(Part 5 of a conversation between Nina Rota and Pat Davis in which they pick a new coach for Richard Gasquet even though he doesn’t realize he needs one.)
O.k., we now have three coaches to choose from: my choice Jim Courier and your choices Mats Wilander and Paul Annacone. First of all, Gasquet can only have one coach so what’s up with choosing two for him? Can’t make up your mind? Come to think of it, Courier had two coaches, Brad Stine and Jose Higueras. It worked for him and I suppose it could work for Gasquet but it might be a bit expensive. He could just get the French tennis association to pay for it I suppose. “Look, ” he could say, “the British tennis association is shelling out half a million pounds a year for Andy Murray so Brad Gilbert can be his coach. Why can’t you do that for me?”
By the way, after working with Courier, is it any wonder Higueras rolled his eyes when he was asked how it was to coach Guillermo Coria? Courier was one of the all time hard workers and Coria is a basket case. That relationship didn’t last very long.
The most obvious difference between Wilander and Annacone is coaching experience. Annacone has a lot of it and Wilander has very little. He coaches the Swedish Davis Cup team. On the other hand, that’s more experience than my choice, Jim Courier, who doesn’t coach anything or anyone. In Courier’s defense, Jimmy Connors didn’t coach before Andy Roddick called him up either.
Roddick was desperate and his desperation led him to make a bold choice in calling Connors. Are we both being uncreative, is there a bolder, more interesting choice that we’re missing? Unlike Amelie Mauresmo, I would not turn to Yannick Noah, even though he’s French and won the French Open. For advice maybe, for coaching, not likely. Henri Leconte got to the French Open final and also runs a tennis school but I don’t remember much about his game.
I’m not sure that matters. I don’t think the coach’s style of play matters as much as communication skills and strategical knowledge. Annacone could prove me wrong. He was a serve and volleyer and so was his long time charge Pete Sampras. Annacone currently coaches Henman who is also one of that dying breed.
By the way, I look at Gasquet as a power baseliner just like Courier. Gasquet might go to the net a bit more but he also blasts away from five or six feet behind the baseline when he plays on clay. When he beat Roger Federer at Hamburg in 2005, Gasquet was so far back he almost dropped off the television screen as he blasted that last backhand down the line and won the match.
Look at Connors and Roddick. Connors had a weak serve and his forehand was his weak side. Connors also excelled on all surfaces winning grand slam titles on grass, clay and hard court. Roddick has the fastest serve in the game, a good forehand and moves on clay as if it were sand.
I’m single and I complain all the time that I don’t have a lover. My friends ask me what I’m looking for and I tell them, “I’m looking for someone I connect with, there’s a spark, we get along well, we have a lot to talk about.” It’s the same thing for any relationship and when all is said and done, Gasquet will end up working with someone he connects with and, just as I don’t always like my friends’ choices in lovers, we may not agree with his choice. We’d be happy to advise you, though, Richard, if you asked us.