Hi Teymuraz! Thank you very much for finding time for us in your busy schedule, and for becoming a part of F.A.C.T.S. community. We all know that you’re a number two tennis player in Russia and holds number 52 in the World rank. I attended your game in Paris BNP PARIBAS MASTERS 2014 and finally understood why your fans called you “Tsunami”. It’s was tough and impressive game. You defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber, James Blake, Thomas Johansson, Ksavie Malis, Michael Llodra, Fernando Gonzalez, Juan Carlos Ferreto, Ernest Gulbis, Andy Roddick, David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasko. So we’ve decided to nominate you to become our “S” hero: sport, success and society. Welcome on board and be ready to share your life secrets.
Tell me please why did you start playing tennis? What attracts you to sports in general?
The answer is very simple. My parents took me to a tennis school when I was 6. At that age you’re not able to decide what you are going to do in your life. I was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, then my family moved to Moscow. There I participated in my first tournament and won it. The Russian couch explained to my family that I could achieve a lot in tennis and at the age of 8-9 I started my professional career in tennis.
It might be hard for parents when their child starts to travel alone at such a young age, right?
Actually I started traveling not as a child, but at the age of 13.
Yes, but at this age you’re still a kid. I guess that’s not true for athletes?
You’re right, for athletes it’s different. There are lots of international junior tennis competitions. When I was 13, I started European STA tour. Over the next 2 years I had been traveling, but not much – maximum 8 to 11 weeks a year. When I turned 15, I was introduced to the professional sport. It requires more competitions and tournaments. Since then I am always on the road and I travel almost non-stop.
When you first thought “I gonna go for it! Tennis is my destiny”?
Well, when I was 10 years old, I won Moscow Championship. I ranked number one and then I was number one in the CIS (smiles). Imagine becoming number one so early in your life – at that time I already knew my destiny. Then game after game I won every championship and at the age of 13 I played in the tournament in Telford, England. There were many tennis players from Europe of the same age as me and even older.
Have you ever told yourself: “I am done. I am tired. I want to quit and change the job”?
It never happened, even when I loose.
Like every sport, tennis is very emotional especially for the players. We all heard the story when Mikhail Youzhny reacted angrily after losing the point and hit his forehead with his racket. Did something like that ever happen to you?
Well, I never broke any parts of my body (laughing). But yes, I had hurt myself ones.
What did you do exactly?
I hit the wall during the competition and it did hurt a lot. You know, so many players break their rackets. Marcus Baktat in 2010 or 2011 took all his rackets from the bag and just smashed them all during the match. I do it sometimes as well.
Wow! Looks like emotions sometimes are not under control. But I am sure every athlete has his own way to concentrate during the match, especially when it’s a final tournament. Tell us your secret.
Yes, I concentrate on the ball and think that it’s just a game. It’s rather difficult to do, but when you look at the ball and hit it, you forget about everything else. It blocks other mental thoughts and let you concentrate on the game and tactics.
I know you studied psychology and graduated from the American university – quite unusual for an athlete. Is psychology interest you on a personal level or you use this knowledge to create a special game tactic?
Yes, when I was a kid, I loved psychology and philosophy a lot. Then during the sport career I took special on-line program in the US. I use this knowledge a lot in sport, it’s a key issue for any tennis player.
Is it important to you that during the match there is someone on the bleachers who supports you?
I love it and enjoy it when I play at the big stadiums. You know I have a Georgian blood, I need my stadium crowded. When it’s empty, I have no emotions. I love to play for someone…
Aha. For someone… Does that mean you have many female fans?
Maybe there are, but mostly my fans are males (smiling). I am not the number one or two in a world top rank. By the way, I had been married for a long time.
Yes, but there’re a lot of people taking autographs from you right on the streets. It means you are well known, you are famous. Do you realize it?
In the tennis world, yes.
Does it affect you in any way?
What is your dream?
My dream.. Hmm, my dream is it to reach my professional goals. My biggest goal is to be in top 20.
How long do you think it’s gonna take?
By the end of the next year I want to be in top 20, really. It will be very exiting. That’s what I want for my career.
Is there any other profession you would choose if you’re not a tennis player?
When I was a kid, I loved mathematics. All my teachers told me I would be a scientist. So I think I’d choose science, definitely not sports.
Alright, a female question. What does love mean to you?
Love is a great feeling. There is nothing better than love. I can’t be more specific, because every person defines love differently.
I heard, your heart opened up for a new relationship now is it true?
Yes, I actually have, and yes, my heart is free. But there is one girl who will stay in my life forever, my daughter Nicole.
Imagine that tennis is a woman… What character would she have, how would you describe her?
Ooh, she would be a very challenging woman. To win that woman, you have to overcome millions of obstacles. She is very tough (laughing). You need to climb higher and higher, as high as you can . You need to give her all of yourself.
Does she give back?
Yes if you open up for her, she will.
Imagine you’re an animal. What animal are you?
Well, I’ve never thought about it. I don’t know, maybe a horse. They are smart, kind and fast.
Great answer! Let’s jump into the world of politics. We all know that relationships between Russia and USA are going through tough times right now. I know that you live in Miami and you have a Russian passport. What’s your plan, will you continue residing there or do you want to come back to Russia?
Yes, I have a Russian passport and I am going to keep it.
I am a Russian in my heart and also I’m half Georgian. I feel bad about what’s happening in Ukraine. And it’s very difficult to understand why the Western world starts to change its’ feelings about the Russian people. Over the last few years our relationships had been really warm. Now they try to present Russia as the enemy to everyone. However while I play tennis, I will continue living in Miami. It’s my home-base and my coach is there. I would love to live in Russia, but it’s hard, because the infrastructure for tennis is not really developed there. I used to live in Moscow, but you have to cover long distances there. Especially in December, after you play 8 hours a day, you simply cannot spend 3-4 hours stack in the traffic.
If not for tennis, where would you live, in Russia or in the US?
Honestly, in Russia for sure.
Very patriotic, thank you. And do you have a dream place where you would love to live or just to visit?
Dream place is where no bad things happening, no war. But it doesn’t exist, that’s why it’s a dream.
Do you have any favorite sport clothing brand?
Well, I don’t know honestly. I don’t like NIKE, I think Lacoste is more comfortable and is always in fashion.
Is it important for you what uniform are you going to wear during the championship? Are you able to choose the brand and the color?
Of course, it’s important. I want to look good and to feel comfortable. It’s a professional sport. But usually when you are sponsored by a sport clothing brand, they give you a specific uniform, and they choose everything.
There’re a lot of kids out there, who are just starting in tennis, and I am sure they will be happy to get an advice from such a big star like yourself. Do you have a message for them?
Love the game, enjoy it and play it. And for the people around the world I want to say “Be happy”!
And the last but a very serious question. What do you think about the lady who’s conducting this interview with you?
Woooow! What a question! (smiling) I would love to fall in love with her.
Katya Pushkina and Teymuraz Gabashvili special for F.A.C.T.S.