What makes a great tennis player? Hard work, determination and years of practice…Yes, true, but the importance of a coach cannot be ruled out either. The experience of your coach, his way of teaching some small little secrets can make a hell lot of difference between a great player and an ordinary player.
What caught my attention in recent past is the fact there have been so many yesterday’s stars that have either coached or are still coaching today’s stars. Looks like it is extremely difficult to give up something so dear to you and you look ways to be attached to it in one form or the other.
Since couple of years, it kind of became a trend to rope in former greats as coaches. And the trend is seen more in men’s tennis than in Women’s. Swiss Great Roger Federer was once coached by Former Great Stefan Edberg , and now another former player Ivan Ljubicic, Ivan Lendl coaches Andy Murray ,World number one Novak Djokovic’s is being coached by Former German champion Boris Becker and former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic coached country man Marin Cilic . All these players have given some very very good results in their career under their respective coaches. Not only that, Richard Gasquet has joined forces with former two time French Open winner Sergi Bruguera, and the Japanese star Kei Nishikori has been coached by another former French Open champion Michael Chang since 2014. Under his guidance only, Nishikori achieved his highest singles ranking of world number 4 last year. Players who have parted ways with former champions have joined hands with new Coaches who too have been either a former player, former Grand Slam Champion or a doubles specialist.
Former great John McEnroe was no exception to that.. He coached Canadian Milos Raonic for an extremely short period but even that resulted in Raonic reaching the Wimbledon final this year. It is a clear indication that players who have hung their racquets are keen in picking it up too .. So what if it is on a different level!.
The women tennis however is yet to follow the men’s lead but we certainly have witnessed great players occasionally giving tips to some young guns or working as a part timers.
Martina Navratilova was as a part time coach to Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland before parting ways and Occasionally, we have also witnessed 5 time Grand Slam Champion Martina Hingis being part of the coaching squad to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Former Wimbledon and Australian open champion Amelie Mauresmo broke the stereotype when she accepted the invitation of being Andy Murray’s coach. The Partnership did not last long though with Mauresmo citing Murray’s on court behavior towards his team as the reason for her to quit.
Mauresmo though had a successful run with Marion Bartoli whom she helped coaching enroute to Bartoli’s Wimbledon win.
If we look at how these coaches have shaped up some of the male tennis players’ career, we will find some astonishing results.
Djokovic and Boris Becker
World number one Novak Djokovic has had no less than 8 coaches till date. But his most stable partnership has come with Boris Becker who has been coaching the Serb since 2013. Djoker has won 7 of his 12 Grand Slams under him. Not only this, Under Becker Djokoivc has reached other heights as well. He has held the world number one spot for 124 weeks and became only the 8th player in the history to achieve the Career Grand Slam (After winning the 2016 French Open title.). The best team result came in 2015 when Novak made 15 straight finals and won 11 titles – including three Grand Slams and a record six Masters 1000 trophies – en route to an 82-6 mark.
Roger Federer and Stefan Edberg
The Partnership lasted for two wonderful years.. Although, the Swiss Maestro failed to add any Grand Slam to his kitty under Edberg, but the former world number one added 11 ATP trophies in his trophy cabinet.Edberg has been Federer’s childhood idol and the two brought up fighting spirit back in Federer’s mind. They ended their partnership last year and now Ivan Ljubicic has entered the lavishing team of Federer, another former player.
Ivan Lendl and Andy Murray
Andy Murray has won all three of his Major under Ivan Lendl. The 2012 US open, the 2013 Wimbledon (Putting a full stop on endless wait of a Briton winning the Wimbledon.) and 2016 Wimbledon and Olympic Gold. The Briton however, for a brief period of time hired another Grand Slam champion and appeared to have started a new trend.. a Woman coaching a Man. AmelieMauresmo was roped in but failed to give desired results. And once again, Murray went back to Lendl… this time too, Lendl did what other’s fail.. Win another Grand Slam…The 2016 Wimbledon, his second.
Marin Cilic’s only Grand Slam victory came under Former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic. He is currently being coached by another former tennis player and doubles specialist Jonas Lars Björkman.
So, why did we see such a huge influx of former tennis players into coaching in the recent past? The biggest advantage for the players to be coached by former players is perhaps the experience they have. They have been on the biggest stage, understand the pressure and have tricks to cope with it and they know what works and what does not.
For years we have seen former tennis players who were still hungry to achieve the goals they did not in their time made the most of the list. Brad Gilbret is a perfect example of this… He reached as high as world number 4 in his career but failed to cross the Quarterfinal hurdle in any Major. But what he did with Andre Agassi was simply extraordinary. He is one of the best coaches in the tennis world. He used Andre Agassi’s strength to the core and helped him win 6 of his 8 Grand Slams.But it is not about what you did.. It’s about what your player does and how your player does. Also, one of the best coaches a perhaps those had less and made the best of it. Apart from Agassi, Gilbret also coached players like Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, Andy Murray but none yielded the desired results. That’s also leads to another point that what works for one player will not necessarily work for others.
Who can forget the efforts of Larry Stefanki who himself who never really had successful tennis career but coached tennis greats like John McEnroe , Tim Henman , Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova and Yevgeny Kafelnikov.Money off course is another reason why coaches enter into the coaching world. Coaches these Days get paid extremely well.
Another name in the fray is of Ivan Ljubicic. The former player from Croatia reached a career high ranking of world number 3 but was never really successful when it came to big tournaments. He won men’s doubles bronze medal in 2004 Olympics. He hung his racket in 2012 and three years later has been named coach of Roger Federer..
Interesting fact here is that Roger Federer is 35 years old and Ljubicic is 37. So it is not that age is the main criteria for players when it comes to choosing their coaches. its is a personal choice and what a player works best for him.
Others include the likes of Magnus Norman and 1996 wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek who are busy shaping Stanislas Wawrinka’s bright future.
Also, being a successful tennis player does not guarantee you to be a successful coach and vice-versa. It also does not mean that one particular coach will be as effective to other player as former.. It absolutely depends upon an individual player and its rapport with the team. But looking at the successive rates, you may expect the trend to continue for quite some time.