Stefan Duell’s Journey
A Dream Come True
All throughout my childhood, I dreamed of being a tennis player. I think from the age of 12 to 18 I spent every single day on a court, playing as much as I could, wanting to be like my childhood hero, Boris Becker. However, to make it to the top-flight of tennis, you need to have significant time and resources- resources which I simply didn’t have.
As a result, when I finished high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. The solution came from my school’s fitness coach, who told me about physiotherapy and thought that I may be interested in it, given my love of sport. He was right. I studied it at university, and then got a job at a rehab clinic run by my mentor who worked for the German national soccer and tennis teams. I studied a few more years at university and continued working in the clinic, developing myself professionally.
My life then changed with a single phone call. It must have been 10pm at night, and I was coming back from the gym, when I received a phone call from my mentor asking me if was able to go to Canada in three days to work with a professional tennis player for two weeks.
I had five minutes to make a decision, and I was in no way ready to make it. My clinic was fully booked, and I had many clients needing my help. But my colleagues said they would cover me, so I rang my mentor back to say yes. It was the best decision I ever made.
The tennis player I worked with liked what I did, so more opportunities came up, and the door into my dream sport was opened. I worked with many more pro tennis players and eventually decided to go full-time as a professional tennis physiotherapist.
I have since gone on to work with some of the biggest names and teams in the world of tennis, from working with the Serbian Davis Cup Team since 2012; as Novak Djokovic’s personal physiotherapist for 2 years; and now currently working as Stanislas Wawrinka’s physiotherapist.
A personal highlight for me is being friends with Boris Becker, having idolised him as a kid. I see him regularly on the tournament circuit and always stop to have a chat with and sometimes even treat him myself. For me, it’s a dream come true.
When I look back at it, I can’t believe it all started from one phone call. As a kid, I always wanted to get to the places I am now, and now I have, just in a different way- through physiotherapy.
The Challenges of Working on the Road & at the Highest Level
What I love about what I do is helping athletes get the best results out of themselves and ultimately achieve their dreams. You realise you can be a big part of their success, particularly if they’re suffering with a painful niggle during a tournament. There’s nothing more professionally satisfying to see them then go on to win it.
Travelling and working on the road also offers up its own challenges.
When on tournament I have far less time and resources at hand to solve the player’s problems than when I worked in a clinic. In the clinic I had more time to take care of the patient, deadlines were far less strict, patients came in having their injury pre-diagnosed, I had more resources at hand- the list goes on.
Whereas in tennis, I’m on the court when the problem happens. I tend to do a lot more acute treatments for athletes, and a lot of direct treatment afterwards to help them get back up and moving as soon as possible. It’s definitely a lot more challenging to treat athletes on the court, especially at this level where they expect me to produce magic.
In fact, managing the player’s expectations, and those of their team, can sometimes be the most challenging aspect of the role. As a physio you’re on the receiving end of a lot of pressure from their team, especially when it’s the world no.1 tennis player and everybody is looking at you to solve his physical problems.
I discovered Premax when on tour at the Australian Open a few years ago, and I have never looked back since. I was astonished by how different it was to the massage creams I was using before, and how much better in quality it was.
Premax really suits physiotherapists like me personally, because it fits with my treatment style perfectly. In my work I do a lot of fascial treatment, and Premax is by far the best cream for this. When I’m treating players I need a product that provides really good grip and allows for deep and clean contact, whereas most other massage creams simply slip over the skin because they are too oily, and are simply not as suited for the task.
Even when I’m supposed to do dry, cream-free treatments, I sometimes use Premax’s massage cream when the athlete’s skin is too dry, because the cream is so versatile. It allows me to do what I want. The ingredients are high quality and it’s an all-round great product- it benefits me as a practitioner, and the athletes also appreciate not having their skin left feeling oily and greasy.
Premax is the best product for physiotherapists.
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