Article : Dmitry Tursunov: Seriously funny

Action Jackson
06-05-2008, 08:26 AM
This was in the Aussie tennis mag and it shows that it's not just all the blog and cheap gags.

Dmitry Tursunov: Seriously funny

With his practical jokes, flip one-liners and wild internet raves earning him a reputation as one of the game's brightest characters, it's almost a shock to discover the serious side to Dmitry Tursunov. That's until you realise that the sacrifices he's made to survive on tour are no laughing matter. By Vivienne Christie

Dmitry Tursunov smiles and pauses to think. He's just been asked to describe his best-ever practical joke he's played in his travels on the ATP tour and it's obvious that the 25-year old Russian has plenty of material in the memory bank. He finally settles on the happy recollection from the Toronto Masters, when the hapless victim was none-other than World No, 1 Roger Federer. Sporting an opportunity before their fourth round match, Tursunov decided to steal his racquet bag.

"he was saying something to me right before the match, he was kind of joking around," Tursunov remembers. "He turns around and starts warming up. I take his bag and put it under the table... he was very good about it, but I won a set off him there, so I don't know if that helped."

Tales of similar stunts from Tursunov are plentiful. There was the time he was captioned in a magazine cover of Andy Murray with "Kudos to the make up artist" and stuck it in the locker room of Queens. On another occasion Tursunov was running late for a match in Monte Carlo and realised he'd only bought shirts bearing the Russian Davis Cup logos, he tore them off and slapped them onto the lockers of the French players he'd beaten the previous weekend.

And then there are the blogs. At Estoril 2006, Tursunov's irreverent take on tour life described among other things - the adventures of travelling with local drivers, gossip about who-might-be-dating-who and the intricacies of his doubles partnership with Marat Safin. "W e talked strategy for our next match and it was so great to really have a good heart to heart talk without all the girls running over and handing phone numbers to me and asking me to pass it to Marat".

With an army of new fans logging in to check such entries each day, Tursunov not only earned himself a regular gig as the ATP's resident blogger but also showed he's one of the funniest players on tour.

It's something of a surprise, then, to discover that in person the Russian is not as quick as you might expect with the flip one-liners. Instead, he's thoughtful and considered in his answer to every question, and if he notices that the allocated 15 minutes of interview time has stretched closer to 30, he's too polite to say.

We can't help but ask the quietly-spoken Tursunov whether the over-the-top internet reports gave fans an inaccurate perception of his personality. "I think every person is kind of multi-layered so that was one of the layers. It just happened to the bigger one," he explains. "I guess in a way it's a monster because I guess there's an expectation on me to be that certain way and when I'm not, people start to question 'well we read the on the blog and right now he's very serious'.

"They're very confused in that sense. Because when you don't know the person or you only know them through one interview or something, some sort of media, you really have a perception of that person, kind of stereotype. I feel like there's certain expectations of me to be all the time, to be a clown."

Discovering a serious side to one of the game's best known characters is less surprising when you hear his path to professional success - a journey mapped largely by Tursunov's strict and ambitious father, who brokered a complicated deal that saw the Russian leave his Moscow home a just 12 years old to train in Northern California. It's a period that Tursunov remembers with a mixture of pragmatism and poignancy.

"It's kind of an age where your parents tell you what to do... so it was good in the sense where I didn't have anyone tell me what to do, but it would have been nice if your parents were there at times and somebody to kind of support you and do a lot of things for you," he assesses. "I was lucky to have the people around me that kind of filled that void a little bit. They were sort of my second family so to speak.

The "second family" of whom Tursunov speaks consisted of long-time mentor Vitaly Gorin, whose father was friends with the Tursunov's in Russia. The pair trialled a one-month coaching partnership and 14 years later, Tursunov still trains at his Californian academy. This long and unique bond was boosted by Gorin's quick assessment of his young student, while he was clearly talented, he was also showing some obvious signs of early burnout.

"I had to stop practicing and go the Malibu raceway, go play video games," Gorin recounted to the New York Times in 2008. "With the amount of tennis forced on him, at some point, he would have broken and said 'Forget This.' I wanted to lighten the mood."

