Why Tallon Griekspoor prepared for the US Open (and Novak Djokovic) on clay | ATP circuit

Around the same time last week, Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor had resigned himself to missing this year’s US Open because he was unable to secure a travel visa. On Thursday, he will face world No.1 Novak Djokovic in the second round.

“It’s really crazy. It’s gonna be really, really hard. It’s probably the biggest challenge in tennis right now, playing Novak on hard court, ”Griekspoor told ATPTour.com. “But on the other hand, it will probably be on Ashe, which is the biggest tennis stadium in the world. This is why you practice like a child. This is what you dream of. It’s going to be really tough, but I’m going to enjoy it a lot. “

The 25-year-old said he had struggled for a visa for nine months in what he called a “terrible” dilemma. It was the first time he had won a direct entry into the main draw of a major tournament, and he wasn’t going to be able to play.

“The answer was simply, ‘No, you can’t.’ There were problems with the embassy in Holland [because of] Covid. There just wasn’t the time, ”Griekspoor said. “Last Monday, I decided, ‘Let’s go, we’ll train on clay.’ Tuesday and Wednesday, I trained on clay. On Thursday I got an email from the USTA and they fixed the issue so I was good to go.

That day, the world No.121 rushed into a flight and arrived in New York at 11 p.m. “It was already a victory for me to be here,” he admitted. Despite the surprise trip and the quick surface change, Griekspoor beat Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff in five sets on Tuesday for his first main draw win of a major tournament.

During this interview, the Dutchman watched his next opponent, Djokovic, play Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune on a nearby screen.

“[I respect] the way he’s been at the top for so long. Rafa and Roger were there and he just came and practically destroyed all of the tapes in the book, ”Griekspoor said. “The guy has been so strong over the years, he’s been so good for so long. He’s just a legend of the game. It’s going to be very hard, but very exciting too.

Tallon Griekspoor “/>
Photo credit: Andrew Ong / USTA
Griekspoor has been working for this moment since he started playing tennis at the age of six. Her twin brothers Scott and Kevin, who were 12 at the time, were taking lessons and Tallon was accompanying them.

“I was just walking around, a little boy with a racket. This is how it started for me. From that point on I don’t remember much, ”said Griekspoor. “But I remember a lot when I started playing Futures after juniors. My brothers were also playing Futures, so it was really nice to travel with them and hang out with them.

Scott climbed the career-high FedEx ATP rankings to No. 205 and Kevin reached world No. 655. Both are now retired.

“They come sometimes and still follow him a lot and I actually miss them on the Tour, because it was pretty cool to have them around. It’s cool to have friends, but it’s even cooler to have your family, especially brothers who were playing, ”said Griekspoor. “I’ve always had two guys to look up to, six years older. They were much better and stronger than me back then, so I really enjoyed that.

Griekspoor’s family wasn’t just into tennis, however. Although his mother Monique was a tennis instructor, his father Ron was a motocross rider.

” I have not done [motocross] as much myself. I did it for fun. The other side of my family, my nephews, they do it professionally. In the family it’s tennis and motocross, ”said Griekspoor. “Almost every weekend when it’s on, I watch it. It’s just a part of my youth. I grew up with it and I really, really love it.

The 25-year-old is also a huge Formula 1 fan and one of his heroes is Max Verstappen. Formula 1 and motocross are both exhilarating, just like Griekspoor loves it.

“I’m looking for the advantage a lot. I really like this kind of sports, ”said Griekspoor. “But on the other hand, I also really like tennis.”

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Griekspoor has surpassed the achievements of his two brothers and this has been the best season yet. The Dutchman is tied at six for most ATP Challenger Tour titles on the tour with three, and he climbed to 105th in the world of his career in July.

At Wimbledon, Griekspoor first qualified for the main draw and then faced Alexander Zverev in the first round on court 1. It was a special experience for the Dutchman, who beat the former world number 3 in 2018. Stan Wawrinka in front of his fans at home in Rotterdam. But he has never competed in a setting like Arthur Ashe Stadium, where he will face Djokovic on Thursday night.

“This one is a lot bigger so that’s what it is,” Griekspoor said. “You just need to take the time to get used to it and I hope I’m not overly impressed and be ready to play my game as soon as possible.”

A week ago, Griekspoor was disappointed at home thinking he wouldn’t make the trip to Flushing Meadows. He wasn’t even training on the same surface where the last major of the season is played. Now he’s ready for the biggest game of his life.

“I really like playing the big guys on the big courts. It’s such an honor to play these guys. They won’t be here for that long, ”said Griekspoor. “That’s why you practice. This is why you play tennis. That’s why I play tennis: playing on the big courts against the legends of the game. I can’t wait to be there.

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