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Aircel Chennai Open 2016: Exclusive interview with Aljaz Bedene

The Slovenian-born Briton will take on Borna Coric in the semi-finals of the Aircel Chennai Open today.

Aljaz Bedene Great Britain
Bedene is to play Borna Coric in the semi-finals of the Aircel Chennai Open

Great Britain’s Aljaz Bedene put a stopper on Ramkumar Ramanathan’s run at the quarterfinals of the 2016 Aircel Chennai Open.

Bedene won 6-7(5) 6-4 6-3 in a 2 hour and 18 minute show.

The 26-year-old has been an excellent performer at Chennai every year. He is the last person to have beaten Stan Wawrinka in Chennai, doing it in his debut year in 2013 in the quarterfinals before he lost out to eventual champion Janko Tipsarevic in the semifinals. 

In 2014 he made the semis again; Wawrinka shut him out in straight sets in this one. And last year, of course, was his best showing ever as he reached the final, once again falling to ‘Stan the Man’.

Catching up with Bedene after the match, he told us that he didn’t expect the Indian to start so well.

“It wasn’t easy for sure. I wasn’t expecting him to play so well. But yes, he’s been playing really well and it was tough for me, but I wouldn’t say it was the toughest as I’ve had a few here. The crowd was on his side, which was quite interesting, especially at the end where I couldn’t finish, but yes, that’s what makes tennis great”, said Bedene.

The Slovenian-born ace, who now represents Great Britain, talked about how he is usually a slow starter, and that the three setter on Thursday against Luca Vanni did not have much of an effect on him.

“Not so much, I’m generally a slow starter. I showed it last year as well, this year again twice. I love to fight and if I get a chance to win I will try to take it,” he said.

He went on to explain what happened in the early going - “I just didn’t feel great. Till that point, 3-3, 15-40 in the second set he was the better player and I was struggling with myself, didn’t put good enough balls onto his side. Just wasn’t my best. Then when I got the break, decided to relax a bit and it went better from there.”

We asked if him that sort of ‘sparked’ him into action.

“Sparked yeah! I wasn’t in my action mode earlier (chuckles). It didn’t go as planned. Maybe he also going quite so strongly with his ‘come on’ helped me a bit”, Bedene quipped in reference to Ramanathan’s highly charged “come on” screams and getting the crowd worked up.

One thing that he is enjoying is that now thanks to his ranking, he doesn’t have to play qualifiers at events.

“It’s much easier to play when you are in the Top 50 as opposed to when you’re 100 plus or something. You have to come through qualifiers and that is one less thing to worry about now.”

On his switch to now playing with the Great Britain flag next to his name, Bedene replied, “It’s nice to have the GBR flag there now. I’d obviously lived there since about 2012. So it is like a way of giving back. There are great facilities there, great courts.”

Before 2012, Bedene used to travel a lot between Slovenia and London to catch up with family.

“When you are 18 and you are somewhere else, it is obviously difficult. And UK is not close to Slovenia. I used to get very homesick and I used to travel a lot, definitely wasn’t easy. Also my fiancée was living there. Then in 2012, I told her to move to the UK with me and that has now made things easier”, Bedene said about his travails from his younger days.

As for what 2016 holds - “I just want to enjoy playing tennis, stay fit, and improve my game. I don’t have any specific goals like last year when I wanted to get into the Top 50” – Bedene concluded, before signing off.

(Aljaz Bedene will play 8th seed Borna Coric of Croatia in the second semi-final later today)

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