Nick Bollettieri signing his new book, Changing the game
Photo credit: Tom Flink
Former coach of the French Fed Cup and Davis Cup teams
What can these former number one bring to today’s great champions?
1 – On their game system in general: a more or less methodical but sharp review because their vision is of the highest level of our sport. It can only be to do a little more or a little less this and that (depending on their qualities, surface, weather, their opponent etc.) and take everything into account (strokes, game areas, duration of rallyes, initiatives, variations, improvisations, adaptations, percentage). With their sharp eye it can bring a decisive bonus on a specific point!
2 – On their personal technique, it is unlikely that they have to intervene. Perhaps a detail, with the coach in place and the desire of the player himself of course.
3 – For the training itself, they had different habits . However, they may suggest things and bring new life with enthusiasm and passion, the ingredients necessary to be effective.
4 – In the mental area where these three cracks (Djokovic, Federer and Murray) are top notch, with Nadal, it is an additional challenge. Prove themselves, prove to their team, and to the skeptics they were right. Any excess of zeal could have the opposite effect: doubt. It won’t be the case . A “detail” will perhaps have done difference. And in this case, it will not be a simple “detail” anymore…
Former coach of Yannick Noah
Basically it comes from a need to be reassured. They seek confidence and serenity they sometimes lost and need to confide in a champion, who is somehow their equal. I don’t see that as a work of a coach, it is more psychology, it is more on the emotional level than on the playing level. With these legends, the champions of the caliber of Federer and Djokovic can speak freely and confide. This is very different from the work of a coach who is there all year long and who has not this experience.
Federer is not look not looking for someone who accompanies him on the court, he wants someone to help him feel good. Sometimes a champion simply needs another speech, or the same things said otherwise. Because all that really lies in the field of communication. Former champions see things and analyze them with many
objectivity. They are not in emotions like a coach who lives these situations for the first times can be.
All these experiences make me think of Yannick Noah, who had many discussions with Arthur Ashe, when I was coaching him. These moments were essential for Yannick because Arthur had a role model. He was a character who was shining on an off court. The discussions they had and that could be very intimate really triggered many things with in him, confidence and self-esteem. For me too, in my work as a coach, it brought me a lot. It comforted me in my approach.
I was surprised to see Boris and Stefan back to the circuit. But it makes sense. They can bring, share. Boris has experienced amazing things… And they are available. I talked to Boris I can tell you that I feel he’s really motivated.
Coached by Mats Wilander between January and September 2008
The big difference in the speech of these former players is that they are used to these important situations and they know what to expect. That is something you can not talk about with a coach who has not experienced these major events. In the matches preparation it was interesting for me to have the opinion of a former great player.
At the beginning of my practices with Mats and especially during matches, I felt the need to impress him because he was not everybody else! I was a little scared at first, afraid of being judged, but this disappeared after a few weeks.
What is undeniable is that these champions have a background in more in comparison to another coach. But it’s not enough, otherwise it would be too easy, everyone would take a former player!
What’s difficult for a former player who becomes a coach is to find the right balance and remember you’re a coach and not a player anymore. Some former players understand it very well and others will have difficulty to adapt, and to put themselves in the player’s skin. To coach is something else, it is a full-time job.
To coach is not to judge others, it is also to feed oneself from the player. The former champions know that and in general it works well. But it is not so easy. Everyone is not able to embark on a new career, because it takes time and energy. With stopped our collaboration with Mats, because I needed someone full-time and he had other obligations.
Former champion, former coach of Ivan Lendl and Djokovic’s advisor during the 2013 US Open
For me, the cases of Becker, Edberg and Lendl are very different. Djokovic, when he started working with Becker was at his best. Technically , tactically and physically. He had not lost since a few months. The only thing to expect from Becker is that he doesn’t change anything, waste anything. The bonus, for Djokovic is to have a star in his box, and have him as friend. This is not a need, it is more a trend now than a necessity…
Edberg, he came alongside Federer in a crisis, or just out of a crisis. But he is like all the Swedes, except Wilander: as much as Becker is open, lively and funny, Stefan is shy, and do not talk much. But Federer is a little “in love” with him and Edberg is his idol. Edberg brings his presence and can make Federer a little more aggressive. It worked in Australia until Nadal. But Federer can’t beat him by coming to the net or playing rallyes, so… Becker and Edberg are financially independent. With them, it is more a story of fun and friendship than real coaching.
