by Peter Bodo
It has been a terrific year for the tennis coaching industry. It isn’t just that so many coaches found gainful employment; it's also because the dignity of the profession -- never a guaranteed thing -- was greatly enhanced by the dramatic increase in what is now being called the “supercoach” category.
The presence of former greats -- among others, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Goran Ivanisevic, Amelie Mauresmo and newest addition Martina Navratilova -- in the player guest boxes of the world has brought increased attention not just to the profession but to the game itself. Supercoaches have created a thousand new storylines because their names are so resonant -- and irresistible.
With that in mind, and with this being the holiday season, let’s imagine what the celebrity coaches and their players might produce when it comes time to exchange gifts.
ATP No. 1 Novak Djokovic has had a terrific year, marred only by his failure to achieve his main ambition for 2014, a win at Roland Garros. The French Open remains the only Grand Slam title Djokovic hasn’t won. It’s important: In recent years, completing a career Grand Slam has become almost a requisite entry on the résumé of any player who hopes to be called “great.” Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal each has a career Slam. Why not Nole?
With that in mind, Boris Becker presents Djokovic with an official FFT-endorsed Roland Garros dartboard, featuring the face of Rafael Nadal on a corkboard the color of terre battue. It comes with three darts, but Becker also gives Djokovic the special five-dart “party pack” -- in case Djokovic wants to invite a few of the contenders who might sweep Nadal out of the way to join in the game.
Djokovic, fearing that the stress of having to sit watching and feeling unaccustomedly helpless may be causing Becker to overeat, gives his coach a treadmill.
Stefan Edberg has always been famous for his phlegmatic nature and reticence. Never one to make a big to-do about holidays -- or anything else for that matter -- he gives his protégé Roger Federer a gray scarf and a $10 bottle of Chilean red wine.
Federer gives Edberg a framed, 8 1/2-by-12-inch black-and-white head shot of himself, signed with permanent marker, “Best Wishes, Roger Federer.”
WTA No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska barely knows her new coach, Navratilova. Unsure of her taste, Radwanska decides to play it safe and give nine-time Wimbledon champ Navratilova a complete, nine-DVD collection of her Wimbledon triumphs.
Convinced that Radwanska needs a little more oooomph and aggression in her game, Navratilova gives the Polish Popgun the complete, nine-DVD collection of Navratilova’s Wimbledon triumphs.
Kei Nishikori has risen all the way to No. 5 under the tutelage of former French Open champion Michael Chang. Nishikori pulls out all the stops and gives Chang a Porsche that the player got for a sweet price off Maria Sharapova (who keeps winning the vehicles in Stuttgart).
Chang, legendary in his playing days for his frugality, gives Nishikori a coffee-table book filled with photos of cute kittens.
Former No. 1 and multiple Grand Slam champion Lindsay Davenport has agreed to coach Madison Keys in 2015. However, as the mother of four young children, Davenport will do most of her coaching via telephone. It’s not much of a surprise, but Keys will certainly get good use out of her Christmas present -- a $500 phone card.
Keys is just 19 and knows little about motherhood. She gives Davenport a really cool Nirvana T-shirt.
Being French, Mauresmo has a nice sense of the marriage between good taste and style. The sight of Andy Murray in his scruffy jeans, running shoes and ratty hoody drives her crazy. With help from Judy Murray and Kim Sears, Mauresmo gets Murray’s measurements and has a Bond Street tailor make up a smart fitted suit complete with pipe-stem slacks.
Murray, while he gets on great with Mauresmo and has decided to continue working with her for 2015, doesn’t get her anything. Christmas makes him grumpy.
Marin Cilic won the U.S. Open in 2014, surpassing his wildest ambitions, thanks partly to the coaching acumen of former Wimbledon champ Goran Ivanisevic. Feeling deeply grateful and flush from his newfound wealth, Cilic reserves a seat for Ivanisevic on a Virgin Galactic commercial flight into space.
If Ivanisevic gets lucky (or not), he might get to sit alongside fellow ticket holders Lady Gaga, scientist James Lovelock or Justin Bieber. The Christmas card with the ticket inside contains the handwritten message: Goran, I hope you enjoy this. People said you were always out there anyway.
Ivanisevic knows that Cilic is a deep thinker (sometimes to his own detriment when it comes to his profession) and wants to give him an intellectually stimulating gift. He chooses the game Boggle.
Jimmy Connors more or less launched the supercoach trend when he signed on with Andy Roddick in 2006. More recently, Connors coached WTA No. 2 Maria Sharapova for exactly one match in the summer of 2013. He’s out of the picture now, but Connors and Sharapova still exchange Christmas cards.
Happy holidays to all!
- Federer criticizes young players: "I wish they volleyed more"
- Edberg to BBC: "Federer is the greatest in my eyes"
- Greatest tennis player: Edberg wins ‘best backhand’ poll
- Edberg: "No one thought Federer and Nadal would be here today"
- Stefan in Federer's box at Wimbledon
- Will it be an open Australian Open?
- Federer, 1000 and more: a Major, Edberg, changes, n.1
- Federer reaches 1000th win milestone
- "Stefan told me things clearer"
- One year of Fedberg
- Henman: "Federer's volley improved with Edberg"
- The Swede and the Swiss
- Top Ex-Players as Coaches Appear to Pay Off
- Roger has never played this well, Wilander says
- Federer's bad luck reminds of Edberg's 1996 DC final