By Kelyn Soong, special to EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com
The former world No. 13 talks about visiting Washington, D.C., his affinity for karaoke, the Olympics and more.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The nation’s capital finally got to witness the unorthodox style Alexandr Dolgopolov brings to the tennis court this week.
The second-seeded Ukrainian, who has a career-high ranking of No. 13, is playing in the Washington, D.C. tournament for the first time and is a fan favorite for his unique play and easy-going demeanor.
After battling through injuries and illness early this season, the 23-year-old Dolgopolov appears to be finding his game. He reached the semifinals in Croatia last month and will play James Blake in the quarterfinals of the Citi Open.
Despite his struggles on court, Dolgopolov always appears to be having a good time due to his unassuming attitude.
Visit his hometown of Kiev, and there’s a good chance you’ll find the world No. 25 singing karaoke with his friends. But right now it’s all business for Dolgopolov, as he attempts to win his first title of the year.
Q: This is your first time playing in Washington, D.C. What have you enjoyed most about this area?
A: Well, pretty much winning matches [laughs]. It’s a nice city. It’s clean. It’s something different from most of the U.S. cities. You don’t see big skyscrapers and… [there are] museums. Everything is comfortable, too.
Q: Have you been able to explore or go out in the city?
A: We were supposed to go to the Air and Space Museum, but yesterday I banged my foot. It was not too good to walk a lot today. We haven’t [visited] it yet, but maybe we’ll have a chance to do it later.
Q: You play James Blake next, and you beat him in your only match-up [New Haven in 2010]. How do you think you match up against him?
A: If I play good, I will have a good chance. I played well the first two rounds, but, of course, he’s going to be [a] more dangerous opponent. He can hit the ball well, and he moves well. So I have to make him uncomfortable on those shots and not let him risk too much and make too much winners.
Q: Who are you closest to on the ATP Tour?
A: I wouldn’t say I’m closer to some more than others. Probably the Russian guys because it’s easier with the language. But mostly I’m friendly with everyone, and we can have a talk every now and then.
Q: I saw the video of you rapping at the ATP Vegeta Croatia Open in Umag. It was pretty impressive.
A: We just had some fun there. We just decided to do it and thought it would be cool. I think it was nice.
Q: Do you perform other songs, or is that your go-to routine?
A: I have other songs. I sing karaoke when I come home to Kiev. Some rap songs, some not rap songs… Eminem, Coolio, Elton John, whatever. There are a lot of songs I do. Maroon 5. Russian songs. There are probably 30-40 songs I’ve tried. That’s just a hobby.
Q: We’re three-quarters into the season. Can you assess how your 2012 has been so far?
A: Well, I can’t tell you that because if you play one or two good tournaments it can change totally. It was up and down. I’ve had injuries. I can’t say it’s bad, but it was not where my goals were. I’m still working. I’m playing well now. Hopefully I’ll get some good results here in the U.S. Then afterwards I have a lot of tournaments to play. If I’m healthy and I keep up my form, then I think I can improve my season. We’ll see. For now, it’s average, I would say.
Q: You mentioned your health. You had injuries earlier this year, and you struggle with Gilbert’s Syndrome (a liver condition that often causes fatigue.) How are you feeling now?
A: I’m feeling great now. I had a little bit of a knee problem after the Australia Open. Then I got the flu, and then in Rome I got some illness with my stomach. It was always some small things, but [I] had to rest for a week or 10 days, so that’s a lot of points and tournaments. Now I’m feeling well. I’ve been playing good in Umag, I’m playing good now, so hopefully if nothing disturbs me or happens, I’ll be just getting better.
Q: Who were your idols growing up?
A: I wouldn’t say I had one. I was not an idol person. My Dad was probably the person who gave me the most in life. He was teaching me tennis, he was teaching me off-court, but I wouldn’t say I had one particular idol.
Q: If you could play one sport in the Olympics that wasn’t tennis, what would it be?
A: That’s a tough question. I don’t know. I’ve never thought about that. I’ve played tennis since three, so I never thought about other sports. I don’t want anything else [laughs]. I feel good in tennis.