Gorin's sensitivity was especially important in light of Tursunov's isolation in his new country. He'd arrived with virtually no English skills ( he says he fine tuned his now near perfect grasp on it by reading comics and watching cartoons) and for a nine year period, saw his father three times and his mother just once.

Tursunov points out that he is not the only player who's made sacrifices to succeed on the ATP Tour, but also acknowledges that the long absence from his family ( he has a brother, Dennis, who is seven years older) permanently altered their relationship. "A lot of people seem to be really attached to their families, which I think is great, but I don't really understand it because I'm not that way," he says.

In fact, when Tursunov eventually returned home to Moscow as an accomplished professional almost ten years later, it was to a family that he barely knew. "It was really like meeting new people again for the second time. My mum just basically had to go through this thing where she still remembered what I was like and so she was acting with me, when I was already 22, like the way she would when I was 12.

"It was really just a very surreal experience because you know that they're your parents and you know that I'm their child but basically I don't know anything about them and they don't know anything about me."

As if those emotional hurdles weren't enough, Tursunov also endured some physical battles in his progression to professional success. While Federer can recall being intimidated by the junior Tursunov's massive groundstrokes, his chances to use them were seriously delayed when the Russian broke his leg shortly after turning professional in 2000.

Tursunov recovered to win three Futures events that year, but in 2001 he suffered a stress fracture in his back, with his recovery delayed by an initial misdiagnosis of a bulging disk. Tursunov was sidelined again when he suffered a second back fracture in a boating accident in 2004..

Action Jackson
06-05-2008, 08:27 AM
Second part.

Those painful periods, says Tursunov, cost "time and money" but his persistence was eventually rewarded with a breakthrough season in 2006, when he defeated Tomas Berdych to win his first career title in Mumbai. Recording a career high ranking of number. 20 in October that year. Tursunov has since added three titles to his record, including the Medibank in Sydney.

Believing that faster surfaces will provide his best chance to achieve major success, Tursunov will be eagerly eyeing his opportunities at Wimbledon later this month, which has provided both the biggest highs and lows of his Grand Slam career.

Tursunov achieved personal best results in reaching 4R in both 2004 and 2005 but was propelled into the headlines for the wrong reasons during a five set loss to Jarkko Nieminen in 2004. Dropping serve to give his opponent an 8-7 advantage in the fifth set, the frustrated hit a ball that flew towards chair umpire Fergus Murphy. Tursunov was given a point penalty and after surrendering both the game and the match commented. "If the guy's an idiot, the guy's an idiot. I'm gonna let him know that I feel that."

That assessment earned him a US $7500 fine, but Tursunov insisted he had no regrets for making it (pointedly Murphy was never scheduled to officiate a Tursunov match again). At the same time he has learned to channel his power more positively, one of his proudest achievements is being part of Russia's winning Davis Cup teams in 2006.

"It's not just a personal achievement, it's an achievement with the rest of your team- mates when you're part of something," Tursunov says. "At the end of the day you don't want to look back and say 'OK, I've done this for myself, that for myself, everything's for myself..... basically it means a lot more when you're part of something."

Tursunov laments that with six Russian men inside the top 100 and even greater representation among the WTA Tour, the success of the country's players can be taken for granted. "It's losing interest a little bit.... it's almost become routine. There's not that many fans coming out to the matches and the very few that are coming out are very dedicated, so I'm not sure if winning for us is all that great."

At the same time however, Tursunov can thank Davis Cup for helping him re-establish his Russian identity. While his accent is unmistakably American, he's also delighting in the opportunity to get to know his countrymen. " I think with some Russian guys I hang out a little bit more but that's been recent because we've hung out at Davis Cup," he says. "That was kind of just basically a thirst for Russian culture, because for a very long time I haven't really been speaking Russian, I've read some books, but that was it".

Tursunov concedes that the demands of the tour means he still spends little time with his family but relationships are steadily improving, especially with Dad, Igor, who left his position as an engineer at the Institute of Nuclear Research in Moscow to run a tennis coaching and inventory business some years ago. "My Dad was a bit more easy going in that he was more interested in my tennis and he was just very, very, tennis orientated. So for him, there was some sort of common ground, a common topic to discuss with him."

