Malek Jaziri is choosing to take the positives out of his Australian Open experience following his third round defeat to Nick Kyrgios and says he’s targeting the top-50 this season.
The Tunisian, who became the first player – man or woman – from his country in the Open Era to reach the last 32 at a grand slam, will rise to a career-high of around 65 in the world rankings after the action concludes in Melbourne.
The 31-year-old fell to Kyrgios 6-3, 7-6 (6), 6-1 in a close encounter that saw both players receive medical treatment for injuries.
He was making his grand slam third round debut and is hoping this bodes good things for the future.
“Let’s take it in a positive way, it’s a good start for the year for me. I feel 2015 is going to be my year,” said Jaziri before signing off from Melbourne Park.
Jaziri was being coached by Wimbledon legend Goran Ivanisevic this week in Melbourne after the Croat volunteered to help out in the absence of his actual charge Marin Cilic, who is injured.
Ivanisevic was proud of the way Jaziri played but admitted that Kyrgios’ serve was exceptional.
Jaziri agrees: “He was serving very good. He was mixing a lot the serve. He was serving T, then he changed, he served body, so he mixed it up a lot. It’s not easy to read it. His percentage of the serve was very high. It made the difference.
“I wish I could win today. I tried to do my best. I had a small injury in my hip, but I didn’t want to stop, I wanted to continue to play. It wasn’t easy, it was painful, but the doctor gave me some anti-inflammatory and I continued.
“I didn’t even practice on Margaret Court Arena. I went straight to my match. First time for me to play on a big court here in Melbourne. It was okay, but you know…
“He played good, he’s really motivated, he’s playing at home. For me making the third round is still good. I prefer to focus on the things that I should have done and work on them more and take the positives from this good experience.”
Still, the Tunisian rued his missed chances in the second set, where he led 4-0 in the tiebreak before allowing Kyrgios to storm back and take it.
“Sure if I had won the second set it could have been totally different. At one-set-all, you start to think, maybe I can have more confidence, I get more belief to win,” he admits.
He said Ivanisevic’s advice was simple, he told him to “play, have fun, enjoy” and Jaziri says he did just that. He feels he is ready to compete consistently at that level and is hoping to keep rising in the rankings.
He will have to recover quickly from his hip problem though as his upcoming schedule includes ATP tournaments in Montpellier, Memphis, Delray Beach and Dubai in back-to-back weeks.
“Hopefully if I enter the top-50, I can play exclusively on the ATP tour and not go back to the Challengers,” he says.
One thing Jaziri must solve soon is his coaching situation. He works with Serbian Dejan Petrovic but only when he is in the United States, which means he flies solo everywhere else.
Jaziri is yet to figure out whether hiring a traveling coach or a traveling fitness trainer would be more beneficial for him but he plans on settling on these decisions soon.
“I need to believe more,” he says. “When you come from a small country like Tunisia, no tradition, no culture of tennis, it’s tough to explain to people about tennis. This will give me a lot of confidence for the future, to believe more in myself, to make me work harder.”