With a partner of the Top 10, Bruno Soares thinks of Masters Series victories and Grand Slams
Of Elói Silveira
Special reporter in Paris
In the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007 Bruno Soares had some difficult moments with a "mysterious" injury. It didn’t end, he needed surgery, was out for a very long time and even thought of a future without the sport. But with persistence he started an incredible comeback on the tour in the second half of 2007 and experienced in 2008 a "dream year" with the surprising semifinal of Roland Garros and the entrance into the Top 30.
Just on this height, this 26-year-old player of Belo Horizonte didn’t have a fix double partner to reach his big dreams. Something he just finished for 2009. After some tensions and negotiations behind the scenes he fixed the partnership with the experienced Kevin Ullyett, 36, current number 9 in the world and owner of 32 titles on the circuit – one of them, by the way, with Bruno Soares, in Nottingham.
And though he is longing for the kick off of the new doubles team, Bruno also celebrated another big achievement: the unexpected entrance into the Paris Masters Series Tournament partnering with the Israeli Andy Ram, 6th of the Ranking. Something that proved again the high prestige he got in the circuit.
On October 28th, on a practice court based 10 minutes from the complex in Paris Bercy, located in the South of the French capital, the third best Brazilian doubles player gave "Tenisbrasil" an interview and talked about the relationship to the new partner, about the plans for 2009 and about his new standing in the tennis circuit.
Q: Before the fixing of the cooperation with Ullyett, how was the first contact to play together? And how were the negotiations afterwards?
S: He was the one who contacted me first, still at Roland Garros. I won against him and Jonas (Björkman) in the quarterfinal and shortly after the semifinal, he texted me saying that Jonas wouldn’t play Nottingham and if I could imagine to play with him. I would go there anyway and then everything came together. We played together and won the title. In the same week he asked me about Wahington in August, because Björkman would be at the Olympics. Again we did well and were finalists. After a time when we didn’t have contact, I read that Björkman would retire. I called Kevin and told him: "Look, for the next year I want a constant double partner, and as I get along well with you on and off the court, I’d like to invite you. But you have time to think about that." He answered immediately, it was great. We decided to start the new year already in Australia, to be able to reach bigger goals like the TMC. The expectations are very big.
Q: How was it for you, a guy who had huge problems in 2005 and 2006, and had to restart his career in 2007 and 2008, to get an invitation of such a great champion?
S: It was really surprising and made me really happy. Until 2005 – I have already been 6 years on the tour – I played only in Challengers and ATP-qualis. I knew who they were, but they didn’t know me. That the first contact came from him was great and proved that he is a humble guy. He was behind my mobile number and sent me the message. They were seeded in Roland Garros, they could have thought that a guy like me just made the match of his life on that day. But he is very sympathetic and has an impressive education. And he is important for me as partner, as he is the oldest and most experienced one on the circuit. For sure he will help me to shorten some learning processes.
Q: Did he tell you why he wanted to play with you? What special did he see in you?
S: Yes he did. We just talked about it recently. He says he likes my return, what he considers my best quality. And he is a guy who moves very well at the net. Apart from the first 4 in the ranking, Daniel Nestor, Nenad Zimonjic and the Bryans, who serve very well, the return is very important and, in a long term, gives a big advantage. He told me about it and said that he thinks that his double needs to have a good return. I myself am no big returner, maybe even quite a bit behind these top guys. But he is really well, and we will complete each other.
Q: What are the goals for 2009?
S: It’s nonsense to hide that the main goal is the TMC. He’s already playing for years and I want to follow those footsteps too. Considering Ranking, considering results, altogether. To reach the TMC we will have to be within the eight best teams, we will have to win a lot. The dream is already to win a Grand Slam. To be honest, it would be good to win a Grand Slam, because that way we would kill two birds with one stone. (laughs) But what we want to achieve the most is a consistent solid year.
Q: In relation to your tournament calender, how will you two do your pre-season work?
S: I will do it in Brazil. We are in the Centauro Center, where also Marcelo Melo and André Sá practice, with Daniel Melo as coach. Kevin will do his pre-season in London. We will do the work that has to be done at home and, in the days before a tournament, we will practice together and take care that the fine-tuning works. That will come fast. We both have family and it’s good to rest a bit. One tournament after another is too tiring. His stuff is in London, my stuff is in Belo Horizonte and everybody respects that. It should be a good relationship, to step a bit back and adapt to each other.
Q: Before the definitive acceptance, you played together and had good results. He is an older guy, accustomed to win. Do you think that puts more pressure on you, mainly because you are the new guy? Is it possible that a absence of good results at the beginning of the year could put even more pressure on the rest of the year?
S: There is pressure. He is a guy who is already for 10 years within the Top 20. But at the same time we know that we can get far. The pressure is a part of the game, be it of the double, of the moment, of the tournament or of the sponsors. But I think that I already had the biggest pressure, in Nottingham and Washington. When he called me I didn’t know what could happen and I said to myself: "You always wanted a partner like that, now you have to enjoy it." To have played well was a big relief. We got to know each other on the court, we practiced much together. I started to watch the way he plays, how he serves, how he likes to cross. But there is always pressure, on the number 1, on Marcelo (Melo) and André (Sá). Tennis is like football, you have to win. When you lose, sack the coach, everything changes.
Q: Considering the TMS in Paris, you appear again in the draw and this time even with a top guy who is already qualified for the TMC. How did it come to this partnership
S: I didn’t have a partner and wanted to play in Madrid with Dmitry Tursunov, but we didn’t reach the draw. Some time after that I talked to Juan Monaco. He told me he wasn’t sure if he’s gonna play doubles in Paris as he is in the quali for Singles there. I continued practicing and one day, in Lyon, I talked to Andy Ram. I asked him if he would play with Joni (Jonathan Erlich, his regular partner), if he is better in the meanwhile, and he answered apparently yes. I said clearly that I am without a partner and went away. Another day, at the same practice court, he shouted at me and asked if I wanted to play, so we fixed this cooperation. He’s one of our friends, always travelling with us, and he has this freedom.
Q: Beside that you are playing now with the number 6 of the ranking you have a bye into the second round. This means, a victory gives you many points in the ranking and much prize money.
S: Don’t let’s not even talk about that. I only wanted to enter this tournament, again it turns out better, it can’t turn out even better. (laughs) But the original idea is to win some rounds and we practice well. It’s the end of the year, everybody is deadly tired, but we are giving our best to finish the year with a good result.
Q: You will start against the French double Gael Monfils/Gilles Simon. That means it will be a court full of spectators, you play against the crowd. On the other hand, they are no doubles specialists and are seeded in the singles.
S: That changes the way of play. Against doubles specialists the game is different, they put pressure on you, volley, close the angles and cross. The single players make you play better, have better baseline shots and serve better. They’re different styles, but the difficulties are the same. And considering the public, the more it is, the better is it. For me many spectators is great, I always loved that at the Grand Slams.