Philipp Kohlschreiber is one well-seasoned tennis hombre. Fitness, movement and slick strokes – including a captivating one-handed backhand – have kept the 33-year-old German in the top 50 since 2007. In 2012, Kohlschreiber reached a career-high ranking of #16 in the world. And if you’re an American tennis zealot, Kohlschreiber is Kryptonite, three times earning wins over John Isner at the US Open.
Currently ranked #39, Kohlschreiber yesterday did something scarcely newsworthy, beating 18-year-old Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the BMW Open by FWU, an ATP World Tour event played on red clay in Munich. Kohlschreiber is the defending champion, winning the title last year with wins over the likes of Juan Martin del Potro, Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem.
What’s fascinating is that of Kohlschreiber’s seven career singles titles, five have come on his native soil, including three in Munich. Owner of a 295-255 (53.6 winning percentage) match record around the globe, in Germany, Kohlschreiber is significantly better – 109-57, a 65.7 percent winning record.
Given the inherent travel aspect of life as a tennis pro, why would this be the case? Kohlschreiber, after all, has spent thousands of nights in hotels. Like many pros, it’s business as usual for him to have competed on at least three continents by April. Even the spot listed as his residence – Kitzbuhel – is in Austria, not Germany.
And yet, for a vast number of reasons even Kohlschreiber might not fully understand or be able to articulate, the homeland is where he’s had his best results. Perhaps it’s the court, or the language, or the people, or locals he’s come to know, or a favorite restaurant, or, perhaps most of all, the fact that Kohlschreiber often practices in Munich.
“It’s always good to come back to where you know you’re going to play good tennis,” said Kohlschreiber yesterday after his opening win.
But how does he know? Does even a veteran like Kohlschreiber engage in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Again, these guys aren’t just people who play on the same four courts at a local facility. Pros have faced just about every situation imaginable, on all surfaces, weather conditions and so on.
And yet, here is a player with his own lucky court. Kohlschreiber, of course, is not the only player who feels this way about a certain spot. Half of Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s 14 career singles titles have come in France. Balazs Taroczy, like Kohlschreiber a European with an elegant one-handed backhand, won 13 singles titles between 1974 and ’82 – six of them coming at a tour stop in Hilversium, Netherlands. Roger Federer was a ballboy at the ATP World Tour event in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland – and has raised the champion’s trophy there seven times. Then again, Federer’s also won the title at Wimbledon that many times too. For some, every court is a lucky court. Or does it just come down to the quality of the pillow?