While tennis is an individual sport, every player with aspirations to reach the highest level needs a good team around them. In particular, a key member of the team is a coach who will push you to achieve more and support you through tough times.
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Some of the world’s best tennis players of all time have also employed the services of the greatest tennis coaches.
Ivan Lendl was a top tennis player himself, being ranked the world’s number one for 157 consecutive weeks in the 1980s. He was brought in to coach the former world number one, Britain’s Andy Murray, after he lost three Grand Slam finals in a row.
It has been suggested Murray might never have won a Grand Slam without Lendl on his team. The Czech coached Murray before he won the 2012 US Open, his first Grand Slam, beating Novak Djokovic. Murray also won his two Wimbledon titles while Lendl was his coach. Their partnership ended in 2018.
Lendl went on to coach the young German player, Alexander Zverev, who won the 2018 ATP World Tour Finals under his guidance at the age of just 21.
Player-turned-coach Boris Becker arrived on the professional tour in 1984. Famous for his athletic playing style, lunging, diving and flying through the air with power, agility, balance and precision; he won Wimbledon in 1985 to become the youngest male champion in history, at 17 years and seven months old.
He started coaching Djokovic between 2014 and 2016. During this period, the Serbian player won six Grand Slams including four in a row: from Wimbledon in 2015, until the French Open in 2016. Becker has been largely credited with developing Djokovic’s famous serve and his mental strength, which are vital to his career success.
Without the early coaching guidance from their father Richard Williams, US tennis sisters, Venus and Serena Williams, wouldn’t have been where they are today.
He started coaching oldest sister Venus when she was four years old, practicing at a local tennis court near their home in Compton, California. He also started coaching Serena when she was four. It was the support of their father from this early age that propelled the sisters into greatness.
Serena’s first major win was the 1999 US Open, while Venus’ first major title was the 2000 Wimbledon women’s singles championship, when she beat Lindsay Davenport in the final.
Another top player who received coaching from a family member was the current world number five, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, who was coached by his uncle, Toni Nadal. Toni became Rafa’s coach in 1990, when he was only four years old. He has been the mainstay of his nephew’s career – few coaching partnerships have lasted longer.
Rafa won 16 of his 20 major titles under his uncle’s guidance and as one of the ATP Tour’s most successful teenagers, he became world number two at the age of 19, before going on to take the world number one spot in 2008.
Rafa resisted calls to take on a new coach during his struggle with form and confidence during 2015 and 2016. His decision was justified, as he won the 2017 French Open and US Open, before Toni, now aged 60, stopped coaching his nephew in 2017.
The late Lennart Bergelin was Swedish player Bjorn Borg’s long-standing coach from 1971 to 1983. Borg described him as being “like a father” on several occasions, because they were so close. Under his guidance, the Swede won 11 Grand Slam titles.
Bergelin was a former player, who won nine Swedish singles championships himself between 1945 and 1955. Best known for coaching Borg, who won six French Open and five Wimbledon titles under his guidance, he also helped Borg to become the first player to win three major titles in the Open Era without dropping a set.
Can tennis players talk to the coach during a match?
Officially, a tennis player can’t talk to their coach during a match governed by the Association of Tennis Professionals. Whether you’re Nadal, Federer, or an average player in an ATP event, you’re generally playing the match on your own.
In reality, coaches have been known to break these rules by trying to find ways of communicating with their players without the umpire’s knowledge. This is a very risky business. If the umpire catches a coach giving instructions during the match, the fine can be thousands of pounds.
The Women’s Tennis Association has its own set of rules. Like the ATP, it forbids audible or visual communication during the match. However, there is one important difference: the WTA will permit players to request one on-court coaching session per set.
If the player believes she needs to change her strategy, she can tell the umpire, who can permit the coach to join the player next time they change ends. The on-court coaching session should take between 60 and 90 seconds and the coach much leave the court straight afterwards.
How much does a successful coach earn?
The average salary for a UK tennis coach is around £28 an hour, equating to £34,400 gross salary per year. This is £4,800 higher than the national average salary in the UK for all sectors. The starting pay for a tennis coach is usually around £15 per hour. However, for top tennis coaches, the salary can exceed £100 per hour. The salary range is varied and those at the very top of the coaching tree are estimated to earn millions.
The top-earning tennis coach of all time isn’t known for certain, but according to figures published by Love Tennis, the net worth of elite professional tennis coach Wim Fissette, 41, is estimated to be up to £3.6 million. A Belgian former pro tennis player, Fissette has coached former WTA world number one players Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka, Naomi Osaka, Kim Clijsters and Simona Halep.
Darren Cahill, 55, an Australian former pro tennis player, is estimated to be worth a similar amount. He has coached Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt and Ana Ivanovic.
How do you become a tennis coach?
In order to become a tennis coach in the UK, the requirement is a Level 3 coaching qualification from the Lawn Tennis Association. This is for someone who wishes to work full-time within the tennis coaching industry. Successful candidates will be qualified to coach beginners and improvers as individuals and in groups.
The LTA Level 4 coaching qualification is aimed at coaches wishing to manage a section of a commercial tennis club, a members’ club, or running a team of coaches. They will learn about advanced technical and tactical skills.
The LTA Level 5 master club coach qualification is aimed at coaches whose goal is to work at the highest level of club coaching. The Level 5 master performance coach qualification is for coaches who wish to plan and develop a training programme for high-performance players.
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