Jan-Lennard Struff began his season by representing Germany at the ATP Cup. Now, the 31-year-old is preparing for the Australian Open, where he will play Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp in the first round.
ATPTour.com got to know more about Struff’s life off the court, how he keeps in touch with family and more in this edition of ‘The Nomadic Life’.
What are two essential non-tennis items you always pack for trips?
I always take a lot of caps with me because I like sun caps. A lot of guys have a PlayStation, but I am definitely not a gamer, so I used to take my Borussia Dortmund shirt or a soccer ball for some fun. I used to take a lot with me. I actually don’t have that many things with me. I always take a notebook to write some notes.
Do you enjoy travelling the world or consider it just something that needs to be done to be a pro tennis player? If you do enjoy it, what do you enjoy about travelling?
Everyone knows there are days when it is tough to leave home, especially with my girlfriend and my kid, sometimes it is very tough… In general I enjoy it and I think if Covid gets better again I’ll enjoy travelling much more.
I always try to see a bit of the city, because at the beginning of the career it’s just tennis, tennis, tennis and I didn’t actually see anything. Then I tried to make sure I always visited something. Especially if I am in doubles still or not playing singles, I can do it. Otherwise, the energy which is lost travelling a day outside is too high. It depends a bit on timing. Some weeks I can do it and see some different sites. Doing too much outside and being exhausted the next day, this cannot happen the next time, I think we have all made that mistake.
How do you manage to stay in touch with your girlfriend and child? Have you developed a routine?
With the time difference, some slots we can FaceTime, he is in kindergarten now… FaceTime is not that interesting or exciting for him. He just says ‘Hey daddy’ and shows me an animal and a butterfly and a sticker and a toy, and says ‘Hey daddy, look’ and that was it for today.
Can you talk about a time you decided to play a specific tournament in part because you wanted to travel to that city?
I pick places where I like it more. Schedule-wise I sometimes do something for the family that I am not too far away or I can take them. Sometimes I go where the ocean and sea is with beautiful sights and I like it there more. Sometimes I decide if the draw is so much stronger or the travel is too far, sometimes I do not do it. Some tournaments I love to play and see the city. You will be here and choosing your best spot.
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
What is your favourite tournament city to visit and why?
There are so many beautiful cities on Tour, it is quite tough. New York is somewhere I also like to see. Not to stay there for so long because it is so flashy and so much is happening, it is really exciting. It is amazing to come back every year. I like Miami a lot, it is beautiful. Monte Carlo is a beautiful place. I like to stay in the German tournaments a lot. Hamburg is a beautiful city, really amazing. Every city where the ocean is is beautiful. There are so many really, really good tournaments.
What is your craziest travel story?
It is tough to remember every story but with my fitness coach, he was taking the train. He called me saying ‘Hey, the trains are late, what are you doing?’ and he woke me up. My alarm was not going. He was already on the train to be early at the airport and I was still sleeping, so there are two kinds of people. You are early or you are late. But I am German, so I might be on time most of the time, but more late.
I flew from Dubai to San Francisco and you fly to Palm Springs in Indian Wells. When I arrived it was a bit bumpy. I arrived there and it was bad weather and they cancelled the [next] flight. It was early afternoon in San Francisco and 1 a.m. in the night in Dubai and they cancelled the flight. The next flight was five hours later, which was really tough. I put my backpack around me and fell asleep for two hours at the gate and then went on the plane and was completely destroyed.
Then my girlfriend came from home and she was there at 7 p.m. I should have been four hours earlier than her. I arrived in the room and told her I was dead and woke up at 4 a.m. Then I went to the gym and had some breakfast. I had the day off, so I went to have some lunch. Then I went to the room, so dead and tired. I felt like I was going to nap, woke up at 7 p.m. and then slept the whole night. I actually don’t sleep much, but that was a messed-up story.
How do you try to overcome jetlag and acclimate to the local time zone?
I try to get a lot of sleep, especially when I am home. It is different each tournament. The jetlag is sometimes not easy. I have to force myself to sleep because I like to do things to get up and practise and sometimes I do too much. Then I get exhausted from travelling.
We are trying to improve ourselves all the time and with the travelling we need to adjust and keep getting better and better. When you are travelling you get used to it, but it is still really exhausting. Relaxing to get the mind off it [is important]. I take my physio with me to get my body ready. That is one big thing for me.
When I go in one direction, I stay up late [for the jetlag]. If you have to do something the next day, you are getting much better into the new time zone. When I am home, I get up at 8 a.m. and spend time with [my family], so I am back in the time zone. In the past years, when I came back and you have three days off and you don’t have to do anything, you can get a bit lazy there.
When I come to the United States, I always practise early. When I come in the other direction, to the east, I practise a bit later and we need to stay up very late because otherwise if you go to sleep too early you will wake up at 4 a.m. and it is messed up.
Got any tips to get comfortable on a flight? And how do you pass the time?
I can only imagine how hard it is [for John Isner and Reilly Opelka]. I am 6’ 5” tall and for me it is always pretty tough. On longer flights I need to use business class otherwise it is not good for my body. I went from Dubai to LA straight in 2019 and business class was fully booked so I had to go economy and there were only two seats left on the plane and the other was next to me, so I was really lucky. But you cannot do that often because it is pretty tough on the body. I like to sleep in business class. Economy no chance because I don’t find a comfortable position for my body. I watch movies and I try to read. Some plane trips are very boring.
Are you someone who gets to the airport with lots of time to spare or do you cut it fine?
More late than early. I prefer going later. Not too late, but when I am home I also take the train. One train that is close and then one train where I barely make it. So, if the train is late, I have a chance to make it. I am at the airport one hour and 30 minutes before the flight. After Covid I will have to adjust that a bit, because one day there was a holiday in Germany and if I had arrived when I had planned and not [when] my fitness trainer [did], I would have never made the flight.