THE RESCUING OF SERENA WILLIAMS

by Tournament Junkie 

Social media is in an uproar. It is in an uproar because of an article on CNN Open Court in which the above headline was used to describe the partnership of Serena Williams and Patrick Mouratoglou of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy outside of Paris. As most people have said, and it is a point in which I agree, Serena did not need rescuing. She was a multiple Slam champion and a cultural icon, with influence outside of tennis. To posit her return to the top of tennis as being rescued by someone that most people outside of tennis had never heard of is really an affront to Serena, her accomplishments and a slap in the face of Richard Williams and Oracene Price, the parents who molded her into a champion.
However, what leaves a bad taste in my mouth is that if Serena was not the subject of this article, tennis’s paternalism would never have been addressed. The term “rescue” was used earlier this season when Sorana Cirstea, a player with a solid game but unspectacular results had an incredible run at a Premier Mandatory event in Toronto. During the coaching sessions, Darren Cahill, noted ESPN analyst and part of the Adidas Player Development Program would come down courtside to “coach” Cirstea. The commentators in the booth could not get enough of it. Every single time Cirstea won a match, it was not about her efforts and how she held her game together to win but about the effectiveness of Cahill’s coaching. Ever since on court coaching has been introduced in women’s tennis, the work of the coach has received an inordinate amount of the attention, often to the detriment of the player. Perhaps now that the face of women’s tennis has been subjected to paternalistic journalism, the WTA will realize that on-court coaching has shepherd in an era of men leading their charges.
I suspect if these women were open to considering having a woman as a coach, we might see coaching characterized as a partnership as it often is in the men’s game. There have been some very successful female coaching partnerships just this year alone.  Bartoli, winner of the 2013 Ladies Singles Title at Wimbledon severed coaching ties with her father prior to entering the lawns of Wimbledon. She partnered with former No.1 and winner of 2 Grand Slams, including Wimbledon, Amelie Mauresmo.  Bartoli would go on to win Wimbledon with none other than Mauresmo sitting in her box. 


Eugenie Bouchard, current holder of youngest teenager in the top 50 of the WTA and winner of the WTA’s Newcomer of the Year Award was coached this season by Natalie Tauziat, a former WTA player.  Unlike many others in her age group she had a very successful season. Lucie Safarova, with the huge lefty game won her first title in 5 years with a female coach in her corner. Finally, and one of the most important coaching changes that I saw this year was Samantha Stosur severing her longtime coaching relationship with David Taylor and had Alicia Molik, Fed Cup captain and former WTA No. 5 coach her for the rest of the season.  She won 2 titles, her first since her US0 2011 title and qualified for the Tournament of Champions.  It is a pity that she has hired a male coach for the 2014 season (but more on that in another post). 

It may be so obvious that they don’t see it but these women could do with getting a female’s perspective on their games. Here are some coaching relationships I would like to see on the WTA Tour:

Petra Kvitova and Martina Navratilova – may not be the best fit seeing as they love each other so much, but they have mutual respect and admiration for each other and maybe Martina may have Petra believe in herself, especially when things get tight in a match. 

Agnieska Radwanska and Martina Hingis – similar game styles and similar disposition on court.The difference is the mentality that they both carry on court.  The Swiss Miss was legendary for her on court demeanor. Radwanska seems to be fall apart when things get tough.

What other female coaching relationships do you think would work?  Sound off in the comments

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