Malek Jaziri made an honest and revealing confession after his opening round defeat to Pablo Carreno Busta earlier this week at the US Open.
“I need help,” admitted the 34-year-old Tunisian. “That’s the truth. I’ll be honest, I need help. Everyone needs help, whoever tells you they don’t… [is lying].”
After a career-best three-month stretch earlier this season that saw Jaziri get his first two top-10 wins over Grigor Dimitrov and Marin Cilic, reach the Dubai semi-finals and his maiden ATP final in Istanbul, win a Challenge in China and make the French Open second round, the Tunisian has admittedly struggled.
He has won just three of the 13 matches he has contested post-clay season and concedes that mentally things have been rough.
“I’m really playing very well in practice, but I’m not feeling very comfortable during matches,” the world No. 69 told Sport360.
“When you lose a few matches it’s not that easy. The hand is a little bit tight, the serve, when you need the point, it doesn’t come. Physically I think I’m okay, it’s a little bit in the mind and I have to work on that.
“The most important progress to be made is in my mind. If I want to play more, and if I want to play more at a high level, if I want to be top-50 or top-30, I have to improve my mentality.”
The top-ranked Arab added: “This is a really tough sport, to be consistent and to be motivated every day. That’s why I have a lot of respect for players like Rafa [Nadal], all these guys. It’s not easy at all, when you go on court and fight every day like that and your motivation is always high and you want more and more and more, it’s not easy at all.
“Sometimes the body doesn’t want, sometimes mentally, the body doesn’t follow the mind, the mind doesn’t follow the body… all these things come together and sometimes make you a better player.”
Jaziri is open to working with a mental coach because he knows it’s the only way forward.
He has had a few positive days since his loss to Carreno Busta, winning two matches alongside Radu Albot in the US Open doubles draw, including a huge upset over sixth-seeded pair Jean Julien-Rojer and Horia Tecau.
They face the Harrison brothers next.
Still, Jaziri knows he has much to think about. He believes he needs to be more meticulous with his schedule moving forward, as he tries to analyse why he managed to do well at the start of the season and why he’s unable to find that form now.
“I was fresh physically, fresh mentally. I got tired after the clay season. I put myself in this situation as well, played s-Hertogenbosch, maybe I made a mistake with my planning,” he says.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have played a tournament right away. I should’ve rested so I can come back with more motivation. I have to think about my schedule more carefully because if I want to be more for the next few years, managing my schedule will be key.
“Playing less with better quality. In the past I’ve made a lot of mistakes, today I’m still making mistakes, but less. But without mistakes you cannot learn and you cannot improve. Hopefully I don’t repeat these mistakes.”
The good thing is that Jaziri knows he is capable of stepping up. He rose to 47 in the world a year and a half ago and as a late bloomer, he is aware he can always improve, even at 34.
“It’s not like I’m not strong mentally or something, I’ve shown it in the past that I can beat good players, but consistently, mentally, how to find the motivation in every match, how to find the motivation to work more, to exceed yourself. And staying at it when it’s not coming. That’s not easy,” he explains.
“The attitude is the most important thing. I’m working on it but it’s not easy at all. You can speak now, but when you step on court it’s a different story. I want to win for sure these matches, but it’s hard being consistent with your effort and that comes from the mental side.”
The ever-smiling Jaziri has a plan though.
“Keep working, keep playing, keep enjoying. Keep working on the things you have to work on, specifically,” he says.
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