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Dmitry Tursunov guides Anett Kontaveit through fall surge and towards Top 10 goal
"I enjoy acting like an idiot," says the former ATP player, "but I really know what I'm talking about."
Published Oct 11, 2021
WATCH: Kontaveit dispatched Olympic champion Belinda Bencic en route to her third career title in Ostrava.
Anett Kontaveit began her coaching collaboration with Dmitry Tursunov with a first-round defeat at Cincinnati, taking her to a five-match winless streak.
Since then, she's been on a roll, winning her second and third career titles at Cleveland and Ostrava, and in between reaching the third round of the US Open.
According to Tursunov, Kontaveit hasn't changed her game but rather the way she's using her game—one of the things he's emphasized since coming on board.
"She's a bit more aggressive, and I think that's a kind of built-in trait. I felt she has this internal aggression in her game, suppressed in some way and that's what I felt she should tap into," he told Tennis.com at Indian Wells. "So, I wanted to bring that aggressive Anett on court more, and just work on the things that can give her the confidence to be aggressive.
"If you try to be aggressive but don't have anything that supports it, you just get erratic and hit balls into the back fence."
Noting that Kontaveit prefers competition rather than practicing, he has looked to add fun in their training sessions and not spend hours simply hitting.
Following her title win in Ostrava, an exhausted Kontaveit, 25, withdrew prior to her second round at Chicago. As a player, Tursunov never liked stopping because of injuries, but backs it as a coach.
"Sometimes when you have a little injury, it can lead to something more serious," he noted.
It's also part of Kontaveit’s larger goal of entering the Top 10 in the rankings. The Estonian currently sits No. 20 in the rankings and reached a high of No. 14 in 2019.
"If she's telling me she wants to be Top 10, I'm not going to be focusing on winning another of these 250 tournaments, which are not the ones which really help your ranking," Tursunov said. "I'm not going to focus just winning this match today at all costs. I'm going to focus on building the game to allow her to compete at that level."
Still, he's pleased with their immediate success, saying it gives players more confidence in following the guidance of a coach in other areas—"Nutrition, fitness, decisions that down the road can backfire. You want to think long term."
While Tursunov is reluctant to take a lot of credit for Kontaveit's surge, he's also gained confidence as a coach. Since retiring, the Russian has coached Elena Vesnina, Aryna Sabalenka and now Kontaveit.
"I'd like to think this is a big part of why I'm here, but it's not up to me to decide," he said. "I feel like I'm doing a good job. I used to be afraid of saying that. I act like an idiot and sometimes I enjoy acting like an idiot, but I really know what I'm talking about and I'm passionate about it.
"I feel like there's a lot of players who could improve and they're not improving."
But like his players, he's still working on his skills.
"When you're a player, you control everything," said Tursunov. "And here, you need to have the other person agree with the process, and you have to find better ways of communicating and getting your point across. And, of course, players are quite sensitive—they're one of the best in their fields. It's about showing them they have room to improve.
"A lot of it is psychological stuff. It's also a learning process."
Kontaveit is the 18th seed at Indian Wells, and plays 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu in the third round.