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Philippoussis Hails Stockholm Setting

Mark Philippoussis is a regular fixture on the ATP Champions Tour. © Getty ImagesMark Philippoussis is a regular fixture on the ATP Champions Tour.

Speaking during Kings of Tennis by Index Residence in Stockholm, Australian Mark Philippoussis talks about his Champions Tour training, the potential of Nick Kyrgios, along with the resurgence of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

How have you found your first experience in Stockholm?

It’s a beautiful city. When I came off the plane, it was already snowing. For me that is a beautiful thing because I live in San Diego, so I haven’t seen snow for a while. I’m drawn to the water, drawn to the ocean, so to be in a city surrounded by water is a beautiful thing.

Robin Soderling returned to the court for doubles in Stockholm. What was your take on that?

I played doubles against him. It was a lot of fun. It was awesome to see him back on court again. It was such a shame what happened to him. He was playing some of this best tennis amongst the top in the world when he got sick. It wasn’t easy for him. But having a family and starting his business I’m sure made things slightly easier.

How often do you pick up a racquet and train?

I don’t play as much as I should do, but I do something physical every day, whether it's in the gym or surfing. I watch what I eat and I like to stay in good shape, so if I get the call to play, then I’m good to go.

If I wasn’t playing in these events, I wouldn’t be picking up a racquet. I’ll get on court two or three times a week for 45 minutes tops if I'm training for an event, but I really enjoy competing again. I just can’t get excited about practising.

Nick Kyrgios has had some big results, what do you expect in 2017?

We know the talent he possesses. With the weapons he has, it doesn’t really matter who steps on court against him. I feel he’s in a position where the ball is always on his racquet and it’s always his to lose. For him to be serving huge takes a lot of pressure off, he can feel more free and go for a lot more of his shots. Being able to serve out of tight situations is a massive advantage to have.

Which young Australians stand out for you as potential top players?

“Thanasi Kokkinakis is the one in my mind. He has the full package with a big game, a strong work ethic and he’s mentally strong. His weapons aren’t as powerful as Kyrgios, but he’s got amazing groundstrokes, a huge forehand, and he moves very well.

He’s very strong considering his age, but unfortunately he’s been plagued by injuries and has been out for a good part of a year-and-a-half. I wish him a speedy recovery as I felt last year was going to be his major breakout year. It’s a shame, but if he can stay healthy, I think he can be the one pushing Kyrgios.

What impact can Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt have on the Australian players?

I imagine the guys have a lot of respect for Lleyton for what he brings to the table and what he has done in the game. They need to respect him as a player and a person. I think it’s very important to have both as a mentor. These days, the young guys need support off the court. Tennis is fully international now and players get put into the spotlight very early, especially with all the technology and social media. The world has become a very small place, so they need help with approaching these different situations.

Which of the #NextGenATP players have caught your attention?

(Alexander) Zverev. I’ve been incredibly impressed by his work ethic and his mental side of his game. That match against Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open (Nadal won in five sets in the third round). He was cramping, but he was fighting and giving everything. It was great to see. He earned a lot of respect from the players and the public for that performance, they really appreciated what they saw.

He’s got a great head on his shoulders, huge game and works very hard. He seems to want it and looks very focused. He leads the way for the next generation at the moment.

Have you been surprised by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s resurgence in 2017?

No, you can’t be surprised with those guys, with what they’ve done in the game and who they are. Firstly, it was awesome having them back on the court in a final because they’re such bastions of the sport. They’re so well supported on and off the court. The way they carry themselves off the court, giving so much time in press conferences, to the fans and in interviews, they’re very professional and very polite.

Secondly, these guys have worked incredibly hard. They never stop wanting to improve, which is incredibly impressive considering what they have already accomplished in their careers.

Nadal is just an animal, so you can’t be surprised. Federer being away for six months could have been the best thing for him. It was a rare time for him to be able to recharge the batteries. Having two sets of twins can’t help! To be able to turn off and get away from tennis for a bit must have helped. He came back at the Hopman Cup and I was so impressed. He was so relaxed on court, enjoying his time, hitting and moving so well.

None of it was a surprise for me. In Australia, we got the perfect ending to a Grand Slam. The match went way beyond the hype. It was incredible. It was very inspiring for many reasons.

What was your secret weapon on and off the court?

I would have to say my serve. I was sometimes a slow starter. I’d still be in the locker room with everything else, but my serve kept me in a match a lot of the time if I wasn’t there mentally or physically.

Off the court, I wish I had picked up surfing a lot earlier because it’s my meditation. Once I started, I knew I’d be doing it as long as I possibly could.

Related Topics:

Stockholm, Off Court

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