Tennisportalen have been fortunate to sit down with the 56-ranked doubles specialist Wesley Koolhof where the dutchman speaks about his adventures on tour. Koolhof shares everything from crazy moments during matches to why he is primarily focusing on doubles. Wesley also gives us an insight of the financial side on tour and lists the main differences between the Challenger and the ATP’s.
You are today ranked at 56th in the world in doubles and do not play as much singles as before. Are you primarily focusing on doubles or will you true to pursue your singles career as well? If so, please describe the difficulties on playing both singles and doubles on tour.
– When there is a possibility to play some singles I will for sure play it. Last year we did so well in doubles that there wasn’t an opportunity to play singles because of the final weekend and singles qualifying weekend overlapping. So that was a win-win situation.
– As I mentioned, because of the pre-entry into ATP singles qualifying it will be difficult for doubles players in general to play those matches.
You and Matwe Middelkoop are definitely one of the strongest doubles team on the Challenger tour and this year you also won your first ATP-title together after clinching the title in Sofia. What are the biggest differences in playing on Challenger versus ATP-level?
– There are a lot of differences between playing a challenger and an ATP-event. Maybe more than it should be! The biggest difference is of course the points and the money. Winning a challenger (winning 4 matches) equals a first round ATP-win sometimes. That’s a huge difference! There is also a big difference in organisation. Better hotels, better transport, better venues and most of the time free food at the ATP’s. You don’t have to spend any money there where on challengers there is no other way than to spend!
Your partner teamed up with Mikhail Elgin at this years Australian Open and you were on the list of alternates. How does the system work for doubles players at Grand Slams and is there some kind of a list that tells you how far you are from the tournament and who to play with?
– Yes! The cut this year was at 129, the highest in years. You sign up online and you can follow the list all the way to the deadline. A few days before the deadline you can kinda figure out what the cut will be, so then couples start splitting up and trying to beat the cut with someone else. So in the last days you see the cut going higher and higher.
What are the biggest struggles on the Challenger tour today? We hear about players who can’t afford long trips and shady hotels. How big of a factor is money at the low circuits of tennis and do you try to save as much money as possible?
– The biggest struggle is indeed the financial part. Futures and challengers are an investment which players have to make. It takes time and money to go through the whole future –> challenger –> ATP process. As a player you need some financial support from your parents, federation or sponsors to get you through that process! Once you have made it through to the ATP’s, you can start to make some money. Challengers are there for the points, ATP’s are there for the money!
Please describe the income/expenses during a normal week on a challenger.
– Most of the challengers these days have hospitality which is a good thing! On 90% of the challengers you do have a lot of expenses. Lunch, dinner, stringing and laundry need to be paid for! Roughly this is about €40 to €50 a day. So you need to qualify and win a round to make a few bucks, which of course is not easy to do.
There have been a lot of discussion in media recently about match-fixing in tennis and we can’t deny that it exists. How do you think we can prevent this from happening in our sport and is it something you players discuss?
– Yes, it’s a topic which receives a lot of attention, especially from the media. Some players are banned because of it so I won’t and can’t deny that it exists as you said. Gambling is getting bigger and bigger in the world and because tennis is an individual sport, it’s much easier to influence I think. With the prize money so low in challengers, players are more vulnerable to fixing matches. I don’t know what you can do to prevent this. I think it’s the betting itself. There will always be a difference in prize money and you can’t really change that so the only chance is to do something about the betting in general. Make it impossible to bet on futures or challenger matches, maybe work with a bet limit or something like that.
Something that is not discussed upon in media is the amount of hatred messages you guys receive on social media from angry bettors after losing a match. I guess you are not an exception?
– No! It happens on a regular basis unfortunately. Only when I lose a match, especially a close one, I receive some messages through Facebook and twitter! When I win a match on the other hand, and they make money because of me, you don’t here them! Not so nice [laughing].
Worst tournament/hotel experience you experienced on tour and weirdest thing that have ever happened to you during a match?
– I have never experienced a very bad situation while playing a tournament, obviously there are stories from other players who went to India or Senegal for futures and experienced some freaky stuff, but I have never played those tournaments. The weirdest thing happening to me during a match was in Israel a few years back where a missile was flying 300 meters above our court while we were playing. It got shot down from the sky by the Iron Dome (Israeli defence system). That was kinda cool and shocking at the same time!
Best player you have played against?
– During my single time I played against Daniel Brands in 2014. He was the first seed of ATP 500 Rotterdam qualifying at that time. I lost 7-6, 6-1. In doubles I think the highest player I’ve played against is Marc Lopez at this years tournament in Doha. I also played some matches against Herbert in singles and doubles and he is now ranked well inside the top-20 in doubles.
What are the goals for you and Matwe this season?
– Our goal is to reach top-50. In doubles things can change very fast so we might make top-50 in two weeks already. We are always looking and creating goals for the short term!