It is really different for Lendl. Murray needed Ivan’s help mentally, physically and tactically. He improved everything. Djokovic and Federer, what could they change?
But I am very happy with this trend. It’s great!
Victoria Azarenka‘s coach
As I am someone curious, all these experiences interest me. We must be patient before making a true assessment .
Tennis is often played on details, so the help Edberg can bring to Federer or Becker to Djokovic is certainly on details. It can be technical or psychological. It may be taks about the game or small changes in all the parameters of the game. This is the advantage of high level it is not just the technique of the forehand or backhand, there are a lot of parameters that come into play.
All these champions have experienced so many things, they went through so many emotions. They have a
background more important than ours, that mine for example. They have an asset that lambda coach do not have: the anticipation. They understand better what is going to happen, they have more instinct yo know how the player will react on different situations. Even champions of the caliber of Federer or Djokovic can still improve and change their game. Their is no limit, it is only a matter of will.
Players have the right to go for it, if it’s allow them to improve. When you engage in a certain way, you don’t always know what will happen. You are still a little in doubt, but it is positive, it moves forward.
With Vika, we experimented with Amélie Mauresmo, it seemed interesting to have a woman with us, to have an outside view, someone with her experience, someone Vika would respect. It was worth it, and it was rewarding for everyone: Vika was able to share with Amélie, but I found it also interesting for me.
Arnaud Di Pasquale
I don’t think we can talk of trend. Be careful, work with a former great it’s not the miracle solution. The high level, this is not an exact science. What’s true is that the higher you go, the more you need to unlock things that are difficult to perceive, to feel. The idea, in my opinion , for these players is to have an advisor more than a coach. They expect a speech, a psychological intake more than a technical input. Moreover, it seems that they rely on these former champions on specific periods.
Often, they already have a full-time coach. To not have been a great champion is not a disavantage for a coach. It is a bonus to surround themselves with someone who has experienced the highest level, but the contribution of the great champion does not replace the role of the coach. You can learn how to do this or that shot even if you were not able to do it yourself at very high level, the French system proves it. There’s a lot of theory in the efficency of shots.
Roger Federer – Stefan Edberg
Edberg was one of my childhood hero. He was not really sure of himself, but he was very flattered, he came to Dubai and we spent a week together. I’m really happy he found time and desire to work with me. He’s really excited I’m sure he can bring me a different perspective.
I don’t see him as a coach, I see him more as a source of inspiration, a legend who spends time with me and taks with my coach Severin Lüthi and me. I’m not 15 anymore, he won’t revolutionize my game. I did not hire Edberg for that. For me, it is something else, a global thing: it’s an inspiration, a motivation to be able to listen to him and talk to him.
It is also interesting to see what he has to say about the evolution of my game towards the net.
I’ve tried a lot of things, I have some ideas but I’m not sue I can do them in matches. It is interesting to see if it’s still possible to do many serves and volleys on today’s slower courts, or if there are other ways for me to go to the net. You think he will dump me if I don’t go to the net?
It was a real surprise when I received a call from Roger asking me to help him. I was so far away from the tennis world. But Roger is someone so special on and off-court, someone I respect so much that I said “ok, think about it!”
But it’s such an opportunity to work with him… Maybe I can bring something do that he stays in tennis as long as possible because he is extraordinary for our sport. As long as he is healthy and motivated, he has the potential to do great things. The road will be long , but I think he is still good enough to beat anyone.
I do it because I think I can really bring him something. And maybe that little something can bring back Roger to where he was some time ago.
Roger is on court, but maybe hearing a different voice, different speeches from someone who has experienced this situation in the past, will be effective because there are still some things you can work on, details that can be decisive.
Novak Djokovic – Boris Becker
He can help me progress on a lot of aspects of my game: serve, return, volley. But his most important help is on the mental part. He knows what I feel, the challenges I’m facing, what I’m going through in difficult times.
I was looking for someone who had known similar situations, and I thought of him.
Of course, tennis has evolved, and today’s game is based on today is based on the baseline. But I think with his game, his volleys and the aggressive style he developed, he can really help me.
When you change something in your life, it is always risky, but I do not want to think like that. I chose not to be in fear of change. These are negative feelings.
I am also very pleased to see all these former legends return as coach.
This is very positive for our sport. They won so many Grand Slam tournaments, they have all been number one, they were champions, they know what we’re going through, in the Grand Slams in particular. They can identify to us.
