Robert Prezioso/Getty Images
Two years earlier, at 18 and in his first year as a pro, Dolgopolov was already inside the 200 before a slide in 2008 back to 470. The young player was troubled by a series of health and fitness problems, but he also had to resolve a less-than-perfect coaching relationship with his father.
Oleksandr Dolgopolov Sr. had played tennis for the Soviet national team and went on to coach Andrei Medvedev. His wife was a European gold medalist in gymnastics. With such genes and expertise behind him, it was little wonder that Dolgopolov Jr. took to tennis so early.
However, as the son advanced through his teenage years, the highly disciplined coaching approach of his father began to conflict with young man’s less than conventional playing style.
By 2008, something had to give and that was when Dolgopolov Jr. got his second helping of good fortune: Jack Reader.
The Australian joined forces with Dolgopolov at the start of 2009 and straight away they fitted one another like hand and glove. As Robert Davis observed in Deuce magazine in February, “The two men clicked.”
Dolgopolov explained it thus to Davis, “He is someone who respects your point of view…he is very communicative, but when we talk tennis he prefers to talk less and listen more.”
Reader was relaxed, a listener, a “reader” of his new charge. Rather than inhibit the young man’s unconventional approach to playing tennis, Reader worked with it, guiding Dolgopolov’s physical and mental development while allowing him the space to pursue his natural style.
He also started to scout opponents, feed back the information and let Dolgopolov play how he thought best. As he told Tom Perrotta in the Wall Street Journal, “My job is to tell Alex what they’re generally doing and what he can do to counteract it.”
Since the Umag win, Dolgopolov has spoken to the ATP about the relationship, “He helped me improve my head and made me play without injuries. That is very important. First of all we are good friends: It is not a mere coach-player relationship. So I’m happy with it!”
In fact words, when it comes to watching Sascha talk about his coach/friend, are superfluous. His face automatically breaks into a huge smile.