Russia’s Konstantin Kravchuk has drawn inspiration from his visit to Old Trafford on Monday to make it through to the semi-finals of the Aegon Manchester Trophy.
The 30-year-old edged past Australia’s Matthew Ebden 7-6, 4-6, 7-5 in the quarter-final and will now go on to face Luke Saville at The Northern Lawn Tennis Club.
Kravchuk remembers United legends such as Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel and grabbed every bit of merchandise he could on Monday and it seems they have served him well.
He said: “I’ve always been a big Man Utd fan, I think the first match I watched was when Cantona was still playing.
“Peter Schmeichel was my favourite and lots of the matches were broadcast in Russia and we had a couple of Champions League matches in Moscow, like the final against Chelsea but it was impossible to get tickets.
“It was so great to get to visit Old Trafford on Monday. I got a cap, shirt, scarf. Hopefully next year I’ll come back earlier and be able to watch a match.”
The Russian admitted he struggled in the match at points and almost lost his focus by starting to think about his flight home after losing the second set and going a break down in the third.
But in a strange way he thinks being the underdog in those moments ended up helping him because it relived some pressure and allowed him to regain composure.
“It was a long match today and on grass it’s so important to be steady in the match. I was down in the first set 4-1 and I was telling myself to be calm and just play every point.
Then the second set he changed his game and it was working for him and I lost. In the third set he was 2-0 up and I was already thinking about the next tournament and booking my flight.
“But I was still in the match but I think it helped me because I wasn’t thinking about the score. I’m not ready to leave Manchester yet!”
Kravchuk’s semi-final opponent Saville beat Britiain’s Brydan Klein in three sets and will provide a tough test for the Russian after admitting he plays his best tennis in England.
“I’m feeling really at home on the grass and I’m really happy that Manchester got the Challenger here this year,” said Saville.
“I won the Wimbledon junior title in 2011, four years ago. I’ve got really good memories of Wimbledon, I always seem to play my best tennis in England actually.
“I’m really pleased to be in the semi-finals after a pretty tough run but I’m playing well on the grass, I really enjoy playing on the grass so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Image courtesy of Alan Martin, with thanks.