By John Delong
(Editor’s note: This is one in a series of updates on players who played in last year’s Winston-Salem Open or have committed to play in this year’s tournament."
The enduring image of Viktor Troicki is one of jubilation, as he hugged teammate Novak Djokovic and others after he had won the fifth and deciding rubber against France to clinch Serbia’s first-ever Davis Cup title back in 2010.
But this year another image has emerged, thanks to the Internet.
It’s one of competitive fire as Troicki argued passionately with the chair umpire following a controversial call in a loss to Ernests Gulbis in Rome.
This wasn’t a temper tantrum or a meltdown as much as it was a display of raw emotion, conviction and competitiveness. In his mind, the 27-year-old Belgrade native knew he was right, and he did everything possible to get the call reversed.
"The nice thing I think was that I didn’t curse at all," Troicki said in an interview with WinstonSalemOpen.com recently. "I got a lot of positive comments about the way I handled it. I knew that I was right and I just wanted to show the chair umpire that he was wrong and he made a wrong decision about that. You couldn’t do much but what I did. So people liked it and I got some positive feedback about how I handled it. A lot of positive comments."
Troicki said it was a spontaneous reaction, and the last thing he was thinking about at the time was becoming a cyberspace star.
"Very spontaneous," he said. "It just came out. He called it on break point and I actually saw it from my side. So I wanted him to check the ball and he was like, ‘Get on,’ and he didn’t want to correct himself. So that’s why I went over and wanted to see the ball myself, and when I got there it was too obvious. That’s where it all started, and I couldn’t make him change his mind. That was the frustrating part. But it happens in tennis."
The good news is that Troicki has rebounded nicely in the time since and is climbing back up the ATP World Tour rankings at No. 44. He climbed 13 spots after reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros, beating James Blake and Marin Cilic along the way before eventually losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Troicki was ranked as high as No. 12 in June of 2011, and he feels like he is on the right track to make another run at the Top 20. He hasn’t had a multitude of success this year – his best finishes have been quarterfinal appearances in Munich, Bucharest and Dusseldorf – but he feels like he is regaining his old form.
"I need to play consistently good to get back to Top 15 where I was two years ago," he said. "It definitely takes a lot of energy and focus. I think I’m on the right track. Right now I’m having ups and downs in some matches but I still know I’m playing better than five or six months ago. So I’m feeling better about my game and hopefully I can get some good results soon."
Troicki’s lone ATP World Tour title came in Moscow in 2010.
Troicki made his first appearance in the Winston-Salem Open last year, but it was a brief one. Ranked No. 30 at the time, he was the tournament’s seventh seed but he lost his opening match to David Goffin.
He said he’s looking forward to returning to Winston-Salem and going farther this year.
"It wasn’t quite a successful tournament for me, but it was a nice tournament, nice week, great site," he said. "The courts were great. So hopefully I will play better this year. The field is strong and it is not going to be an easy tournament, but I like to play hardcourt and I like playing the week before the U.S. Open. You get some matches and you set up your game and you can get some points if you play well.
"So it’s fun and useful as well."