“Ash has made me enjoy going to the gym. That’s a bit of a miracle. I’m usually pretty hopeless with the gym, especially when I’m on my own.”
Mostly coachless for the past three and a half years, Kyrgios was initially reluctant to add a new member to his small team. But with some pressure from his mother Norlaila and his agent John Morris, the talented Aussie hired Rezazadeh after Miami last April, to help him with his physical training and rehab.
The pair struck up a bond over the past few months and are currently in Canberra getting Kyrgios ready for 2019.
“He’s only a couple of years older than me but he’s really mature. I said to mum, ‘Why am I not like that?’” Kyrgios recalls in his PlayersVoice piece.
“‘People mature at different rates,’ she said. ‘You’ll get there!’”
Rezazadeh is only 24, but is already an established name in the strength and conditioning world. He ventured into tennis in 2015, working with Great Britain’s Dan Evans, and later with two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka, among others. He also worked with boxing world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
Born in Birmingham, UK, to Iranian parents, Rezazadeh has an infectious energy that is noticeable the second you start talking to him. You quickly understand why he was able to get Kyrgios to enjoy going to the gym and how he finds pleasure in motivating people to set goals and figure out a way to achieve them.
“He’s been awesome. He’s been a major part of me grinding out these weeks. He was with me when I had elbow issues, and he was there with me during the weeks, during the rehab. He’s been through a lot of tough times already. He’s someone I get along with well. For me, he’s been more than strength and conditioning. He does a lot of other things for me, and he’s a really good guy,” Kyrgios said of Rezazadeh in a press conference in Cincinnati last August.
Starting next year, Rezazadeh hopes to do even more, not just for Kyrgios, but for a much wider community. He plans on launching a new concept, which he has dubbed ‘Citizens of Society’, where he hopes to promote mental health and well being through health and fitness. Alongside his commitment to Kyrgios on tour, Rezazadeh wants to host meet-ups at tournaments for people who are lacking motivation or are struggling mentally in one way or another, and will offer guidance based on his experience in the fitness industry.
“What I want to do is kind of give back to people, especially the people coming to watch tennis,” Rezazadeh told Sport360 in London last month.
“They’re fans of tennis, or have an interest in sport or they like a certain player, or they want to be a tennis player one day. So what I want to do is take that concept and take it on tour in the sense that, for every tournament that I’m at, whether it’s feasible or not, but potentially at every tournament I’m at, setting up a community via social media where we’ll say where we’ll be at that tournament, and create something where I can give back and take two, three, four fans from that tournament, try to meet with them personally.
“People suffering from mental health problems, people seeking health and mental well being, whether that’s lack of motivation, whether it’s, ‘I can’t put on five kilos, how do I do that without losing 10 kilos?’ Whatever that problem is, we’ll be, ‘okay let’s make you a goal, let’s figure out how we’re going to get to that goal?’
“Whether it’s nutrition, whether it’s the gym, whether it’s thinking in a certain type of mind frame. And I’m going to say, ‘I’m not a specialist in psychology’. If you can speak to them at a level that they understand, for me that’s the most important, that relatability.
“If someone can relate to me, or someone can relate to you, I feel that we can get along quite well.
“Let’s figure out a goal, let’s give you some kind of sense of direction and you take that away, and we keep in touch via email or on social media and if you’re willing to share your stuff, that’s to their discretion, if not, no problem at all. But I’m hoping that you can be comfortable enough to figure out what’s going on, just be more aware that it’s okay to feel like this. I just want to try to get more people and create this community and try and help them.”
Rezazadeh hopes to launch the concept at the start of the 2019 season, but assures “it’s completely unrelated to tennis, for me this is just about human life.”
He wants to encourage people to talk about their issues, without worrying about being judged or perceived differently by others.
“The basis of that name, ‘Citizens of Society’, is just relatable to the world, it gives nobody a category, it’s just people of the world. The message behind this whole thing is: Keep things simple, things don’t need to be complicated, have a goal, figure out how you’re going to get there, enjoy it as it runs,” he explains.
“Anybody can come, everybody talks to each other and the massive thing is that I don’t want people asking each other what they did as their day to day job because I think that just puts so much pressure on people and it’s such a generic question but you tend to box people into categories once they tell you what they do. Sometimes you don’t realise you’re doing it.”
Rezazadeh’s fitness journey started from a young age and he recounts his own battle to lose weight, which eventually led him to getting his qualifications and carving a career as a strength and conditioning expert.
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“I’m half Iranian, half English. My family, we’re all big eaters, we like food, genetically it’s easier for us to gain weight rather than having fast metabolism. I was very overweight as a kid and it got to a point at the age of 10 I had to go to like, I don’t know how to describe it, but like a fat camp,” he says.
“It’s where kids who were in the bracket from the NHS as severely overweight had to go to lose weight because your health is at severe danger.
“I loved tennis, I loved all sports, but I couldn’t really perform at a level – I’ve got pictures I don’t show anyone. You see even now I still get embarrassed about that, where I shouldn’t be. I’m actually proud of the stuff I’ve accomplished because at the end I lost a lot of weight.
“During that time, even at 11, 12, nobody told me at the time, but I look back now and I was depressed then. Obviously I had a very bubbly personality and I always got along with everyone but socially I didn’t really interact with many kids my age because I just physically couldn’t do the stuff they could do.
“Even now, I still have times where it affects me in a certain way. You feel a little bit depressed but you figure out ways to manage that. It doesn’t mean now because I’m in the strength and conditioning industry and working with professional athletes, it doesn’t mean I’m 100 per cent perfect, I still have days where I eat s*** for fun, I have weeks where I eat s*** for fun, but it’s just trying to limit those into a time where it’s like, ‘How am I going to manage that when it happens? I’m not going to become negative’.”
Rezazadeh lost weight with encouragement from his brother, who would drag him out of bed before school each morning to exercise.
“I’d just walk at that point because I couldn’t really do anything. If it weren’t for him honestly I don’t know where I’d be right now,” he adds.
“And then from there I just started taking more interest – at 15, 16, I kind of went the other way. And that’s why I also know, as much as health and fitness has a positive impact, you can get obsessive over it, you can shift the other way and go from eating everything to eating nothing because you’re scared to gain weight.
“At 15 or 16, I didn’t let anyone cook for me, I wouldn’t eat at restaurants, I would be scared in case there was too much olive oil or this or that. I kind of went the other way and that’s why I know it’s so easy to be that way or that. It’s all about having that balance. There’s a fine line, you need to live a healthy lifestyle but you also need to live your life as well.”
Through ‘Citizens of Society’, Rezazadeh hopes he can provide some guidance for people to find that balance. He will reveal more details about the project in the coming weeks and isn’t necessarily setting a specific target when it comes to the number of people he’d like to show up.
“If I can help one person, and that person could help another person, helping others to help others, that’s the message,” he explains.
“If I can help somebody get better in Australia, if I can help in New York, Mallorca, wherever it may be, for me it’s a win. As much as I’m helping them, they’re helping me.
“Working with an athlete, as much as they’re employing me for a certain kind of service to help them, I’m learning equally off them as they are off me. I’m learning their different personalities, to coach a different way, learning different things about the day to days. It’s all a learning curve.”
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