Every July in the United Kingdom we host a world-famous competition that draws amazing athletes from all around the world. The local residents express dissatisfaction at the congestion in the area, and friends from the capital spend time star-spotting in restaurants and pubs, hoping to catch a glimpse of celebrities, movie stars, and players, past and present.
People spend hours queuing for last-minute tickets to each match, all to be part of the atmosphere, and experience the phenomenon that is Wimbledon. These Tennis Championships showcase such skill and talent that they are a joy to watch, with aces, volleys and smashes heightening the excitement. Players climb (and fall) in rankings regularly. Often we forget the preparation and personal sacrifices that go into being match fit, both physically and mentally.
Being in London to experience the build-up and contest itself each year is fantastic, especially as I used to watch on television in the late 80s and 90s growing up, thinking that the United Kingdom was such a sunny place where rain (only occasionally) interrupted play – the days before the retractable roof...
When I contrast my enjoyment now against my spectatorship growing up, I recognise names of stars and players I cheered for or jeered at all those years ago. Over the past decade, it seems that more tennis coaches are players who’ve been there, done that, and have the trophies to prove it. The media refer to this as the ‘rise of the supercoach’. These players-turned-coaches do understand the game, yes, but their track records and experience are at the highest level – they’ve lived it. They have unique insights on the mental aspects of professional tennis, including match temperament and dealing with nerves and doubts. Perhaps this underlines the increasing importance of the balance between technical skill and a winning mindset.
Novak Djokovic described his search for a coach as: “…someone that has been through similar experiences like I have. Not too many people in the past in tennis have managed to get to that stage and play at that level...”
Probably the most well-known example of this partnership of previous champion with rising hopeful is Ivan Lendl’s coaching of Andy Murray. Lendl won eight Grand Slam titles and was Wimbledon runner-up twice, in 1986 and 1987. They began working together towards the end of 2011, and Andy Murray won Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016, along with two Olympics. Lendl is credited with helping Murray to improve his on-court maturity, consistency and concentration.
Amelie Mauresmo (winner of Wimbledon 2006) also coached Andy Murray.
Other examples of coaches and their proteges are:
And some additional mentions for Wimbledon 2017:
In addition to changing coaches over time, some players combine coaches with different skills and experience, each helping to improve a specific aspect of the player’s game.
While the coaches offer their guidance and direction for a myriad of reasons, including a love of the game itself, and the desire to help the next generation of talent succeed, the monetary rewards are also a contributing factor. In effect, the coaches extend their own success through others, stretching the period of time they can earn over – for some, this extra income can be very necessary as the recent bankruptcy news highlights.
One thing is for sure: both the player and the coach benefit from the collaboration. The player receives insight, wisdom born of experience, motivation, and pressure to keep improving. And, in a highly competitive career like professional tennis, this partnership can make a world of difference.
And now a question for you:
In the grand slam that is your chosen career, have you selected the coaches/mentors who will critique your gameplay, cheer you on, push you hard, and guide you towards another straight-set performance?