There’s a lot to love about Sergiy Stakhovsky. Don’t believe me? Check out his fabulous website, his friendship and doubles partnership with Mikhail Youzhny, and his great ATP World Tour Uncovered video:
I was elated to get the chance to sit down with the eccentric and thoughtful Ukranian after his Second Round win over Andrey Golubev (6-2 4-6 6-4) here at the Winston Salem Open. He was just as charming and engaging as I hoped he would be, and even broke the news to us about his marriage and his new coach!
You had a tough match today but managed to pull it out. How are you feeling?
Well a win is always a good win so I’m satisfied with the result. I wouldn’t say I’m not that satisfied with the game I produced but I’m satisfied with the result.
You’re defending Championship points from New Haven last year. How does the change of venue from New Haven to Winston Salem effect you?
Well, it’s just changing the venue but the week it stays, you have good feelings for the week you played. Maybe different conditions, bit different courts. But you try to do your best.
So you can keep the winning feeling from last year?
Well I try to, yes. (Smiles)
You have a great record in finals, 4-0 in Singles Finals and 3-0 in Doubles Finals. What do you attribute that to?
I believe not many players can say that. I’m just quite lucky to have this record running.
Well it can’t all be luck…
I don’t know. Every single final I’ve played is completely different so I can’t really judge why does it happen that way, but I know that every time I’m stepping out on the court I’m trying to win. And thank God it happens so that I am capable of pulling the matches around and turning them if I’m losing and win in the end. I’d say it is sort of luck, and sort of determination.
A lot of players can’t handle their nerves during finals. Do you ever get nervous?
My first final I was very nervous. In Zagreb 2008 I was really nervous because it was indoors, I was playing Ljubicic , and it was about five and a half thousand people indoors, it was fully packed. Literally the first two games I didn’t hear the sound of the ball flying off my racket I was so so nervous. I mean, if I would lose those first two games, if I didn’t hold my serve, I would lose maybe two and three, but I was somehow able to keep my serve in. And then it changed. Then you start focusing more on the game than the people surrounding you and cheering. But definitely that was one of the most nervous situations I’ve had on the court.
So that was the most nervous you’ve ever been?
Absolutely, because I think I said before the semis I couldn’t sleep and before the final I slept like two or three hours and after the final I couldn’t sleep again. So you know, for your first time being in a final, winning a title, beating Ljubicic in a final, it was such an emotional rise for me that I couldn’t, I just couldn’t sleep. I was like on coffee nonstop. (Laughs)
How do you deal with nerves now?
Well now for me it’s a bit easier because you know age is different, you’ve been there, you know what it takes, you know that not always you can win because sometimes you play bad, and sometimes your opponent just plays much better than you. There’s many things around it but you just try to play your best tennis and you just try to show the tennis you want to show to the people that are watching. Because you know … tennis is a game that you play for people that are watching because it’s not- it is your life, but if you lose you don’t lose your life. You still go there, you still practice, and you move on. So for me I would say I’m a very happy person to have a wife that is supporting me and that’s my happiness in life.
Well officially we’ll get married in one month. Well we’ve done the church so basically we are married but we didn’t sign the papers.
When did you do the church ceremony?
Just the week before Wimbledon.
You play doubles a lot with Mikhail Youzhny. How did you two team up?
(Smiles and laughs) Well, that’s a good question. I’ve known Mischa for about six or seven years, I’d say seven years, but we’ve been really close friends for another three I think. I always (would) go to Mischa and ask him to play doubles because ranking wise I was in the 70s and I needed Mischa, if I play with Mischa I would get in more. But I know that Mischa doesn’t really, you know, focus on Doubles. He’s obviously focusing on Singles and Doubles is more as practice, and for me it was fine… if you don’t feel like playing Doubles or you’re injured and you need to focus on Singles it’s fine. For me it’s also better because you know I can do the same thing. So you know, I had a really great relationship with him, and I have a really great relationship with his coach Boris. His son is coaching me.
Boris’s son is coaching you? How did that come about?
Well I think that after last year at the U.S. Open I ended up having no coach. Because you know, circumstances, as you become more mature as a player you’re looking for a coach which you really trust. Unfortunately for me it happened that I was trusting more Boris than I was trusting my former coach. So Boris was helping me for some time with Mischa and then Boris’s son had a vacancy because he was coaching another junior and they broke up, so now Boris’s son is coaching me and I’m quite enjoying it.
Do the four of you hang out often?
Well you have to because you spend a lot of time together. It’s really nice, you know, spending time with people that I would say are intellectually, you know- we’re not coming and talking about tennis, we’re talking about different stuff- about politics, about other sports, about different situations, which is great because you educate yourself as well.
Other than Youzhny who are your best friends on tour?
I’m really good friends with Sergei Bubka. He’s playing Quallies right now (in the U.S. Open) and he just won his first round match. I’d say I spend most of my time with Youzny and Bubka and if I have my wife with me I spend most of my time with my wife. We’re also good friends with Victoria Azarenka because we’ve known each other since a long time ago. So, you know, not many. I don’t have many enemies but I wouldn’t say I have many good friends. (Smiles and Laughs).
You said at the beginning of the year your goal was to reach the Top 20 in 2011. You’re ranked 42nd right now, is that still is case?
Yeah, I mean, it was a good start of the season for me. I ended up not bad in Sydney and (made the) Third Round of the Australian Open- I had good chances to go into the Round of 16. Then Quarterfinals in Dubai. The season started really not bad for me and somewhere things didn’t work right, as I was expecting (them) to work. Maybe it was because of luck or because I just started to work with Boris’s son right after Wimbledon. So I didn’t really have a coach who would help me through this hard period before Wimbledon and during Wimbledon. So now the goal is still the same. There’s still many chances to do that and to do better but it’s just I need to find my game.
So Boris’s son has only been working with you since Wimbledon- do you feel more settled now?
Life is about changes and I hope this is my last and steady change with a coach because you know I believe that when people communicate and when you trust your coach you don’t lose your face that easy. But you really have to trust.
What are your passions outside of tennis?
Well now my head is (focused on) spending lots of time with my wife because we don’t see each other and we have to organize the wedding which is in less than one month, so that’s sort of my thinking. (Laughs).