Ilya Ivashka knew that by the time he tried his first sport it was never going to last.
The Belarusian has had an exceptional season at 27 with a first touring title at Winston-Salem and a career-best FedEx ATP ranking of No.43. But his late tennis success might not have been possible had he followed his father’s advice.
âIt’s funny because my dad wanted me to do martial arts,â Ivashka told ATPTour.com. âI started but didn’t really like it because I was so scared to go break something so I didn’t want to go and I didn’t like to fight.
âMy dad played tennis with his friends and he always took me and I saw him and loved him, so I asked him if I could play tennis. Then my parents helped me and have been there all my life to help me find coaches and put me in good tennis centers to improve myself and it happened naturally.
It soon became apparent that Ivashka had the talent for his chosen discipline and he quickly excelled, having started playing at the age of five. He was channeled into a more advanced group and from there there was no turning back.
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The Minsk native has enjoyed his best season yet under the guidance of coach and former Spain player Jose Checa-Calvo. In addition to his title at Winston-Salem, which included wins over seeds like Pablo Carreno Busta and former world number 3 Marin Cilic, he reached week two of a major tournament for the first time with a fourth round. at Wimbledon. His biggest win in the FedEx ATP rankings came in a qualifying match in Munich in May, where he earned his first Top 10 victory over Alexander Zverev to reach the final.
âI’ve been pretty consistent this year and after qualifying all year I competed well and did my best,â he said. âI was improving week by week and it didn’t matter if I won or lost. I felt very good in Winston-Salem.
âI think I’ve improved myself a bit mentally which helps me to be more consistent and to fight for every game. It doesn’t matter how high you rank, because at this level you can beat anyone or lose to anyone.
He first teamed up with Checa-Calvo during training in Spain in 2018 after deciding to part ways with his former coach. According to Ivashka, the new partnership quickly brought out the best in him as a player and as a person.
âI met Jose and we talked for five minutes and I was like ‘wow.’ So since then we’ve been really good friends and he’s like a half-brother to me,â Ivashka said. âHe always helps out with all things off and on the field.It is a very big part of our success.
âHe’s a different character, but that’s something I learn from him. He’s very calm. We’re a bit similar because I spent a few years practicing in Spain and the people there are more relaxed with everything.
âThey take life very easily. In Belarus, we have a bit of a different mentality, so going to Spain was good for me. When we get back to Barcelona, ââhe has his life and I have mine. He has his child, who is nine months old, and I have my wife.
Ivashka, who went 31-16 in 2021, is an avowed body who would rather spend an evening watching TV with his wife or reading JK Rowling books over a night out on the town. After four to five weeks on the road, he admitted he was tired of traveling and enjoyed being home. However, there was one place he didn’t mind taking time off for work in 2021 on the ATP Tour.
âOne of my favorite tournaments is St. Petersburg,â said Ivashka. “It’s one of my favorite cities in the world because everywhere you go it’s like a museum. It’s amazing.”