Twenty-nine wins in 31 matches. It’s a run most players could only dream of.
For Jurgen Zopp, the dream has become a reality. The culmination of five years of hard work and dedication, Estonia’s most successful player is thriving once again in his bid to return to the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Amidst a litany of injury setbacks, including back ailments and an abdominal tear, Zopp struggled to find his footing after reaching a career-high of No. 71 in 2012. Confidence was low and consistent success was hard to find. But that all changed in an instant in July. Hovering just inside the Top 500, Zopp would produce a magical run.
Four consecutive Futures events resulted in three titles and a final finish and he would kick off the month of September with an impressive return to the ATP Challenger Tour, notching his first title in three years in Alphen, Netherlands. With two days of torrential rain testing players’ patience, Zopp claimed seven wins as a qualifier to lift the trophy. He defeated former World No. 5 Tommy Robredo in the final at the Tean International.
“I didn’t even expect to get to the semis,” Zopp said, reflecting on his title run in Alphen. “I just took it match by match. I had a tight first round in the main draw, and then won 7-5 in the third in the second round. It could have gone either way. If somebody had told me I would win that week, I wouldn’t have believed it, but when you keep trying and keep pushing yourself, you might get lucky. I think this is what happened. I have had the level to play with those guys, but many times things don’t come together. This time though it really worked out well.”
In total, the Estonian has amassed a 29-2 record over the past two months, culminating with a run the semi-finals at the prestigious Challenger stop in Szczecin, Poland just last week. Most importantly, his flurry of wins has also yielded a significant boost in the Emirates ATP Rankings, soaring nearing 300 spots to No. 194.
A speechless Zopp attempted to explain his staggering run.
“Five years ago, I got to the Top 100 and then I started struggling with my back injury. I was out seven months, and then I played five months off and on, and then I was out six months again. I was struggling pretty much for one-and-a-half years. Now I’ve been fine for almost three years, but this year I had a little tear on my abdominal.
“In July, I just started winning. To be quite honest, I can’t point my finger at something specific. I went to play a $25k Futures in Germany and I managed to win that week. I think that was the key, to win that first week.”
As the wins continue to pile up, Zopp is refusing to be complacent in his work ethic. With new coach and former Finnish player Kim Tiilikainen joining his team in July, he believes he is still striving to discover his top level. The Top 100 is within reach once again and the 29-year-old’s journey is far from over.
“He has been a good mental support and now knowing that I am not alone has helped also,” Zopp said about Tiilikainen’s impact. “We haven’t really tried to work or make something really better, but it is a better feeling when you are not alone traveling and you have someone who is responsible for you and taking care of you.
“This year it didn’t start off good because of injury, but it’s been getting better. Tennis isn’t about how you feel with your forehand, or how good you feel you are moving. Sometimes it is difficult to understand tennis. I think maybe if you ask my coach he would say I am playing close to the Top 100 level. I am beating the guys around there and these past weeks I definitely played at that level. We will see if I can keep it up the next six months or next 12 months. That is the key I believe.”
With the 2017 season nearing the end, returning to the Top 100 is a lofty goal, but one that Zopp will not back down from. However, all numbers aside, he plans to make the most of his hot streak as he goes to play in the ATP Challenger Tour events in Ortisei, Italy and Ismaning, Germany.
“[Top 100] is always the goal, but I try not to think about it too much, because when you think about the numbers too much it might affect you. In tennis, if you get too emotional and want something too much, the emotion might get in the way of your game and performance. I just try to do my job and play my level. We will see what happens.”