in the 2008 and 2012
Olympics. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Tursunov spoke from Cincinnati, where he's coaching 20-year-old Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. She is scheduled to play top-ranked Simona Halep on Saturday in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
   "I'm enjoying helping a player," Tursunov said. "I like her; she's a nice person. She listens. She wants to get better. I feel like she has very good potential. I feel like I'm part of something a little bit bigger than trying to revive a career."
   Tursunov also coached fellow Russian Elena Vesnina, who reached career highs of No. 1 in doubles in June and No. 13 in singles in March 2017, early this year. Ironically, she has been sidelined with a knee injury since the French Open.
   Tursunov said nothing has been decided when Vesnina returns and he has no plans other than to continue coaching Sabalenka, who will crack the top 30 for the first time in Monday's updated rankings.
   The hard-hitting Tursunov, hobbled by injuries throughout his career, peaked at No. 20 in singles in 2006 and No. 36 in doubles in 2008. He won seven ATP titles in singles and seven in doubles, and collected $5.9 million in prize money.
   Tursunov helped Russia win the Davis Cup in 2006 and played in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. In the match of his life, he outlasted Andy Roddick 17-15 in the fifth set in four hours, 48 minutes on clay in Moscow to clinch Russia's victory over the United States in the 2006 Davis Cup semifinals.
   Off the court, Tursunov became the talk of the tour as the ATP's resident blogger in 2006 but gave it up because it took too much time.
   With his curly, blond hair, blue eyes and impeccable, accent-less English, Tursunov easily could be mistaken for a Southern California surfer. In fact, his countrymen called him "Surfer Dude."
  Tursunov doesn't consider his career in terms of whether he was happy with it. Characteristically, he has a more philosophical view.
   "I don't know. I don't know what to compare it to," he said. "If you compare it to someone who didn't get to 20, then I'm happy. If you compare to someone who got to No. 1, I guess I'm unhappy.
   "I look at it more as a set of experiences. Now that it's sort of, unofficially over, it's a question of, how can I use all of that knowledge and experience? I can't just frame it and post it on the wall. I found a logical use for it by trying to help somebody else correct some of the mistakes a little bit earlier and make her sailing a little bit smoother than mine was."
   Tursunov, who finished with a career record of 231-218, also was philosophical about what he'll miss most and least about playing.
   "When you have a good day at the office, it's always fun," he said. "I never really loved competing. There are some people who love competing, and I wasn't one of them. Still, when you win, everything is good. You feel like your life is good, and you get used to your results (defining you). It's a bad day if you lose and a good day if you win.
   "But there's a lot of work behind the scenes that is not fun, and I'm definitely not missing that part --  working hard and sweating and forcing yourself to do something and setting limits for yourself in order to get better."
   Unlike many players, Tursunov seems to have made a smooth transition to retirement.
   "I'm happy," he said. "My life is a little bit more relaxed. It's a different type of responsibility. I'm out of the limelight, and I'm completely fine with it. I'm happy with my secondary role, not being the priority.
   "Some people can't get over the fact that their career is over, so they search for adrenaline rushes. I'm OK. I'm not trying to do that."

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