White lies and rap helping Demin deal with junior world No. 1 pressure | ITF

White lies and rap helping Demin deal with junior world No. 1 pressure

Michael J. Lewis

03 Sep 2023

There is a lie that Yaroslav Demin has been telling himself lately. He looks in the mirror before a match and gets inside his own head with fibs.

The 18-year-old says that he’s just made it into a Grand Slam through the qualifying tournament, that he’s fortunate just to be in the draw. He tells himself that it’s only his first or maybe second appearance at a major, and nothing is expected of him.

That’s how he’s dealing with the pressure that comes with being the No. 1-ranked boy in the ITF World Tennis Tour rankings and the top seed at the US Open Junior Championships, which began for him at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sunday. 

“I try to convince myself that nothing is expected of me, and that I can just go out and play,” Demin said after surviving a tough first round match, a 7-6 6-4 victory over Great Britain’s Oliver Bonding. “I see if I can trick myself in that way, and it can help me.”

But Demin knows the reality is that there is a lot expected of him. He hears it from family, friends and people he knows in the tennis world.

“Everybody expects me to win the US Open,” he said. “And I feel like, since this is my first Grand Slam competing as No.1 in the world, there’s huge pressure on me. Everyone will be trying to play their best tennis against me. I need to accept this, but it’s tough for me.”

Demin’s ranking is certainly well-earned and no fluke. He’s had an outstanding 2023 season, winning the Roland Garros boys' doubles title alongside Mexico’s Rodrigo Pacheco and several other tournaments as well.

He also tore through the draw at Wimbledon, winning five matches en route to the final, where he faced Great Britain’s Henry Searle.

For Demin, who said he doesn’t like people rooting against him, this was the ultimate example of not being the crowd favourite. Searle became the first British boys' champion on the grass of Wimbledon since 1962 with a 6-4 6-4 triumph (the two could meet in the final here as well given they’re on opposite sides of the draw).

“I tried not to focus on everyone rooting for him, but I knew he was playing so very well and he and I have been good friends for a long time,” Demin aded. “It was an insane experience, playing Henry on Court No. 1 – such a big court. But it was such a great Wimbledon for me.”

With a laugh, Demin also revealed that after a few weeks of being so careful with his diet during Wimbledon, he couldn’t wait to run off to McDonald’s following his drug testing.

“I had a Big Mac, nine-piece nuggets, cola, and French fries,” he said with a chuckle. “It was so good.”

Demin’s other pressure-release tactic, besides telling himself mistruths in the mirror, is relaxing with rap music. Much like 2022 US Open champion Martin Landaluce told ITFTennis.com last year, the popular art form helps relax his mind.

Demin prefers Jay-Z and Eminem, along with 50 Cent.

“At the end of the day, before getting into the shower, I put it on and it calms my brain,” Demin said. “My coaches started me getting into rap last year, and it’s been great.”

Besides Demin’s victory, most of the favorites rolled into round two here on Sunday; there was one upset in the boys' draw as No. 6 seed Iliyan Radulov, who won the J300 in College Park a week ago, was defeated by Rei Sakamoto of Japan 7 -6 6-4.

The rest of round one for the boys' singles continues Monday, along with some round two matches, and the boys' doubles competition will get underway as well.

Click here for a full list of results from 2023 US Open Junior Championships 

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