“Wimbluddon.” It is unmistakably Martin Simek on the other end of the line. With his Czech accent, the 71-year-old Dutch radio, television and theater personality talks a lot about his greatest love: tennis. “I’m just looking at trees and tennis.”
Today would start in London Wimbledon, but because of the corona virus the world’s most famous tennis tournament canceled. Simek is disappointed, because the former tennis coach knows firsthand that Wimbledon requires something extra from the players.
Simek: “I know, I say ‘Wimbluddon’, that’s wrong. It’s because of my brothers. That’s what they used to call me when I was little. They had to laugh at me because I was so in love with tennis. Out of nostalgia and reverence I keep saying it wrong for my brothers. “
I said “no” to Lendl. Absurd right? Schapers still blame me.
Despite his fanaticism, Martin Simek never kicks up as a professional tennis player, he does become a coach on the ATP Tour. His most famous pupil is Michiel Schapers, who he guides to the 25th place in the world rankings in the 1980s.
In the 1990s, Simek steadily exchanged the tennis world for the media world. “Otherwise I probably would have trained at the highest level now. The people I interacted with were Riccardo Piatti, Marián Vajda and Günter Bresnik.”
Piatti has worked with Novak Djokovic and on occasion with Roger Federer, Vajda is now coach of Djokovic and Bresnik trained Dominic Thiem. “Piatti used to say, ‘Martin, can I write down what you say?’ I never thought I would be proud of that afterwards. “
Simek for the first time at Wimbledon
Simek’s first time at Wimbledon is in 1983 with Schapers. “I enjoyed it a lot. Michiel had once been there with his parents and never thought he would ever play there. We would be eating sandwiches there after training. Then I thought: shit, this is amazing!”
The longer Simek talks, the more his memory comes alive. The conversation can hardly be called an interview, because questions are unnecessary. Without an introduction, anecdotes and arguments follow in rapid succession.
“Okay, the first time Michiel Ivan Lendl met was at the Rotterdam tournament. As a journalist I made a story with Lendl. At the end of the week I took Michiel to train secretly. Lendl saw me and asked if I wanted to play him in I said, well, play with my student. “I’ll see,” said Lendl. He stretched, looked at Michael, then said in Czech. “I’d rather play with you.”
“A few years later, Michiel lost to Lendl in five sets at Wimbledon. He then looked me up.” I got it all wrong. Would you like to come to Cincinnati with Michiel for seventeen days? ” I said no, I’d rather go back to my house in Italy. Absurd right ?! Michael still blames me. “
Technology is everything at Simek
Of the current players, Federer Simek hits the most, because he technically controls all strokes. “At Wimbledon they slowed down the track and the balls. If they hadn’t, Federer would have won until the age of 50.”
“For me, Wimbledon is important because it is grass. The ball bounces there differently, it stimulates players to work on their game. An extra technical challenge. And I love technology. If you are technically perfect, you are only free. “
Simek is so convinced that technology has to be perfected that he does not let his tennis sons of 16 and 14 play matches yet. “Yes, it is a bit laughable because they have been playing since they were ten years old. But you can also train outside the court to become competitive. With tug of war or something.”
Tactics, dealing with pressure, that’s all for later. First the technique has to be good. “My boys are my last hobby. There are few things that Federer can do that my oldest cannot. Out of ten things go wrong eight times, but he can do it.”
“Yeah, shit. Now I get furious’
Simek prefers to look at Stefanos Tsitsipas from the new generation of top players. “I want to see everything about him. He continues to have technical gaps, but I have hope in him. Someone from the talent of Federer but also Nadal. He was also trained incorrectly by his uncle. Nadal is a racehorse trained as a draft horse. “
And bad boy Nick Kyrgios? “Yeah, shit. Now I’m getting furious. That boy is destined to become number one. He enters the circuit and defeats all the top players in their first meeting. And what does he do? He’s frightened. Fear of the confrontation.”
“Kyrgios has to take a deep breath and give in to his fears. We all have to do that in life. Don’t be the clown and look for excuses to lose. Such a shame for tennis.”
Then Simek takes a deep breath himself. “Well, I don’t know anything anymore. I screwed your ears off.” Suddenly there is silence on the other side of the line, just like these days on ‘Wimbluddon’.