At only 23 years old, Ashcon Rezazadeh is one of the youngest – if not the youngest – strength and condition coach on Tour. Born and raised in Birmingham (where he still lives) to an half Irish and half English mother and an Iranian father, as most of people involved in the tennis industry he started as a young aspiring player who juggled between education and sport.

After emerging on the national tennis scene in the UK, Rezazadeh took part to ITF and Future level events as an active and competitive player. However, aged 16, within a short amount of time, he had to deal with some serious physical injuries that kept him from becoming a successful pro. But that’s where a new, exciting journey began for him, a journey that led him where he is today, collaborating with Victoria Azarenka, a former number one in the world with two Grand Slam titles.

— What made you decide you would become a strength and conditioning coach?

“When I was 16 years old I got injured and had to get my left and right hip both operated. Within the time period of 12 months I also got a double inguinal hernia, which all was in the same close vicinity. Even though I started to attempt to play tennis again after all that, it wasn’t the same as it used to. If I were to change anything in my life – even though I believe everything happens for a reason – I wish I listened to the advice given to me by my physiotherapist at the time, who advised me against surgery at that point in my life. This then led me to take an even deeper interest in the human body. In the end it all led me to where I am now and what I’m doing with my life, so that I could help contribute to put others in the best possible position to not face with these decisions.”

— Early this year you joined Victoria Azarenka’s team. Can you tell me how did it all start and how’s working with a former number one in the world?

“It was really unexpected how it all happened because I didn’t plan that. Of course I knew who Vika was, I followed her for many years and witnessed all that she’s achieved in her career, she’s one of the greatest females to play the game. Basically her personal assistant is from England and I know her from the tennis scene when we were playing as a young juniors. She joined Victoria’s team and then got in touch with me. Vika is a great athlete to work with, a lot of strength and conditioning coaches dream to work with someone that just wants to keep learning and wants to get better. That’s exactly how Vika is. There is not a single day where she takes it easy.”

— Speaking of which, Victoria is a mother now, how different is the approach in terms of training after a pregnancy?

“Working with Vika was actually my first experience with an athlete who just gave birth. It is no secret that a lot of factors change when an athlete is carrying a baby for 9+ months. Emotionally, mentally and physically. Every athlete knows their body, this situation more than ever was very important to listen to the feedback given by her body. It was progressive work, each week was different but there was no rush. Starting from the very bottom and enjoying the process along the way”.

— Speaking of motherhood in sports. Serena Williams has a comeback planned for the next Australian Open. How do you think her comeback will affect WTA? And do you think is possible for her to win a Grand Slam tournament right after giving birth?

“I think anything can happen. The impossible is possible within sports. We all know her, she’s got one of the best attitudes in sport and I’m sure also her team will put her in the best possible position to make it happen and be at the top again.”

— Just like Serena, Victoria has been number one in the world and won Grand Slam tournaments, but after already achieving so much, how do you guys set other goals? How does she stay motivated?

“Everyone is different in how they approach things. Tennis is a journey, it’s a continuous machine, you need to keep building and getting stronger, better, faster. In terms of Vika she always wants that 0.1% more. She always wants to know more, that’s the key. Even if it’s not related she wants to know it. She wants to have knowledge on how she can get better every single day. For me, no matter what (the industry, society, sports) that’s the one thing that counts the most: as humans if we put an effort in something everyday, then that 0.1% accumulates into something big. It’s a step by step process.”

— When it comes to Grand Slams, so we’re talking tournaments that last 2 weeks, what’s different in terms of preparation?

“We have pretty much the same approach every single tournament, whether it’s a WTA event or a Grand Slam. We stick to the same rituals and routines. Also maintaining the same mentality is important, no matter what country you’re in or what tournament you’re playing. Every match/tournament is important. Obviously, there is a structure set in place according to where we are at in terms of training and competitive status but all the external factors can play a huge role and have an impact on the athlete and the ‘plan’. Being able to accommodate and diverse when all external factors arise is important. A Grand Slam can tend to be a longer duration in terms of the event so things change to accommodate that. But the mentality and goal stays the same.

— Now, if we look at tennis player’s from the Next Gen, we may notice that most of them share the same body type. They’re all 6 feet tall, and because of this they all have big serves and a very strong game from the baseline. Youngsters also appear to be very slim these days I’d say, if we compare a 17 year old Rafa/Roger to Rublev, Zverev etc, there’s a huge difference. It seems like the body mass of young men in tennis has “slowed down” during the last ten years. Did you noticed such thing? Is there a new body standard for tennis players? And because of this, where is tennis going? How will the tennis of the future look like?

“Everybody in this world is different, not just in sports. I don’t there is an actual thought process behind having a certain body ‘look’ within tennis. To compare a young Rafael Nadal to the youth generation of today is incomparable as they are different humans. Tennis is constantly changing from a physical standpoint, always developing. If you compare todays game to the game of 10/20 years ago its completely different. Tennis is a reactive based sport so being lean in terms of body fat is always something players have always worked, carrying extra over a long period of time in an unpredictable sport takes its toll on the body and can have impact on movement efficiency and performance. Strength and muscle mass is required in muscles and joints both for performance enhancement and to reduce injuries (protection of joints, ligaments, tendons, and so on). An example being Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson, both great athletes at the top of there sports but very different body types.

— If you could work with any Next Gen player who would it be and why?

“In Next Gen we have great guys like Kyrgios, Rublev, Khachanov, Zverev, Shapovalov… They’re of course on the upcoming rise already achieving great things and continuing to pave the way for the next era of tennis but there’s not a specific athlete I dream to work with. Each athlete is unique but I approach every athlete the same: human first, athlete second. With every player the goal is always the same: make them better and better and give them all my knowledge so that they can be in the best position to reach their highest level of performance.”

— At just 23 years old you have already achieved so much, where do you see yourself in 10 years?

“I’d still want to have an impact on people’s lives, in a sports capacity or in a society capacity. My goal and vision is to have an impact on the world, helping people reach their highest potential that maybe they don’t even realise they have.”

— If you were to give any advice to someone who wanted to pursue your same career what would it be?

“Learn, keep learning and don’t give up. There’s obstacles within this job like in life, there’s things that you will have to face and there’s going to be times where you’ll think “where am I going?” or “am I actually going to achieve what I want to achieve?” But it’s important to stay true to yourself and your goals. Be patient always strive to be the best person you can be and you’ll get where you want to be.

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