He is responsible for the physical condition of Croatia’s best tennis players, including Marin Čilić, Ivo Karlović and rising star Ana Konjuh. Slaven Hrvoj joins Croatia Week for ’60 Seconds With..’ from Australia where he is preparing Croatia’s prospects for the Australian Open...
Slaven, how did you get into becoming the physical conditioner for Croatia’s best tennis players?
I specialised in physical preparation of elite athletes at the Faculty of Kinesiology in Zagreb. While I was doing my last year of studies, I got the opportunity to volunteer at a tennis academy in Zagreb. Fortunately I had some good success with my players, so over time I got great opportunities to work with some of the best tennis players in the country.
What are the most important physical attributes a professional tennis player needs to have today?
If I would have to single out one physical attribute, that is most important for tennis players, it would definitely be speed. If you look at “the great four” (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray) they all have outstanding footwork. A great defensive game not just offensive. Of course there is a lot of technique and anticipation involved in there, but I strongly believe that you can’t have that kind of court movement without the basic ability to run fast.
How many hours do Croatia’s top players work on their physical conditioning per week?
Time spent on physical conditioning per week varies. It depends on competition calendar. In the off-season it can be as much as 17-18 hours per week, and in competition period it can go down to 5-6 hours.
You have been to many tournaments, what is your favourite tennis tournament?
There are some really great tournaments in the calendar and it is hard to single out one. From the big tournaments I would have to say the Australian Open and I know a lot of players will say the same. Great facilities, friendly people, everything works just perfectly. From smaller tournaments I will have to go for Umag. Umag is held during summer in Croatia, the club is right by the beach, matches start late so even the players can stay out a little bit longer than usual, food is perfect… I know it’s a home tournament so I may be biased:)
Favourite player of all time?
Apart from my players:) I will say Roger Federer.
You work with the Ana Konjuh, how far do you think Ana can go in senior tennis?
I’m working with Ana since she was 11 years old. That’s almost 5 years now. What I can say is that I have never seen a girl with that kind of strength/power potential. She also has exceptional coordination and that is why I’m confident that, in the future, she can be at the top of women’s tennis.
Who is the fittest player on tour?
Tough question, since I don’t have the numbers (test results). But I think the best players are usually the fittest. It just works that way. We can all see the amazing power and stamina from Rafa. Great speed, flexibility and balance from Novak. There is also Roger, David, Andy… I think you can’t go wrong with any of those great athletes.
What is your favourite place in Croatia?
Zagreb. That’s my home and that’s the place I miss the most when I’m traveling.
Your favourite restaurant in Croatia?
There is so many of good restaurants in Croatia. I will name a few from Zagreb. Bistro Apetit, Baltazar, Okrugljak are just some of the great restaurants in Zagreb. And if you like pizza I have to mention Karijola:)
Favourite city in the world?
New York, Melbourne, London. Other than Croatian I can only speak english so I think that’s why I got to know these cities really well and probably that is the reason why I always have the best time there. On the other hand I really like to see the exotic places (from my point of view) and that’s why I’m always excited when travelling to countries in Asia or Africa for example.