Karol Kucera

Karol Kucera is a well-known name in the tennis world. He‘s been ranked as high as 6 on ATP tour, reached Davis Cup final representing Slovakia and won Hopman Cup partnering Karina Habsudova. After retiring from tennis in 2005, Karol started to live his dream as a music star. Since 2008 he is back on the tennis courts sharing his experience with talented players in Slovakia.

Karol, we know that you've been working with Martin Klizan for almost 3 years,with Slovak Davis Cup team and also with some younger Slovak players trying to break through on the ATP tour. Which one (or few) of them do you see as most talented and why?

KK: When we split up with Martin Klizan after Wimbledon 2013 I started to work for Slovak federation in our National tennis center in Bratislava. We have a very good program for our best players in the country. Now we have 3 juniors: Alex Molcan ,Lukas Klein and Patrik Nema and 4 professionals: Patrik Fabian, Martin Blasko, Jozef Kovalik and Norbert Gombos. All the guys are working hard and we also have some of the best coaches in nation taking care of them. Recently, I have been helping Gombos and Kovalik. With Gombos just a couple of months and Kovalik about 2 years. But I´m also trying to have some influence on the other players. These are the best players we have and support at the moment in Slovak tennis center. Although, there are some other players with potential in the country and I wish them the best. We hope to get someone in to the top 100 to join Martin Klizan.

What are the most important attributes you would look for in a player in order to make it on the tour?

KK: Firstly you have to be prepared to work as hard as you can when you want to be a Top 100 player. Especially when you are not as talented as Federer or Nadal. It is also a must to be very ambitious. To set your bedtime early, or choose your priorities wisely. For instance, when you are at the party and you should leave, because you must get up early the following day.. you should not listen to your friends telling you that you are crazy. It is also necessary just to do your best whether you have to run wearing tracksuit and it is like 30 C outside and everyone is on the beach. Or, you just want to make some push ups in the corridor of the airplane on the way to Australia. All these little things, actions lead to something bigger. Key to success is just focus and very hard training. Professional tennis is a gladiators game and all you have to do is to work the whole day to survive.

Do you believe, that the player is born with the character of a champion or he can get there if he/she works hard?

KK: I am sure they can get there if they belive in themselves. They also need to love and be passionate about what they are doing. To push themselves forward. If you have a great talent, then it is perfect, nonetheless talent without hard work doesn‘t get you there. It is not enough. In my opinion, the most talented people in tennis are the ones who are able to work hard.

You've been a top 10 player and have plenty of experience. It is about 10 years since you retired. What has changed in professional tennis since you retired in 2005? Rules, surfaces, balls, equipment, players attitude...?

KK: Well, I think that the game, from generation to generation is a little bit faster. Besides it is a matter of a quality of equipment, especially the rackets. I would say that the rules, surface and balls are the same or a little different. For instance, we used to play „ The best of 5 sets tournaments“ in some finals and now it is easier. But there is a rapidly increasing challenge of concurrence. There is a huge competition in mens tennis. There are more and more players in the rankings, so obviously it is more difficult to reach a peak of these rankings. It takes more time and effort. You have to be more passionate and patient when trying to reach your goals. That is why we don´t see players such as Boris Becker winning Wimbledon or similar results when he was just 16 years old.

Slovakia is a small, mostly mountainous country with around 5.5 million citizens. It has developed top players such as you, Mecir, Hrbaty, Beck, Klizan, Lacko, Habsudova, Hantuchova, Cibulkova, Schmidlova…and even Belinda Bencic (100%), Martina Hingis (50%), has Slovak blood in them. What is so special about this place, so it regularly keeps bringing new players into ITF, WTA and ATP tour? System or natural talent?

KK: In my opinion it is all about the history and tradition. Also the way we (the coaches) are teaching and maybe our mentality is not bad for the game too. It´s important to keep our traditions. Above all, you need to have a good conditions to be capable to continue in our National Tennis Center. We hope, there will be someone to continue with our legacy.