Photo: Paul ZimmerJiri Vesely (CZE)
It seems quite some time since Jiri Vesely was fighting to make a name for himself on the ITF Junior Circuit.
Now, nearly four years after winning gold in the boys’ doubles event at the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games, the 21-year-old Czech is the proud owner of four men’s challenger titles, has reached an ATP semifinal and finds himself ranked amongst the Top 70 players in the world.
While the inaugural Youth Olympics was one of a number of international competitions that helped mould him as a player, Vesely looks back on the event with particular fondness.
“Juniors was a great time for me and the Youth Olympic Games was a very exciting way to represent your country,” said the former junior world No. 1. “I had a very good year [in 2010]. I jumped to third place in the junior ranking and it was a very special feeling to be a part of the first Youth Olympic Games.
“It was a good tournament for me, especially the doubles when I won the gold medal with Oli Golding from Great Britain. It was a fantastic week for me and a very big success.”
Even with his growing list of achievements on the men’s circuit, Vesely’s gold medal from Singapore still occupies a prominent place in his trophy collection.
“I have my medal in my living room besides my biggest trophies – the Australian Open junior trophy and also some Challenger trophies,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest successes in my career.”
Vesely has since enjoyed further success in country colours on the international stage, playing his part in three Davis Cup by BNP Paribas ties for Czech Republic since 2013 - including winning his first rubber in their 5-0 win over Japan in this year’s quarterfinals. But even that experience of elite international competition is incomparable to the Games, says Vesely.
“It’s definitely something different to what you are used to,” Vesely said of the Youth Olympics. “You stay with all the other athletes in one village and you see each other every day, play games together, go and support each other. It’s really something different to what you are used to.
“For me it was a great week and I had a chance to support many other athletes – to go to the swimming, running, boxing and see the other young athletes make their dreams come true. I was very happy to be a part of that.”
The Czechs will not have a boys’ representative in the tennis event at Nanjing 2014, which takes place on 17-24 August, but they will have two medal hopes in the form of girls’ world junior No. 12 Marketa Vondrousova and No. 52 Simona Heinova. Both could take heed of Vesely’s tips for making the most of next month’s event.
“Definitely try to enjoy it as much as possible,” Vesely offered by way of advice. “Take the chance to spend as much time with other athletes and be really happy that you have the chance to be part of the Olympic Games. It’s something really very special – a dream come true and [you should] enjoy that you can be a part of it.”