2014 Coaching/Player Relationships on the ATP and WTA

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?

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Federer and Edberg are working together in 2014 — photos by Cynthia Lum

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Man on fire – Jerzy Janowicz

World #5 David Ferrer captured his first ATP Masters 1000 title this past weekend in Paris.

In his fourth try, David Ferrer finally took home his first ATP Masters 1000 title this past weekend in Paris.

He becomes the first player outside of the Top 4 to win a Masters 1000 title since the end of 2010. Furthermore, he did it on a fast, indoor court, and not the red clay where Ferrer has traditionally thrived. This Spanish warrior just keeps getting better and better, having arguably the best year of his career at the ripe old age of 30. If David wins 4 matches this week at the year end championships in London, he would overtake Rafael Nadal and become the top ranked Spaniard.

David Ferrer took down the red hot Pole Jerzy Janowicz in the finals in Paris.

However, overshadowing Ferrer’s impressive title run was the man he played in the finals, 21-year-old Jerzy Janowicz. His incredible run to the final had him win 7 matches, 2 in the qualifying and 5 in the main draw, and every win in the main draw was over a player ranked inside the Top 20 (Kohlschreiber, Cilic, Murray, Tipsarevic, Simon). His magical week in Paris vaulted him 39 spots to a career high ranking of #26.

The 6’8″ youngster from Poland was slaying giants with monstrous serves, big flat forehands and remarkably effective drop shots. The big fella’ has some major weapons in his arsenal and masterly creativity about how to use them. But most impressive was his fighting spirit, which has come from a tough road to the top of the game.

Jerzy started this year ranked outside of the Top 200, at #221 in the world. “This year I didn’t go to the Australian Open because I just didn’t have money to play [the] tournament,” Jerzy told members of the ATP Staff in an interview following one of his matches, demonstrating the reality of many touring pros outside of the top 100. It was evident that he’s been fighting for his life on the tour all year long, scrapping to win matches just so he could get to the next tournament. The pressure you feel when you know you have to win just to make enough money to travel and play the next week is terrifying, which explains his fearless play in the later rounds of the Paris Masters. His astonishing jump almost 200 spots in the world rankings must be attributed to his strong mental toughness and determination.

It’s great to see one of these success stories come to the forefront of the game, and I’m sure I can speak for everyone when we say that we hope to see more great things out of the young Pole in the months and years to come.

-AG

ATP – Which gear reigned supreme at this year’s Open?

Novak Djokovic has been dominant in this year's Open with his Head YOUTEK IG Speed 18x20 racquet.

What a great 2012 US Open thus far! Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, the two finalists for this evening’s match, have been playing incredible tennis throughout the tournament. Novak has only dropped one set, and has shown his unique ability to shot-make from every position on the court time and time again. Murray has faced some major adversity, being down a set and 1-5 in the quarterfinals to Marin Cilic and down a set again in the semis to the red-hot Tomas Berdych in crazy windy conditions, but each time he stepped up to the plate and delivered with some dominating performances to close out the matches.

Today, I want to feature some of the gear that these great champions are sporting. With so many racquet and apparel companies fighting for dominance, which ones reigned supreme at this year’s US Open?

Andy Murray's been resilient all tournament in his adidas apparel and with his Head YOUTEK IG Radical Pro racquet.

When it comes to racquets, Head absolutely dominated, with both finalists and three of the four semifinalist using their frames. Novak Djokovic‘s hard-hitting game is complimented by his Head YOUTEK IG Speed 18×20 racquet. It’s a ball-striker’s racquet with its forgiving 100 square inch headsize, light swingweight, and super solid feel. Andy Murray‘s YOUTEK IG Radical Pro helps him utilize his creativity and supreme touch all over the court. It’s known for it’s excellent stability and soft feel, along with it’s super spin friendly 16×19 string pattern. The third Head racquet being featured in this year’s semifinals was Tomas Berdych‘s YOUTEK IG Instinct. The Instinct is a player’s frame with some unique specs, it features a strung weight of only 10.9 ounces and a high stiffness rating of 69. This provides the user with a super maneuverable racquet and a crisp, solid feel from all areas of the court.

