Igor Sijsling: Pride of Amsterdam --Steve Fogleman, TennisEastCoast.com
On the ATP website, there is only one professional tennis player who indicates that if he wasn’t playing tennis, he’d probably be a bartender. Naturally, I had to interview the man. At 24 years old and ranked #112 in the world, Igor Sijsling (SICE-ling) beat Jarkko Niemenen in 54 minutes last month on his way to the Quarterfinals at the UNICEF Open in Den Bosch. On Tuesday, we spoke at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport right after he had stepped off Center Court following a loss to #2 seed Kei Nishikori.
What happened out there with Kei today?
I was up and down. I wasn’t serving that well, and when you’re not serving well against a guy like Kei, who’s a good returner, it’s going to be a tough match. I was down the whole match and came back to equal. Then he took it over again. I’m not really satisfied with my game, but I fought, and that is what’s important.
What other sports have you played?
In Holland, almost everybody plays Soccer. I like other sports too, like Basketball. I went to ballet lessons when I was three years old. My mother put me in there for one week, and then I figured out there’s only girls over there, so I didn’t want to go back.
I understand that injuries cost you some time away from the game?
Yeah, I’ve had my fair share of injuries, but I think it comes with playing sport at the highest level as an athlete. It’s just very tough on your body.
Tell me about your coach and that epic chess match you played with him on Monday.
My coach is Joaquin Munoz from Spain. I’ve been working with him this year and I’m really enjoying it so far. Yes, it was the end game. So it was the final stages of the match. It was very close. I just beat him. On tour, we play a lot of chess and backgammon. We like the board games.
How did it feel to watch the Wimbledon final with Federer and Murray in the player’s lounge here in Newport?
I was enjoying the match. Roger was playing at his best level. Murray had his chances in the second set to get to him, but he didn’t take it and Federer stepped up.
You just made a run to the Quarters in Den Bosch. Any thoughts on your success there?
That felt good. It’s always nice to play in front of your own country. Yeah, I played a good match and a good tournament there. It was good.
What’s it like to grow up in a place like Amsterdam as a young athlete?
I’m used to Amsterdam. I can’t really compare it to other cities. I really enjoy it there. I had tennis education with a normal school education and then I did tennis at a private club in Amsterdam. When I was done with high school, I started playing with the Dutch Federation, in Aalsmeer, so I moved out of Amsterdam and went there.
What about the news that the Dutch Parliament is considering raising the national drinking age from 16 to 18?
Wow. I’m not really involved in those decisions. I don’t know if it should go up, but if you drink a lot it’s dangerous. People should be careful with it.
What about the new national policies banning foreigners from Amsterdam’s famous “coffee shops”? Has it had any noticeable impact on nightlife there?
Not that I’ve noticed. I’ve heard that as a foreigner it’s tougher to get your “pot”. (Laughs)
Now, I don’t specialize in drugs. I don’t use drugs. But I haven’t seen a big change in Amsterdam in the last year.
I hear you’d be a bartender if you weren’t a pro tennis player. Is that true? A Bartender in Amsterdam’s nightlife scene?
It’s vibrant! You can have a good night and for young people it’s a great place to go out and bartenders do very well. Yeah, if I wasn’t playing tennis, I think I’d enjoy that life.
What would be your signature drink?
Maybe the Mojito!
Next stop on the Tour for Sijsling is the Granby Challenger before he heads off to Los Angeles for the Farmer’s Classic.