I will not go into the details of things we are working on. But because I reached ten Grand Slam finals, I know exactly what a player feels in the final stages of a tournament. As he has already been world number 1, with six Grand Slam titles, I will not teach him how to make a backhand or a forehand. But I think tactically, strategically and mentally, there is room for progress, and that’s why he called me.
Marin Cilic – Goran Ivanisevic
Goran gave me lots of advice on my service. He told me to simplify my gesture “throws the ball in the air and
strikes!” Before, I was thinking too much before serving. But we worked hard on it, and it seems to work. Goran knows what I have work to get to the top. He also brings me all his experience and all the things he has experienced in his career.
Kei Nishikori – Michael Chang
Michael Chang knows players very well. He gives me great advices on tactics and a lot of confidence. My game will not be fundamentally turned upside down. Michael was part of the top 10 for many years. My goal is to reach the top 10 this is my dream. I hope to learn a lot from him.
Photo by Cindy
Article by Tennis Magazine, April 2014, translated by Tennis Buzz.
When a number 1 from yesterday meets a number 1 from today, what do they talk about? Stories of number 1 of course!
But what can these legends bring to champions whose achievements have nothing to envy theirs? That’s the question… One thing is sure: the 80’s and 90’s are trendier than ever. In fact, the courts took a very vintage look lately.
Two legends, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker, but also Michael Chang, Sergi Bruguera and Goran Ivanisevic have made their return to the circuit at the Australian Open, alongside their peers.
Ivan Lendl was a pionneer, as he started working with Andy Murray two years ago. But the trend took momentum in the offseason, with associations between Cilic and Ivanisevic (November), Gasquet and Bruguera (end of November), Nishikori and Chang (mid-December), and at last but not at least, two partnerships who had some kind of a bomb effect, Djokovic with Becker and Federer with Edberg (end of December).
What can these former great players add compared to a conventional coach? And why the glories of yesterday have chosen to come back on the circuit? With interviews of players and coaches, Tennis Magazine updates on these duos.
Without a doubt, to have Ivan Lendl by my side was a real bonus.
Readily acknowledged Andy Murray after his first Grand Slam victory at the US Open in 2012, nine months after the beginning of his collaboration with the Czech.
The pair, intriguing at first, was conclusive. Their two parallel respective experiences were obvious: like his coach, Andy Murray finally captured his maiden Grand Slam title after four defeats in the finals.
I knew what he was going through and the frustration that he could feel, explained Ivan Lendl .
Former champions turning to coaching is nothing new. Some have not left a great memory in this role. Mats Wilander with Paul-Henri Mathieu and Marat Safin, Jimmy Connors with Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova were not really successful. But what’s surprising today is the high number of these collaborations that almost occured at the same time. So, simple coincidence or new trend?
Tennis has always followed trends. Two years ago you had to eat like Djokovic, and 3 players out of 4 found out they were “allergic” to gluten. Now your coach must be a former number 1 or 2 when you are a top 10 player.
Critic, Patrick Mouratoglou distrusts the new trend. So, what can be the actual contribution of these former legends of yesterday to today’s great players?
Their experience is of course their first quality. The top players are seeking some sort of alter ego, someone who like them has experienced the stress of tennis at the highest level.
I was looking for someone who had experienced similar situations, and I thought of Boris, explained Novak Djokovic
Same speech for Marin Cilic, who saw in his compatriot Goran Ivanisevic the ideal person to take him in the top 10.
It is important to have the support from someone like him . He brings me all his experience, and all the things he experienced in his career.
Just as Richard Gasquet who found in Sergi Bruguera a champion who has experienced a very high level with two Grand Slam victories (Roland Garros 1993 and 94), Andy Murray explains how working with someone who has been there can be benefical:
All these players know the state of mind you must have when you play for major finals. And maybe, knowing the situation themselves, they better understand certain decisions taken on the court, under pressure, while it is more difficult to grasp for someone who has never known it.
For Sam Sumyk, Victoria Azarenka’s coach, the experience of high level is an undeniable asset:
They have a greater background than mine for example. They have an asset that lambda coach do not have: the anticipation. They understand better what is going to happen, they have more instinct yo know how the player will react on different situations.
For Patrick Mouratoglou , despite his reserves, there is a special relationship between all these legends:
They can talk the same language and shed a different light, or alternatively strengthen positions
For Patrice Hagelauer, Yannick Noah’s coach when he won Roland Garros in 1983:
Former champions see things and analyze them with more objectivity. They are not in emotions like a coach who lives these situations for the first times can be.
