German world No. 18 Philipp Kohlschreiber has always at felt at home at Melbourne Park. He has never lost in the first round and has made the fourth round here three times - in 2005, 2008 and most recently in 2012. He is coming off a career-best season in 2012 and has started 2013 in stellar form, reaching the final in Auckland and combining with countryman Christopher Kas to win the Doha doubles title. Kohlschreiber is now set to play Canadian No. 13 seed Milos Raonic for a fourth round place in the 2013 Australian Open on Saturday. He spoke with australianopen.com about what makes him special...
Australian Open: You have a good record here in Australia, why do you think that is?
Philipp Kohlschreiber: It’s one of my best grand slams. I really like it here. Melbourne is a great city and the tournament is really well organised. I like the atmosphere and there is great crowd support. After six weeks of practice in the off-season, I find I am hungry to play matches when I get here. It’s a combination of it all.
AO: Was there anything in particular you worked on this off-season?
Kohlschreiber: I had a pretty good season last year so I tried to maintain some things, to get more consistency in my game and be a bit more aggressive. You always look for little things because you can’t make big changes. I also tried to improve my serve, but nothing special.
AO: 2012 was your best season to date, reaching a career-high ranking of 16 in July. You were 28 years old at the time (now 29). Why has it taken you so long to reach this high?
Kohlschreiber: I made it nice and quiet, step-by-step, nothing really crazy. I’m really happy with how it went for me. The competition is very tough. For sure there are some young ones coming up but not too many in the top 20. Most of the guys that are there have been on the tour for a long time. The game is very physical and you need to have the experience. As for the top four, they are just, let’s say, too good. They are just at another level.
AO: Do you believe you belong in the top 20 now?
Kohlschreiber: Basically if you do well, you belong there. I played very consistent last year- I won a tournament, played quarter-finals at Wimbledon. If you win many matches I think you belong there. I practiced very hard and a couple of times I’ve been close to the top 20. It is not like I’ve come from 80 to 20. I’ve been around 20 to 30 for the last few years so I think I deserve that breakthrough.
AO: What do you believe are your strengths as a player and why?
Kohlschreiber: I’m not the biggest guy, so I have good foot work. I think I am a player who can play everything, maybe that makes it not so easy to play against me. I also have good variety in my game. I think I am a solid player.
AO: What is your favourite shot and why?
Kohlschreiber: Most people say my backhand looks nice, which is great to hear. I think the backhand down-the-line is a good shot to surprise an opponent, so that is a very important part of my game.
AO: What is the area of your game that has improved the most in the past 12 months?
Kohlschreiber: That is tough to say. I think in general I’ve been much more consistent as well as fitter. I’m moving around a bit better, especially on the forehand. It is helping me play it more aggressive.
AO: What is it like playing with a crowd? Do you feed off them or block it out?
Kohlschreiber: Most of the time you are in zone, so you don’t get everything from the crowd. But after a great point or when you are in the changeover, of course it is very nice if the atmosphere is very positive. That is very special in Australia- the crowd is supporting every player pretty well.
AO: What is going through your mind on court? Do you talk to yourself?
Kohlschreiber: The best thing is if you are not thinking at all, but it is a tough thing to do. You do get some thoughts, feelings or stress so sometimes I think it is positive to talk to yourself or to scream and let it out. It comes with experience you collect over the years about what is best for you.
AO: Do you sometimes find it hard to stay positive on court?
Kohlschreiber: You play so many different kinds of shots and rallies in a match but basically you lose half of the points in every match even if you win. There are always some bad decisions in your game and sometimes it is easier to handle the pressure and sometimes you are more relaxed but it is always better to stay positive.
AO: Do you have any superstitions when you play?
Kohlschreiber: Not really. It is not superstitious, I do it for rhythm, but (when I serve) I take two balls from one side and one from the other.
AO: Your next opponent is Canadian Milos Raonic. What are your thoughts on that match?
Kohlschreiber: He is one of the young guys on the tour. He is very big with a huge serve, which is probably the best on the tour. For sure it is going to be tough. He will be the favourite but I think the match is open. It is the third round and we’ve both played well so far. I’ll need to have a good day to win for sure.
AO: How do you typically prepare for a match?
Kohlschreiber: I take it pretty easy. I’ve been on the tour for a long time so I know most of my opponents. (With my team) we just have an easy chat and joke around, then talk a bit about the opponent but basically we just say I need to focus on my game, be aggressive and try to move around my opponent.
AO: What is like being on tour and sharing a locker room with your opponents at each tournament?
Kohlschreiber: Things have changed a lot. 10 or 15 years ago I think it was tougher and they had more problems but now it is nice in the locker room. There is a great atmosphere and it is fun to be there.
AO: Finally, what are your goals for this season?
Kohlschreiber: Last year was my best, so it would be great to achieve even better again, that is the main goal but I’ll just be pleased to stay in the top 20 and to keep my ranking.