Interview with Nikoloz Basilashvili: "Those were difficult moments, but I don't regret it"

In a big interview with ,Nikoloz Basilashvili talks about his current condition, the importance of Jan de Witt in his career and how difficult it is to get to the top of tennis from a country like Georgia.

by Michael Rothschädl
last edit: Oct 06, 2022, 01:16 pm

Nikoloz Basilashvili in a big interview with
© Getty Images
Nikoloz Basilashvili in a big interview with

Good day Mr. Basilashvili. They just retired from the Astana ATP 500 event. Do you currently have any physical ailments?

Yes, I have a long term injury to my elbow which has become very serious lately. I underwent surgery about two years ago, but it has continued to affect me ever since. It was very tough. At the end of the year I will take a look again, maybe I will do another operation. We will see.

You've had a tough few weeks lately. Wimbledon was the last tournament where you could win two matches in a row. Is that because you weren't physically at 100%?

Yes, I'm definitely not at 100%.

It's a difficult situation for you at the moment, you will soon lose 600 points for your finals in Indian Wells last year (Note: Indian Wells was not played in the spring but in the fall last year due to COVID-19). Do you feel any pressure – especially considering that you are not 100% fit at the moment?

No not true. Because I know if I can get a grip on my elbow, serve freely and not have the injury to think about, I have a game to be at the top of the rankings. I have no problem falling down in the world rankings. The priority for me right now is getting a grip on my elbow – and slowly getting my confidence back.

Can you be more specific about the problem with your elbow?

It's on the right elbow - I used to have another problem on the elbow that was more bony - which is now called 'tennis elbow', which is a ligament problem. My complaints have to do with the ligament and the muscle. I haven't done an MRI for a long time, but I'll definitely check it out when the season is over to see exactly what's going on here.

They have been very successful at 250, 500 and even ATP Masters 1000 level. But at the Grand Slams you have only been able to reach a round of 16 once in your career. What do you think has prevented you from making it to the majors so far?

It's definitely something I don't like at all. I want to work on it. Playing Grand Slams is my number one priority. The problem was, when I started to climb up the rankings in 2018, that's when I started getting physical problems, like with my elbow. I underwent an operation, it took me a lot of time to come back. I'm not a player who skips tournaments when he's feeling down. I still play because the pain couldn't get any worse either way - whether you're playing or not. So I just keep playing tournaments and trying to get over the pain. I've had a very unstable career, I've had a lot of ups and downs, but like I said, I've had a lot of physical ailments. However, I will definitely try to have my best tennis available later. Because I think I have a lot more experience in tennis now, that I'm a completely different player now - I understand tennis a lot better now. If I'm able to be at 100% physically then I can play a very good level.

You've been particularly successful in Germany, where you've won three of your five ATP titles. Why do you feel so comfortable at tournaments in Germany?

I think that's just a coincidence. But I like playing in Germany because the conditions are a bit heavier. My shots, my balls, they don't fly that far, they stay in the field. But other than that, it doesn't really make a difference to me. In general, of course, I like playing in Germany. Everything is very well organized and it's definitely one of my favorite countries. Maybe that could be a reason.

You also worked with a German coach, Jan de Witt. However, there is currently no official coach in your ATP profile. Who are you currently working with?

Almost my whole team was from Germany. I had an extremely good tennis coach in Jan de Witt, who basically changed my entire tennis career – from being a rookie to being a professional. I had very good people around me, but I stopped working with Jan de Witt about a year and a half ago because we felt I wasn't in the best shape to need Jan's help. Maybe - I don't know - we could work together again in the future. At the moment I don't have a base. I trained for three years in Germany, in Halle, currently I'm mostly at home in Georgia or at tournaments. We'll see what the future brings.

You mentioned your home country of Georgia. It's a country with almost no history in professional tennis. How difficult do you think it is for players from countries like Georgia to get to the top of the sport?

