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 to 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 in their game, says Sam Sumyk. This is the advantage of high level, this is not just the technique of a forehand 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: technique , 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 little 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 …

Indian Wells

Legendary tennis commentator Bud Collins explains how unique the atmosphere is at Indian Wells. Interview by Vincent Cognet for L’Equipe, translated by Tennis Buzz.

Q: You knew this tournament long before it moved to Indian Wells. What are your memories of those years?
It was already a good tournament but it moved often. And all the best ones were not always there, unlike today, but those who had loved it because it is one of the most beautiful places in our country. (Former tournament director) Charlie Pasarell had to fight because it was planned to move the tournament to China. But this tournament has always been relaxed, almost family at a time.

Q: The weather is also really cool
Not always! Sometimes it blew a terrible wind. One year, the press tent flew away. Between us we thought it was Richard Nixon who did it! Moreover, the final was not held that year.
Another year, Jimmy Connors and Roscoe Tanner had reached the final, but the wind was so violent that it was impossible to play. Both players refused to enter the court until NBC, the tournament broadcaster, decided to bang its fists on the table. Connors and Tanner did not say anything and played the final.
I also remember a year, it must have been in 1974, where the referee could not make the draw, he threw the coin up into the air but it never fell down, because there was so much wind! It was completely insane.

Q: What do you think of Larry Ellison, the owner of the tournament?
He is a very discreet, private person. And he loves tennis, he also has a private coach, a former pro who never really made it to the next level. He seems to do quite well racquet in hand.

Q: Do you think players are more relaxed here than on the rest of the circuit?
Absolutely! Players are different. They do not feel persecuted or spied. At Indian Wells everyone mixes with everyone. It has always been the desire of Pasarell, players owe him a lot.

Photo by Rick, find out more pics of Indian Wells 2011 here.

Novak Djokovic
Preview, recap and analysis:

Novak Djokovic first practice session
Roger Federer first practice session
Day 1 recap
Day 2 recap
Day 3 recap
Day 4 recap
Day 5 recap
Day 6 recap
Day 7 recap
Women’s semifinals highlights
Li Na and Dominika Cibulkova roads to the 2014 Australian Open final
Rafael Nadal and Stanislas Wawrinka roads to the 2014 Australian Open final
Li Na defeats Dominika Cibulkova, wins first Australian Open title

A trip down memory lane:

Australian Open trivia
The tragedy of Daphne Akhurst
The Norman Brookes Challenge Cup
1960 Australian Open: Neale Feaser, a costly volley
1960: first Grand Slam title for Rod Laver
1960-63 Australian Open: Jan Lehane four time runner-up
1974 Australian Open: Jimmy Connors first Grand Slam title
1981: First Australian Open title for Martina Navratilova
1987-1988 Swedes spoil the party
January 11, 1988: first day of play at Flinders Park
1994: First Australian Open title for Pete Sampras
1996 Australian Open: Mark Philippoussis defeats Pete Sampras in the 3rd round
1997 Australian Open: Pete Sampras defeats Carlos Moya
2001 Australian Open: Pat’s last chance
2001 Australian Open final: Andre Agassi defeats Arnaud Clément
2003 Australian Open: last Grand Slam title for Agassi
2005 Australian Open: Heartbreak for Lleyton Hewitt
2009 Australian Open: Rafael Nadal defeats Roger Federer

Fashion and gear:

Andy Murray adidas outfit
Ana Ivanovic adidas dress
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga adidas outfit
Caroline Wozniacki dress by Stella McCartney
Rafael Nadal signature shoes: the Nike Lunar Ballistec
Roger Federer signature shoes: the Nike Zoom Vapor 9.5
Novak Djokovic Uniqlo outfit
Venus Williams dress by EleVen
Rafael Nadal Nike outfit
Roger Federer Nike outfit
Serena Williams Nike dress
Maria Sharapova Nike dress
Victoria Azarenka Nike outfit
Li Na Nike outfit
Juan Martin del Potro Nike outfit
Lleyton Hewitt C’mon outfit
Kei Nishikori Uniqlo outfit
Eugenie Bouchard Nike outfit
Flavia Pennetta outfit by Stella McCartney

Polls:

Who will be the 2014 Australian Open champion?

  • Rafael Nadal (33%, 92 Votes)
  • Novak Djokovic (28%, 80 Votes)
  • Roger Federer (27%, 76 Votes)
  • Juan Martin Del Potro (4%, 11 Votes)
  • Andy Murray (4%, 10 Votes)
  • Stanislas Wawrinka (2%, 5 Votes)
  • Tomas Berdych (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Other (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Richard Gasquet (0%, 1 Votes)
  • David Ferrer (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 283

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Australian Open 2014 champion?

