October 16, 2019, 23:27

Patrick Mouratoglou hopes for evolution from tennis authorities ahead of new decade

Patrick Mouratoglou hopes for evolution from tennis authorities ahead of new decade

“Tennis can and should do much better.”

The statement refers to the onerous task of attracting youngsters to the game amid fierce competition from other sports and broadening its audience.

Patrick Mouratoglou has been coaching for more than 20 years and since June 2012 has led Serena Williams, widely regarded as the greatest female tennis player of all time, to 10 Grand Slam singles titles.

The Frenchman, who moved his prestigious academy from Paris to the French Riviera in 2016, believes his state-of-the-art site, which also welcomes around 4,000 people on camps every year, offers the ideal path for would-be-champions.

There are 180 full-time student athletes who are permanently based on site, where the tennis and school programme offers academic and sports tuition and provides the springboard to entry into a US university further down the line.

Mouratoglou Academy facilities

34 hard and clay courts (8 indoors)

Indoor and outdoor gyms

High-tech medical centre

School and student campus

Padel courts

Indoor and outdoor pools

Spa

4-star hotel on site

But there are no guarantees of forging a successful professional career. There are plenty of stories of players struggling to make a profit on tour despite the undoubted wealth on offer at the top echelons.

Mouratoglou is well placed to give an insight into the state of the sport as we reach the end of another decade.

“I think the future is bright,” Mouratoglou told Sky Sports last week at the launch of Asics being named official footwear and apparel partner of the Mouratoglou Academy.

Yet, behind that confidence, fears remain over the sport’s evolution and perception by the wider public.

Mouratoglou is concerned about the average age of tennis fans. He understands it to be 62 and has a good grasp behind broadcasting, having worked as a TV analyst at the Grand Slams.

How can tennis deliver more entertainment and create, in his own words, a “show”?

“People are watching sports to feel emotions,” he said. “They watch movies for the same purpose.

“Actually, in the last 10-20 years I have been in contact with the fans and every day I hear ‘oh, the players had more personality before’.

“I say ‘no, we have strong personalities in tennis but they don’t express themselves on the court’. They don’t show their passion because of this code of conduct.

“Some sports give a lot of emotions because you know the people well, not personally but they express their passion and their emotion on the field so you have an attraction. In tennis, because of this code of conduct that is extremely strict, players do not show their personality.”

One player who isn’t scared of hiding his emotions comes quickly to mind. Nick Kyrgios is known as much for his on-court outbursts as his talent and has suffered his run-ins with the tennis authorities as a result.

The Australian attracts the interest of the general sports fan, as was proven by the anticipation ahead of his latest encounter with Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. A genuine clash of personalities.

“I think if there were two decisions that would completely change the game and it is not major decisions, it is not about changing the rules. I don’t want to change tennis,” he added.

“One is to have a very light code of conduct to encourage players to show their emotions and their passion on the tennis court. Sport is about passion.

“And second introduce the on-court coaching everywhere because I think it is great for the show. I think it would be great for tennis.

“I think those two rules would completely be a game changer for the good of tennis. We have to make those changes, otherwise tennis will be in trouble.”

Mouratoglou is particularly adamant about the need for on-court coaching, having himself been at the centre of a controversial US Open final last year where he was caught by the chair umpire trying to give instructions to Williams.

On-court coaching is allowed by the WTA at its tour-level events but not by the ATP or at any of the four Grand Slams.

“Making it official would be much better for everyone,” Mouratoglou said.

“It is great for people’s understanding of the game because you hear very interesting interactions during the match between players and coaches.

“You will know the players better because people will see their reactions in moments of stress which is always interesting.

“I don’t see any negatives. The only thing people who are against coaching are saying is ‘oh but it is two guys and they have to figure out by themselves’ but that is not true.

“Those people can come with me and I will bring them to the box of all the players during matches and they will see that this does not exist. It is in their dreams.

“I am not going to name anyone but even the ones who are supposedly the biggest warriors that figure out by themselves, they figure nothing by themselves.”

The 49-year-old works with some of the best young players looking to make their first steps into the game, while he has also helped oversee the emergence of some potential future Grand Slam champions.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Cori Gauff and Alexei Popyrin form part of his five-player ‘Team Mouratoglou’ to have received guidance at the academy, which also acts as a training base for many of the world’s best players.

Tsitsipas has already won three titles in his career, two of which have come this season, and propelled himself inside the world’s top 10 at the age of 21.

Popyrin, one year younger than Tsitsipas, reached the third round at the Australian Open in January and the Australian is highly regarded.

Meanwhile, Gauff was unquestionably the story of Wimbledon as the 15-year-old defeated one of her idols Venus Williams in the first round – on her Grand Slam main draw debut – before eventually being knocked out by eventual champion Simona Halep.

Boris Becker, who won the first of his six Grand Slam titles aged 17 at Wimbledon, called on the next generation of talent to step up amid continued dominance at the majors by Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Nadal.

Daniil Medvedev did just that at the US Open as the 23-year-old Russian threatened to cause a memorable shock comeback victory against Nadal.

The women’s game saw 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu defeat six-time champion Serena Williams in the final to become Canada’s first Grand Slam singles champion.

Will a new decade herald in more talent competing for the biggest titles on the world stage?

“The new generation believe that they can win Grand Slams,” Mouratoglou said. “Tsitsipas, Medvedev, [Felix] Auger-Aliassime. They are young but I think they really believe they are going to be champions.”

Sourse: skysports.com

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