Biofile: The Igor Andreev Interview
By Scoop Malinowski
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Igor Andreev of Russia hits a return to Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany in the Davis Cup semifinals.
Wielding his favored forehand with all the decisiveness of a landlord armed with an eviction notice, Igor Andreev knocked Andy Roddick out of the French Open first round in May. Though he shares a record with Roger Federer, survived a shot in the groin from Anna Kournikova and has forged a friendship with Maria Kirilenko, the 24-year-old Muscovite may be the most inconspicuous member of the Russian Davis Cup team.
He's also been the most important player in Russia's run to a second straight Davis Cup final.
Andreev has been the Russian closer in two of its three Davis Cup victories this season.
Less than three weeks after Fernando Gonzalez reached the Australian Open final, Andreev fearlessly went forehand to forehand with Gonzalez for four sets in conquering the Chilean strongman, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, in an opening-round Davis Cup match against host Chile in La Serena. Chile roared back to even the tie at 2-2 before Andreev dismissed Nicolas Massu, 6-2, 6-1, 6-7(1), 6-4, in the decisive fifth match to clinch the opening-round win for Russia in February.
Seven months later, Andreev again rescued Russia by trouncing Tommy Haas, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, in the opening match of the Davis Cup semifinal against Germany. When the Germans rallied to level the tie at 2-2, Andreev again answered the call, pounding Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-3, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, to send the defending Davis Cup champion to its second straight final.
It marked the third time Andreev clinched a Davis Cup tie following his 6-0, 6-2, 6-1, destruction of Paul-Henri Mathieu in the decisive match to clinch Russia's 3-2 triumph over France in the 2005 quarterfinals.
Andreev beat the third-seeded Roddick in the opening round of Roland Garros whipping such titantic topsin forehands the ball appeared to be bouncing off the bed of a trampoline at times as it bounded up shoulder high, pushing Roddick into retreat behind the baseline. Roddick could not find a way to diffuse Andreev's explosive forehand and was unable to get to his backhand.
"It's kind of like pick your poison," Roddick said. "I felt like I almost had to go to that shot, that forehand, to get a look at his backhand, otherwise I wasn't seeing it, you know, if I was just rallying to the backhand corner. He was hitting that shot with authority, too."
An accomplished clay-court competitor, Andreev and World No. 1 Roger Federer share a unique distinction as the only men to beat reigning Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal on clay during the last two years. Andreev dismissed Nadal, 7-5, 6-2, in the quarterfinals of Valencia in April of 2005. After the dust settled from that dirt defeat, Nadal went on to register an Open Era winning streak of 81 consecutive clay-court victories before falling to Federer in Hamburg.
He has won five of his last six Davis Cup matches and owns an 8-3 singles record in Davis Cup competition. Given his track record could Andreev draw a starting singles slot this weekend?
It's possible, but not likely. While he's a terror on the terre battue, Andreev needs time necessary to set up for his lengthy strokes and though he reached quarterfinals on faster surfaces in New Haven, Metz and Moscow this year, American singles starter James Blake blew him out in straight sets on the grass at Wimbledon. Both Blake and Roddick have the ability to rush Andreev right out of rallies on faster surfaces, which is why he likely won't start a live singles match this weekend.
Tennis Week.com contributing writer Scoop Malinowski, who like Andreev prefers to run around his backhand to lash out with his forehand, caught up with the lanky, long-limbed Andreev for this interview in which he identifies his childhood tennis hero, the toughest competitor on tour now and recalls the time Kournikova fired a shot with such force into his groin it nearly neutered him.
Member of Russian Davis Cup team. ATP rank is #33. Winner of three career ATP singles titles. Has career wins over Nadal, Roddick, Ferrero, Kiefer, Ljubicic, Agassi, Mathieu, Monfils, Gasquet,
6-feet, 176 pounds.
July 14, 1983 in Moscow, Russia.
"Well when I was a kid my favorite player was Andre Agassi, watching him on the TV all the time. I like the way he played. And still watching him last year was something unbelievable."
"I like to play hockey very much. Very big fan of hockey. When I'm in Moscow I'm going to matches. Trying to play with my friends. I like very much hockey."
"The Game. Hurricane Carter."
"Ball kid in Moscow for Ladies Open."
"Honda Civic (black)."
Early Tennis Memory:
"Just won a match when I was three match points down in the breaker last set (age 11). And I won the match and made third place in the tournament. Was like the Russian championship. Keep it in my head forever [smiles]."
"Pasta with tomato sauce or bolognese."
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:
"Cappuccino ice cream."
"Concentrate on my game. And just go for my shots."
Greatest Sports Moment:
"Winning my first tournament title (in Valencia in 2005, defeated Nadal and Ferrer in final). And the last point in Davis Cup (2005 quarterfinals), the last match (fifth and decisive rubber) against France. I beat Paul Henri-Mathieu."
Most Painful Moment:
"Missing four months last year, knee surgery."
Closest Tennis Friends:
"Russians — (Mikhail) Youzhny, (Nikolay) Davydenko, (Marat) Safin and Spanish — (David) Ferrer, (Alex) Calatrava."
Funniest Players Encountered:
"This moment — Nadal. This moment, very tough. He's defending well, it's so tough to finish the ball. You think you like make a winner already against anyone but Nadal it's a winner, but with him it's you never know because he's running to the ball and you never know when the point is finished."
"Moscow — my home tournament. And Grand Slams."
Funny Tennis Memory:
"Well, once when I was 17 I went to practice with Kournikova, me and another guy (Pavel Ivanov), in Miami, tournament before the Orange Bowl. It was Sunshine Cup. We were making sparring to her and when we were at the volley, she hit the ball so hard — and it close to hit my balls so... So that happens, but, it was very close, fun moment. I don't know if it's fun but for me it wasn't fun but for them it was fun [smiles]."
Favorite Players To Watch:
"I like Agassi."
People Qualities Most Admired:
"The friendship. The friendship is more important to me. And fairness."