Do you often think about your victory here last year?
I think about it nearly daily. Each match was sold out and there was an incredible atmosphere. That was probably my most important win right after the US Open and it was definitely one of the most emotional. It is always something special to play a tournament as title-holder, but this year it’ll be even more special because there are so many good players here. It’s probably the best ATP 500 draw ever.
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How do you prepare for your match against Kei Nishikori?
I’ve watched him a bit recently in Roland Garros. He had been injured and is coming back now. He’s been in the Top 10 for a long time, played in Grand Slam finals – such a player is always dangerous.
How do you analyze a player like Nishikori who has been injured for so long?
He played his last hardcourt match in 2019, so I’ll be watching some of that for sure. Also some footage from Paris. But I know how he plays. We’ve already had some matches. He’s surely one of the best players of the last decade and such players are always dangerous. It’s the same as with Cilic in New York and Paris.
How die you charge your batteries after the past weeks?
I was enjoying my time at home and even tried to do nothing at all for a few days. It took me some time to get back on my level again but I would say that now I’m back mentally and physically. It took me some time after Paris just to reflect on what I have achieved. I’m very grateful that we are able to play here in Vienna.
How is life in the “bubble”?
It was great to finally sleep at home again. But, as I already said, I’m happy that we are able to play at all. We’re not missing anything: For the first time here in Vienna, I live in the hotel, but everything is first-class: the food, the hotel, the court in the Stadthalle. Everything is ready and it’s cool that we can at least have 1,000 fans in the arena.
The draw is stacked as never before, but the prize money has been reduced. Will the players have to do with less in the future?
I think that the tournaments have to reduce the prize money in times like these. But that goes for all sports: football, tennis, some of the big US leagues. The prize money has been rising each year. Don’t let us fool ourselves, it had to stop sometime. It probably would be healthiest for all parties involved if we meet somewhere in the middle in the future.