Just like his game, Tursunov's personality is a work in progress, which in many ways makes his behind the scenes blogs as intriguing as they are funny. "I think my blog really helped a lot of players to relax with the media and it was kind of like the first stepping stone for a lot of players where they realised that it's O.K for them to be themselves and be a little more relaxed, which is good because as a result, the fans started to see a little more of the personalities."

It's a comment that reveals a key quality to this highly complex Russian. He might come across as the crazy guy who rarely thinks beyond his next off the cuff remark, but being funny is actually a serious business.

Dennis works with his father
Svetlana ( Mum) works as an accountant

Interests; Electronic and dance music, sports cars, knitting ( allegedly) and collecting walnut shells.

Did you know? Tursunov, who excelled at school, has a natural talent for drawing and once dreamed of becoming an architect.

06-05-2008, 09:16 AM
insightful as usual

06-05-2008, 09:16 AM
dreamed about being an architect? Santoro is also an architect right?

06-05-2008, 09:20 AM
Wow. Thanks a lot for typing it out, much appreciated! :hatoff:

Ferrero Forever
06-05-2008, 09:27 AM
The Aussie Tennis mag is rather good. Always a nice insightful read without the hefty price tag

06-05-2008, 10:23 AM
Thanks so much for posting that - I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. If it's OK with you, I will copy it over to his Forum, as not many of us a regularly visitors to GM and it may get missed.

06-05-2008, 10:48 AM
The Aussie Tennis mag is rather good. Always a nice insightful read without the hefty price tag

all tennis mags are more expensive then other sports magazines

06-05-2008, 11:06 AM
Thanks for the article. I always felt Tursunov's calmness is sort of unnatural, at least to me he looked like a Sagitarius broken by life :o Leave his mom in the age of 12, live with strangers in a foreign country with no language, no money and no support, it's very hard and very tragic. All he had was tennis. Awful!

I hope he'll have more time with his family, that he'll go back to drawing and will try some writing, I really hope he'll start life after tennis.

Gorin, btw, is opening an academy in Astana and, later, in Almaty in close co-operation with Kazakstani Tennis Federation and Tarpishev.

Action Jackson
06-05-2008, 11:14 AM
Thanks so much for posting that - I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. If it's OK with you, I will copy it over to his Forum, as not many of us a regularly visitors to GM and it may get missed.

Go ahead.

06-05-2008, 11:21 AM
Go ahead.

Thanks :)

06-05-2008, 11:25 AM
Thanks for posting

06-06-2008, 06:24 PM
Thanks for the article....:)

Action Jackson
06-06-2008, 07:33 PM
It's an interesting interview and I remember people bitching about his lack of celebrations when he sealed DC ties for Russia on 2 ocassions.

It's not like an on switch and he is supposed to be funny regularly.

06-06-2008, 08:58 PM
Nice to see this side of him :)

06-06-2008, 09:03 PM
I like this guy a lot

ATP needs characters like Novak and him!!

06-07-2008, 08:30 AM

06-07-2008, 09:07 AM
good one aussie tennis mag... cant keep it light n fluffy all the time...

yeah, they always do some decent article... i remember cover stories with headlines like: 'The Two faces of Boris Becker' n stuff... and... yeah... the articles always delivered

Action Jackson
12-26-2008, 05:05 PM
good one aussie tennis mag... cant keep it light n fluffy all the time...

yeah, they always do some decent article... i remember cover stories with headlines like: 'The Two faces of Boris Becker' n stuff... and... yeah... the articles always delivered

When they bother to do an article, they are usually fairly well done and interesting Rafter is on board now.

Got to love it, here is a former MTF Bandwagon Player of the Year and now he is just there.

12-26-2008, 05:57 PM
Even though it's an old article, it's still an interesting read and not out-dated.

12-26-2008, 07:22 PM
Thanks for posting, it shows the sacrifices that young tennis players have to make. I read the thread with the article on the argentinian players who said similar stuff and it certainly shows you that some tough decisions have to be made. Personally, I cannot imagine sending a child away to a foreign country to live with strangers at 12 years old.