Wally Masur is Tennis Australia’s performance director and one of the game’s most astute analysts. Men’s Health found him trading forehands with 12-year-old protégé Jeremy Jin, who’s headed to Paris for the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament, beginning June 1. It seemed like a good time to elicit Masur’s thoughts on the tennis year ahead – as well as a tip or two on how you can lift your game.
Men’s Health: Who’ll be the dominant male player in 2017?
Wally Masur: If it’s a fast court, it’s Roger [Federer]. If it’s a clay court, it’s Rafa [Nadal]. Rafa’s just won his 10th Monte Carlo and Barcelona titles. If he wins the French, that’s 10 French. That’s an incredible year he’s putting together. There’s a good crop of younger players – and Nick Kyrgios is one of them – that sits slightly below the form two, but they’re not far away. Meanwhile, Novak [Djokovic] and Andy [Murray] have dipped, but I would expect at some point in the year they’re going to kick back into gear, because you don’t forget how to be a great player. It could be they’re victims of their own success: it’s possible they’re exhausted, mentally more so than physically.
MH So come September, could Federer have another one – even two – major titles to his name?
WM I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t see Roger winning majors anymore, and he just proved me wrong in Melbourne. And that win seems to have given him an incredible boost. Like we saw with Andre Agassi and even Pete Sampras, there’s this Indian summer to their career. They’re starting to lose their dominance, but here’s Roger doing incredible things. I’d be reluctant to say he can’t win another Wimbledon or US Open.
MH How far is Nick Kyrgios ready to go this year in the majors?
WM Well, at Wimbledon, I think he’s ready to go a long, long way. He’s very capable of semis or better. The challenge for Nick is to find the rhythm of a slam, to find his best tennis in the second week.
MH Do you think he’s turned a corner mentally?
WM Yeah. I was very, very impressed with him in the last Davis Cup against tie against the US. In essence, he’s our marquee player. That means pressure on his shoulders. He’s got Australia on his back. Against John Isner in the third set, watch Nick’s last five points of the tiebreak. Unbelievable. He just stepped up. We all knew he had these gears to go through. Now I’m seeing that poise you need under pressure.
MH Are you starting to lose hope that great things lie ahead for Bernard Tomic?
WM Look, I get amused: the blueprint to be a good tennis player is not complicated. And there is no secret. Everybody in the game knows what’s got to happen. So Bernie’s a good player; we know that. It’s just a question of getting everything right: good people around you, the right training volume, a good schedule and being totally dedicated to your profession. Bernie’s reached a point where he hasn’t been playing well; he’s lost a bit of confidence. But he hasn’t forgotten how to play. And he knows exactly what to do.
MH What’s the best advice you could give to the weekend player?
WM I liked this quote I heard from Peter Senior, the golfer. He said, “When I’m playing well, I ease up a little bit. When I’m playing badly, I go to the practice range and hit balls until I’m playing well again.” If you’re battling in an area, just keep putting yourself in that situation. Discussing an on-court problem doesn’t fix it. You’ve got to live it. Do it again and again and again.
MH For the player who’s not 21 any more and doesn’t move as well as he once did, what’s your advice?
WM I always think the middle road is best. You don’t want to be excessive. I get nervous when I watch CrossFit and F45. The key to longevity is to use it or lose it. So keep ticking along, but within reason. Don’t go on diets – just be moderate with what you eat. And keep doing something. It doesn’t have to be the world’s best performance. I’ve got a few problems stemming from tennis – some arthritis – but if I stop and do nothing, they get worse.