I don’t know about you guys, but I am ready for tennis season to be back in full force! I am counting down the days until the Australian Open! But until then, let’s discuss some player/coach relationships as it seems like lately there has been an influx of new relationships being formed.
It’s not new to see former pros on the coaching end of things, but it seems like lately, all of our favorite players from the past have made their way back to the circuit via coaching. Brad Gilbert has worked with the best of them — everyone from Agassi, Roddick, Andy Murray to Nishikori and even Sam Querrey. Some of those relationships blossomed in chemistry, and some were duds. In 2013, we saw Sharapova hire, and quickly fire, Jimmy Connors — but let’s be honest, there wasn’t enough room on the court for those two superstars. Then there was Martina Hingis’ stint in coaching Anastasia Pavlyuchnkova…until Martina realized how much she missed the limelight and competition.
So, who do we have paired up in 2014?
Andy Murray and Lendl have found some chemistry in the past year, although winning a Wimbledon title couldn’t really hurt that relationship at all! It will be good to see if these two can keep the magic going into a new year and see if Murray can win another Wimby title and something to go with it.
Roger Federer has paired up with his childhood idol Stefan Edberg. I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait to see this pair at work. When trying to dissect what Fed needs to do to get back on top, I actually think this relationship will either flourish or flop — it will be interesting to see if Edberg has the fire to get Fed back to where he was, or better yet, to help him emerge as a stronger player than ever before to combat the struggles he endured in 2013. Sometimes great players aren’t great coaches, but there has to be some magic brewing between these two talented players.
Novak Djokovic is working with Boris Becker. With Nole looking to specifically focus on his mental game, this will be a fun relationship to watch. Although I’m not yet convinced that the chemistry will be there, stranger things have happened on the ATP Tour!
Possibly my favorite match-up comes from Alexandr Dolgopolov hiring Fabrice Santoro. We all know that neither of these guys has a “conventional” game by any sense of the word…however, Santoro could be someone that finally can ground the Dog and get him to play a little less wild…or at least key into the crazy stuff at the opportune moments.
Michael Chang will be working with Kei Nishikori, although this is a part-time position at the moment. I can see the idea behind this one, both are great counter punchers and Kei needs to find what it takes to break through, and hopefully Chang can help him out with that, but the game has changed so much since Chang was a champion.
Marin Cilic has hired fellow Croat, and one of my personal favorite players of all time, Goran Ivanisevic. I love Goran and am excited to see him out there with Cilic…I will admit, I hope this relationship lasts a few months at least so I can catch a Cilic practice sesh at the BNP this year, just to see Goran out there!
Richard Gasquet has teamed up with Sergi Bruguera who has made a name for himself in the academy world. This partnership won’t begin until after the Australian Open, but Spanish Sergi and his French Open titles should be able to help Gasquet go for that coveted Roland Garros title.
And Ivan Ljubicic will continue working with up and coming Canadian Milos Raonic this year. They began working together after the French last year and things seem to be going well. I am hoping to see Milos do some damage this year and make his impact on the ATP.
Sloane Stephens has announced that she has hired Paul Annacone. They had a trial last fall and it looks like it was a good combo for the two of them. However, it is a bit disheartening to hear that she has since pulled out of the warm-up tournaments to the Australian Open.
Sharapova is working with former adidas player development coach, Sven Groeneveld. If her shoulder can stay healthy, then there is a good chance this is a combo will do well — Sven has spent the past several years coaching against Maria and has a resume of coaching WTA players toward Grand Slam titles. If Maria wants to have a great year, she needs someone to help her get past Serena in 2014, and hopefully Sven can help her break her losing streak against her.
Serena is looking strong with Patrick Mouratoglou by her side. Personally, I think if she stays healthy, and their personal relationship stays in tact, I can’t imagine too many people stopping her this year…but you never know!
Am I missing any new coaching combos? Who do you think makes the best coach/player relationship so far? And which ones will last through the year or fizzle out before the BNP? 6 days til the Aussie Open…
Play with heart,