It was almost six months ago, at the end of August 2022 in the American Winston-Salem, that Tallon Greek track last stepped off the track as the winner in a match at an ATP tournament. Seven tournaments in a row there was an early exit. In between, Greek track won two matches in the Davis Cup, but he also lost a few, including the decisive match in the quarterfinals against Australia. He called that loss “perhaps one of the most painful defeats I have ever suffered.” It was his last game of the season.

    The 26-year-old Greek track has started a lot better in his second year at the highest level in men’s tennis, the ATP Tour. Not only did he win his first match of 2023, he became the twelfth Dutch tennis player on Saturday to win an ATP title.

    In Pune, a city located in the west of India, the Greek track, number 95 in the world until last week and number 61 from Monday, was all along for once: the hard courts were good for his attacking game from the baseline, as were the height at which the balls used bounced. He was allowed to skip the quarterfinals after Croatian Marin Cilic, the world number 17 and seeded first, withdrew with an injury.

    In the final against the Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi, Greek track came back from a set behind and fell on the blue hard court on match point after a forehand hit too hard by his opponent. He received the congratulations – just like a shiny trophy and the equivalent of 90,000 euros in prize money.

    Just not in 2022

    The tournament victory was less of a surprise to himself than it might be to the outside world, Greek track told ANP. “No one probably expected this now, but I have a very good one off season rotated. Last year was very hard for me and that makes me proud.”

    Last year was always a season of just not for the Greek track, says his older brother Scott, who also played tennis at a high level. “Tallon reached the quarterfinals a few times, but it often just didn’t go well. He has also been injured and sick a lot, got corona twice, and as a result he was not at his best during the clay court season, his favorite surface.”

    Read also: Tallon Greek track was fast, big and strong, but is now also fit

    What also played a role for the Greek track was that he had to get used to the highest level, after he had played in the top 100 through tournaments on the Challenge Tour, the second level. He would have liked to participate in a challenger a few more times in the past year, says Scott Greek track, but his high ranking did not allow that. “While those kind of tournaments are nice to gain rhythm and self-confidence. He had to miss that.”

    Mental trainer

    During the winter break, Tallon Greek track decided that he wanted to do a few things differently. For example, he has hired a mental trainer for the first time in his career. This year he also chooses to play more on his favorite surface gravel. In February he will travel to South America for this, and he will skip the European hard court season – including the ABN Amro tournament in Rotterdam. And Greek track broke with coach Raemon Sluiter, because of “differences of opinion” about how he was physically and mentally on the track.

    His two coaches Dennis Schenk and the newly hired Kristof Vliegen were not there in India. That tempted the Greek track to joke after the final won: “Maybe I should play without coaches more often.” But according to his brother Scott, Sluiter played an important role in the current success. “Tallon has started working with a number of the points that Sluiter put forward. For example, it was Raemon who wanted him to improve mentally.”

    The ATP title is also the reward for the decision that the Greek track took more than two years ago to invest more in itself. In addition to Schenk, he decided to hire Sluiter and fitness coach Bas van Bentum, which was a considerable financial risk. But now that the Greek track is guaranteed qualification for the grand slam tournaments thanks to its ranking – with corresponding prize money – there is financial security. That gives peace of mind, says Scott Greek track. “Tallon has now received confirmation that he can do this. That only makes you want more.”