It was very difficult, no question, because nobody in my family had any tennis experience. Also, Georgia is one of the countries that doesn't have a great tennis history, we don't have much infrastructure either. So it was extremely difficult: I moved to the US when I was 13. I trained there for eight years - and it was back and forth: sometimes I was in Georgia, sometimes in the USA. But mostly in the US. Then I moved back to Georgia when I was 22 years old. Then I essentially had to start my professional career from scratch. Because I was about 600th in the world, I wasn't playing really well, but then I started to really focus on myself. And then somehow I managed to break through from Georgia. That was pretty special.

In an interview a few years ago you shared a story about your father driving you to tournaments when you were young, sometimes even sleeping in the car there. How was it possible for you to keep up with young, really professional players in these difficult circumstances?

I've had a few moments like this because tennis takes a lot of resources in the beginning to become a pro. We didn't really have enough money in the family to be able to travel freely to the tournaments. And I had no other support. Those were difficult moments but I don't regret it - they were pretty good times. When I started working with Jan, I was already around 80th place, so it was much easier. But even when I was 80th, I had no idea what it was like to work professionally, to have discipline and all that. But from there, working with Jan pretty much changed everything.

In many other countries it's normal to have four or five strong players in one generation. I assume the situation was different when you were young. Were you raised as a lone wolf, so to speak?

I was definitely alone. I didn't have a coach until I was 24, so really, really late. I didn't have anyone. Jan was the first person who was really a coach, a mentor to me. But on the other hand I learned a lot during this time that I was alone and worked with and on myself. I'm definitely one of those players who care a lot about how they feel, how their body feels, what level they play. I'm very involved in these details because I've been alone for so long. This habit remains.

There is hardly a player who plays as heavy and as tight as you do. Do you use any special equipment, perhaps regarding your stringing?

No, I actually use much harder sides so my shots don't go as far. I don't know why I have so much power. Sometimes we have a problem controlling that power, sometimes I have a problem playing a little slower, calmer. I did a lot of fitness when I was younger, so maybe that helped me get really strong. I have very aggressive tennis, that's my game.

You are the only Georgian player in the top 500. How do you see the attitude towards tennis in your home country? Is there great interest in you?

Yes, I have a lot of fans in Georgia and people support me a lot. I obviously didn't have such a good last year, but I've come to terms with it. We will definitely try that I can play my best tennis next year. I have to find my best game, I know it's there. But yes, I definitely have very strong support from the people of Georgia.

You turned 30 at the beginning of the year, so that might be a good point to start making some goals for the last few good years of your career. What are your most important goals for the rest of your career?

I had very, very high goals for this year. It was very special for me to play in the Indian Wells final and I felt like I could play my game a little more calmly. Of course it was tough to lose the final because I won the first set and was 3-1 up in the second. But I had a very good feeling on court. The most important thing for me is to feel good on court and to be able to do my best. Anyway, I had some goals for this year, like being in the top 10, but it just didn't happen. Next year my focus isn't on specific world ranking positions or any tournament wins, my focus is on feeling good on the court, playing well and putting on the field what I want to put on the field. And then - if I can really do that - I can play really well and climb up the rankings.

Finally: Slowly but surely, the reign of the "Big Three" is coming to an end. At some ATP Masters 1000 events - Miami, for example - you could see that it was really very open and difficult to predict who would be could create a deep run and win the title. Do you think it will be easier to make the Grand Slam run or surprise in the big tournaments now?

I would say yes. Many players have a much greater chance of winning tournaments. Because I think Roger, Rafa and Novak were a generation that was super, super unique. They are unique players. Now that they are slowly retiring and getting older it is changing and many players have a chance to win a Grand Slam. That certainly makes it interesting, I'd say.

Thank you for the interview.

You're welcome.

by Michael Rothschädl

Oct 06, 2022, 01:02 pm
last edit: Oct 06, 2022, 01:16 pm