While Head was dominant on the racquet side of things, the shoes and apparel battle was a little tougher to declare a winner in. With both players rocking their gear in the finals (with Murray head-to-toe and Djokovic in just the shoes), I have to give the edge to adidas in the clothing battle. Murray has been wearing the adidas Men’s Autumn adipower Barricade Crew and the Men’s Autumn adipower Barricade Bermuda short. Both Novak and Andy are sporting the barricade 7.0 men’s shoe.  The barricade shoe line has been a favorite for recreational and elite tennis players for years because of their unmatched durability, stability, and support, and as you can see it still is a popular choice on the tour today.

Make sure to tune in at 4 pm EST tonight for the men’s final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Both guys have been playing unbelievably well, showing resiliency under pressure and incredible shotmaking throughout the tournament. They have clearly been the two best players in the draw thus far. I’m going to give the slight edge to Novak in this one, toughing it out in a close 4 set battle.

Andy G.

Who’s hot and who’s not on the ATP Tour

It’s been an exciting first half of the 2012 season on the ATP Tour! We’ve seen Roger regain the #1 spot in the world rankings and three different players win majors, which hasn’t happened to start the year since 2005. Anything can happen leading into the Olympics in a couple weeks and with the American hard court season looming. Let’s take a look at who’s hot and who’s not on the ATP Tour leading into summer…

Who's hotter then the #1 ranked player in the world, Roger Federer?!

Who’s Hot??

Roger Federer – Record 287 weeks at #1. He’s just won his record 17th major and record-tying 7th Wimbledon title. He’s compiled a 46-6 record so far in 2012 with 5 titles, with two Masters 1000′s (Indian Wells and Madrid) and a major. Don’t look now, but Roger has returned to the throne at the top of the men’s game, and he’s turning 31 next month. G.O.A.T.? Without a doubt!

Marin Cilic – He’s won 2 titles in 2012 and they have both come in the last month, winning Queen’s Club (Nalbandian’s epic meltdown) and this past week’s clay court event in Umag in his home country of Croatia. After missing the first couple months of the year due to injury, Marin has compiled a 22-10 record (and four of those losses are to Del Potro). His only top 10 win of the year was against Isner in Madrid, but I think the big serving Croatian is gaining confidence and finding his form coming into summer.

Hard-working Croatian Marin Cilic could be finding his form leading into summer

Brian Baker – Is there a better story in tennis right now than this guy? After five surgeries and leaving the game to coach college tennis at hometown Belmont University in Nashville, TN, the smooth-moving American has come back with a bang and exploded into the world’s top 100 rankings. And if you think his recent results are a fluke then you’re heavily mistaken…he was formally number 2 in the world in juniors, and he’s won 32 of his last 38 matches dating back to April. Watch Brian continue his hot play on the American hard courts and reach the top 50 by the end of the year.

 

Who’s Not??

John Isner – After beating Djokovic and reaching the finals in Indian Wells in March, the big serving Georgia Bulldog hasn’t done much in tournament play since the tour moved over to Europe for the clay court season. I know he won Newport this past weekend, but his best win of the week was against fellow American #48 ranked Ryan Harrison, which just so happens to be his highest-ranked win in the last two months. He lost 5 of his 8 matches on the red dirt, which normally is a surface he’s strong on. Hopefully the big man can pick up some momentum in front of the home crowds in the States this summer, because the confidence seems to be lacking a bit in recent weeks.

Big John Isner will hopefully ride the momentum of winning Newport into the American hard court season

Feliciano Lopez – He’s lost 6 of his last 7 matches, including a first round loss at Wimbledon followed by a first round loss at a Challenger event in Colombia against the 213th-ranked player in the world. Not sure what’s going on right now with the big lefty from Madrid, but he’s seen his ranking drop from a career high #15 in April to his current #30 position. We’ll see if he can get out of a tough section of the draw in Gstaad, Switzerland this week and gain some momentum for the coming weeks.

Gael Monfils – He’s been struggling with a knee injury since the beginning of the year, and we haven’t seen him since his loss to Brian Baker in Nice just before the French Open. Given his history of injuries, who knows when we will see the exciting Frenchmen again. He’s got some ranking points to defend from last year’s summer hard court season, so if he doesn’t come back soon he’ll be out of the top 20 for the first time since 2008.

Speedy Frenchmen Gael Monfils has been struggling with knee problems since the beginning of 2012

 

 

Stay tuned for more pro tennis talk as the summer action heat’s up!  Thanks for reading!

Andy G.