  • Serena Williams (49%, 70 Votes)
  • Victoria Azarenka (15%, 21 Votes)
  • Maria Sharapova (12%, 17 Votes)
  • Na Li (9%, 13 Votes)
  • Other (5%, 7 Votes)
  • Caroline Wozniacki (4%, 6 Votes)
  • Jelena Jankovic (3%, 4 Votes)
  • Agniezska Radwanska (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Angelique Kerber (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Petra Kvitova (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Sara Errani (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 144

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In 1974, Jimmy Connors captures his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open defeating Phil Dent (Taylor’s father) in the finals. At that time, the tournament was played on grass at the Kooyong Stadium over Christmas and New Year’s and Jimmy Connors was engaged to Chris Evert.
1974 was the only year Bjorn Borg played at the Australian Open, losing in the third round to Phil Dent. In the women’s draw Evonne Goolagong in her fourth-consecutive Australian Open final appearance, defeated Chris Evert 7-6 4-6 6-0.

Jimbo’s road to the title:
1st round: def Jean-Louis Haillet (FRA) 6-1 7-5
2nd round: def Graeme Thomson (AUS) 6-4 6-2 7-6
3rd round: def Syd Ball (AUS) 6-4 5-7 6-3 6-4
Quarter finals: def Vladimir Zednik (TCH) 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-4
Semi finals: def John Alexander (AUS) 7-6 6-4 6-4
Finals: def Phil Dent (AUS) 7-6 4-6 6-0

From Jimmy Connors‘ autobiography The Outsider:

“Australia in December is stupid hot and at times the weather matched my mood. The facilities were basic, to say the least – the Kooyong Stadium had a tiny locker room with a single shower and one toilet cubicle – but that didn’t bother me. No, what pissed me off was the partisan crowd, screaming approval at every hometown player and abuse at every foreigner. Guess who was their main target?

I took the brunt of it; three of the five matches I played to reach my first Grand Slam final were against Aussies. Every time I beat a local the fans roared their disapproval. Who was this upstart American brat hell-bent on ruining their party? Hearing the crowd booing was one thing, but was the hell was the deal with those flies? Where were they breeding those things anyway? They looked like B-52s coming down on me.

Spencer and Chrissie did their best to calm me down, and I know that without them I would have imploded and been on my way home long before I met another Australian, Phil Dent, in the finals.
But even Chrissie was getting on my nerves. Nobody was safe. With the organizers usually scheduling me on the court after Chrissie, I would go along to support her, sometimes bringing a sandwich and a Pepsi for my lunch. Chrissie didn’t seem to like that one little bit. If she noticed me eating and not paying attention during her match, she would throw me a look, which wasn’t hard for me to read: “If you’re not going to watch me play, then get out of here.” That pissed me off even more than the hostile Australian fans, because it was embarrassing; I thought everyone in the stadium could see what was going on. Run along, Jimmy, do what you’re told. […]

Phil Dent took the full force of the frustation and aggression that had been building in me from the first day of the tournament. Fortunately, I managed to channel it into my game. The super-dry, well-worn grass of Kooyong reminded me of the armory floorboards, and I adopted the approach Mom had taught me back in St Louis, moving forward, taking the ball early, blasting it down the lines and across the court. Even with the crowd cheering their countryman on, he didn’t stand a chance.
I took the first two sets, and although he managed to rally in the third set, taking it 6-4 and putting on a show for his fans, it was just a momentary setback. I regrouped, ignored the lynch mob in the stands, and won the fourth, 6-3, to capture my first Grand Slam title.

I was ecstatic, even if, to be brutally honest, the Australian Open in the 1970s didn’t draw the number of top players that it should have. The long flight and the unfortunate timing of the tournament limited the field. But it was still a Grand Slam and an important win in anybody’s book.
If the scheduling had been like it is today, I would have gone to Australia more often. But I played the Australian Open only twice in my career, winning it in 1974 and losing to John Newcombe in the finals the following year, and I thought that was good enough. I don’t regret any of the decisions I made, but who knows; if I had played the Australian a few more times, would I have won more majors? Your guess is as good as mine.

Between 1974 and 1979, I also didn’t play in the French Open so there was a long period of time where I was competing only in Wimbledon and the US Open.

So get this – in my career I won eight Slams and was in the finals of seven others, basically playing only two majors a year. Take it for what it is worth.

Getting that first win in the Australian Open was huge. That victory did set me up perfectly for what was to become the most extraordinary single year of my career: I would win 15 tournaments and lose only four matches out of 103. I also saw it as a launchpad that would catapult me toward the French Open and Wimbledon. I was partially correct.”

Kinda ironic to read Connors complain about the crowd don’t you think? Really would like to know his opponents’ thoughts on playing against him and the crowd at the US Open…

Extract from On this day in tennis history by Randy Walker

Arthur Ashe becomes the first black player to win a title in the apartheid nation of South Africa winning the doubles title at the South African Open with Tom Okker, defeating Lew Hoad and Bob Maud 6-2 4-6 6-2 6-4 in the final.
After being denied a visa based on his anti-apartheid views, Ashe is permitted to play in the event by the South African government. Ashe requests to tournament officials that the bleacher seating not be segregatedd during the tournament, but his wishes are not granted.
Ashe loses the singles final the day before to Jimmy Connors 6-4 7-6 6-3. Chris Evert wins the women’s title defeating Evonne Goolagong 6-3 6-3.