Tennis is one of the few sports where two competitors pit their wits against one another in a battle of physical and psychological prowess. Aside from the epic battles on the court, there’s so much more going on – as behind every great tennis player, there’s also a great coach!
Tennis is a massive sport across the world, which has retained its popularity into the 21st century, but who are the people behind today’s top players? Read on to find out more about some of the best tennis coaches in the world and the careers they have helped to shape.
- Ivan Lendl
Former professional player Ivan Lendl, 58, was a successful champion in his own right in the 1980s. The Czech-born coach was the world’s number one player for 270 weeks and won 94 singles titles during his playing career.
He was appointed to coach British player Andy Murray on 31st December 2011 and was credited with improving his consistency and maturity. Murray won his first two Grand Slam titles under Lendl’s guidance – the 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon Championships.
Lendl helped to strengthen Murray mentally. While Murray had undeniable talent and physical technique, critics often said his mental attitude was the problem. Lendl helped him to improve his mental game, although stated in interviews that he wasn’t good at teaching physical playing technique.
In March 2014, Lendl and Murray parted company, but Lendl re-joined the coaching team again on 12th June 2016 and helped steer Murray to his position of world number one. However, their partnership ended again and in August 2018, it was announced Lendl had joined German player Alexander Zverev’s team.
- Brad Gilbert
The American tennis coach is a former professional player, who won 20 singles titles and achieved a world singles ranking of number four in 1990. Since retiring from the court, the 57-year-old has coached a number of top players.
Andre Agassi won six out of eight Grand Slam titles while Gilbert was his coach. He has also tutored Andy Roddick and Andy Murray. Gilbert coached Agassi for eight years and Agassi described him as “the greatest coach of all time”.
He became a coach after retiring as a professional player in 1994. A master at finding opponents’ weaknesses and exploiting them, Gilbert is best known for helping players to improve their tactical and mental approach.
With Gilbert’s help, Roddick won his only Grand Slam singles title, the 2003 US Open, and also became the world’s number one player.
- Bob Brett
Bob Brett is an Australian tennis coach, who has tutored the likes of Boris Becker, Goran Ivanišević and Marin Čilić. To date, he has spent 24 years on the ATP circuit, coaching players. The 66-year-old has also founded a tennis academy in San Remo, Italy.
He is known as a hard taskmaster and says a champion is someone who maximises his or her potential, even if they don’t have the world number one ranking. He looks for a great commitment from his players and encourages them to dig in, even when the going gets tough.
He said the world had known only the temperamental side of Ivanišević, but the player’s “tremendous ability to work” was his biggest asset. Brett is famous for his signature counting drills, which begin with 100 volleys, without the ball touching the ground or the net.
Then, they must do 50 groundstrokes, then 20 cross-court forehands. If you make a mistake, you must start again from scratch. It was reported that Ivanišević, Becker and Čilić all had to do the drills when training under Brett.
- Stefan Edberg
The Swedish former number one professional player Stefan Edberg, now 53, was a major supporter of the serve-and-volley method during his playing days. Between 1985 and 1996, he won six Grand Slam singles and three Grand Slam men’s doubles titles.
At the end of 2013, Edberg became fellow Swede Roger Federer’s coach, a collaboration which officially began at the 2014 Australian Open. Federer described Edberg as “more of a mentor”. Whatever his official role, Edberg’s influence was recognised in Federer’s eventual resurgence.
One benefit he brought to Federer was a more effective and more frequent serve-and-volley game and more net-charging. Edberg was also credited with bringing more focus and clarity to Federer’s on-court abilities. He has helped keep Federer at the top, even though he is now 37.
The importance of a great tennis coach should never be underestimated. Afterall, they influence the careers of the world’s top players, supervising their performances and helping them to succeed, both physically and mentally.