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Noah Rubin’s “Behind The Racquet” with Mikhail Kukushkin • Tennis | 10sBalls

Editor’s note: 10sBalls thanks Noah Rubin for giving us permission to repost these great stories.

“I started to play tennis at the age of six. My father was a tennis coach. He brought me on the court when I was young, and he coached me until I was 17 years old. 

My family didn’t have a lot of money, so I didn’t have a lot of opportunities because I was in a small-town, nothing else to look for — I was always playing tennis. I had just one dream to be a good tennis player. Until I was 17, I was not sure if I was able to go all the way. I was not sure of myself because I didn’t have enough support. Then of course, when I reached the top 200 in the world, I understood that I could be a good player.

When I started to travel to the futures and challengers, I couldn’t take my father as a coach. I was always traveling with no coach and struggling financially. It was a lot of pressure on myself because I knew I had to play well, otherwise all the sacrifices that my parents made throughout my career when I was young, it was for nothing. I had some pressure. Of course, I am happy that I managed to get through. When Kazakhstan came with a proposal to play for them, it was a good step forward for me. I got help behind my back, I got support, and I was finally able to concentrate on my tennis.

I had one situation, 2018 — I got divorced that year. It was a tough one. It was a really tough time for me, a lot of fights and a lot of conversation with lawyers and stuff like that, a lot of pressure. Some days, some weeks I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. It was a tough time for me. I remember I went to the ATP and entered a grass court without any preparation. Came from Moscow and I went all the way to the semifinal.

I remember before, my manager was like, “Okay, whatever. I don’t care about the result.” I was happy that there was something that could help me for a couple hours to forget about the problems. I made incredible tournaments beating a great player. At the end of that year, I have one of my best results. For once, it was a tough period of my life. At the same time, in tennis, I had a lot of good results because I went through a couple hours to forget about all my problems. 

When I was in tournaments, of course, practice and playing matches were different. When I played matches at that time, of course, you concentrate on the tennis. For the duration of the match, you forget about everything, about all your problems. I really liked playing matches at that time because you forget all these problems, but at the same time, practicing was also not easy because it still remembered all these problems.

It was a difficult time with tennis as well. Sometimes I just didn’t want to go to practice. In the end, I believe, when I see that I was still struggling mentally at that time and I had a lot of good results,  these kinds of things really helped me afterwards. I started to believe more in myself that I still resolve these problems, I’m still a good player.”

Mikhail Kukushkin @kukushkin_mikhail)


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