If one can understand this process for players looking to access to the highest level like Gasquet, Cilic and Nishikori, it is less evident for Federer or Djokovic, who have at least as much, if not more,
experience at the high level that their own coach and already an outstanding record.
Even though he already has a beautiful trophy case, Novak is not satisfied with his six Grand Slam titles. He wants more and he wants the better team around him to improve, said Boris Becker in Melbourne
Novak Djokovic choice has surprised. How to interpret the world number 2 decision to shake up his stability with his historic coach, Marian Vajda, while he was on the rise after a fantastic year-end. Novak Djokovic wants to see further:
When you change something in your life, it is always risky, but I do not want to think like that. I chose not to be in fear of change.
Novak Djokovic, who has not won a Grand Slam since the Australian Open in 2013 or Roger Federer, seeking
his former glory, want to see in these new collaborations a way to improve again, or return to the top .
Even champions of the caliber of Federer or Djokovic can still improve and change things intheir game, says Sam Sumyk. This is the advantage of high level, this is not just the technic of a technical or backhand,
there are lots of parameters that come into play. The help Edberg can bring to Federer or Becker to Djokovic is on details. It can be in all areas: technic , way of thinking , or state of mind.
Former champion and coach of Lendl , the Pole Wojtek Fibak is more direct :
What they bring is their presence. That’s all, but it is not nothing.
Stefan Edberg also thinks his help will be in the details:
I think I can really bring a small something. And maybe that little something can bring back Roger to where he was some time ago.
A sentence pronounced before the Dubai tournament, where Federer beat Djokovic for the first time in almost two years.
At this level , the difference is therefore on things sometimes insignificant, although difficult to define:
The higher you go, the more you have to unlock things that are difficult to perceive, to feel, said Arnaud Di Pasquale
Eveyone agrees on this, Roger Federer will not revolutionize his game and play the serve and volley constantly to “please” Stefan Edberg, the same goes for Novak Djokovic. But according to the Serbian, Boris Becker contributions can be numerous:
He can help me progress on a lot of aspects of my game: serve, return, volley. But his most important help is on the mental part.
Roger Federer, like Wotjek Fibak, prefers to talk about inspiration rather than mental concerning the presence of Stefan Edberg, his childhood idol, at his side.
I did not hire Edberg to explain me how to come to the net. For me, it is something else, a global thing. I don’t see him in the role of a coach, but more as an inspiration, a legend spending time with me.
Beyond the technical, tactical or physical aspect, the help would be, in general, psychological.
Basically it comes from a need to be reassured, explains Patrice Hagelauer. They seek confidence and serenity
they sometimes lost and need to confide in a champion, who is somehow their equal. I don’t see that as a work of a coach, it is more psychology.
Here we are far away from the role of the coach, in the strict sense, but more in the role of an advisor.
It is a bonus to surround themselves with someone who has experienced the highest level, but the contribution of the great champion does not replace the role of the coach, explains Di Pasquale.
We must not forget that coach is first of all a full-time job, says Mouratoglou.
Without removing anything to the experience of the great champions, a great player does not necessarily make a good coach, while most coaches were not No. 1 or Grand Slam winners.
You can learn how to do this or that shot even if you were not able to do it yourself at very high level, the French system proves it, says Arnaud Di Pasquale .
But only time will tell the impact of these former champions on today’s champions. But it’s obvious it is difficult to compare the cases of Federer and Djokovic and those of Cilic or Nishikori who are still quite far from the top. And the job of a full-time coach has nothing to do with the role that Edberg and Becker play.
We’re not going to find a single answer to very different situations. How else to explain the success of players who keep the same coach for a very long time, if not forever? Like Rafael Nadal, for example …
With his win over Robin Haase in the first round of the Miami Sony Open, Lleyton Hewitt has become the 21st male player to record 600 match wins. Only Roger Federer (942) and Rafael Nadal (675) have won more matches among active players.
Today was just like another match and an opportunity to go out there and play well.
Obviously afterwards, it’s a great milestone. Not many people get to achieve that. Not many people get the opportunity to get close to that, so it means I’ve been around for an awfully long time as well. I’m getting old.
A few years ago, when I had the last couple lot of surgeries, I probably would have doubted I’d get to this stage anyway. I’m still grateful I’m out there and able to compete with the best guys.
Photos source: Tennis Australia Facebook page
Same kit as Indian Wells for Roger Federer, who’ll try to capture a third Miami Masters title.
Source: Tennis Express