You can look at the game of tennis as one of the few pure sports in the world that pit singular competitors against one another. Of course, there is so much more going on behind the scenes of these epic one-on-one battles. Today we are going to look at 14 of the greatest tennis coaches in the history of the game and the parts they played in cultivating greatness.
If you want to order flowers for anyone in Rafael Nadal’s life then you might want to start with Toni Nadal. Rafael made it known via his book that Toni Nadal was instrumental in Rafa’s ascent to the top. Toni was the guy who pushed Rafael to play with his left hand in order to get an advantage over top right-handed opponents. Yeah, call someone and order flowers online for the man. Rafael Nadal is one of the greatest of all time thanks to tough coaching from Toni.
Robin Williams, the famous comedian who probably lived on gourmet coffee beans only, famously called Brad Gilbert the ‘Tennis Sensei’. Gilbert wrote the book ‘Winning Ugly’ which is one of the most utilized coaching texts of all time. Gilbert worked with Andre Agassi and helped to lead the athlete to a Grand Slam. Agassi says of Brad Gilbert, “Brad taught me how to play tennis, period.”
Martina Navratilova was pretty good during her heyday and it was due in large part to the coaching of Mike Estep. Estep was integral in leading the tennis phenom to winning six straight Wimbledons — a feat that hasn’t been done ever since. Yeah, let’s buy gourmet coffee online and start trying to learn his coaching methods — we want to be a star! We’re only joking, of course, as there has never been another player like Navratilova ever since.
Brett is famous for his school in Italy where he coaches a slew of international superstars. Brett has worked with Medvedev, Ancic, Cilic, and Boris Becker. Brett has pretty rigid views on what makes a champion and he is a notorious hard-case. Still, we’d order flowers online for the guy if it got our kid into his good graces.
Speaking of phenomenal female tennis stars, Martina Hingis sure had a great coach — her mother, Melanie Molitor. Molitor deserves her own batch of gourmet coffee beans for having enough energy to keep Martina Hingis dedicated and on point for five straight Grand Slams, winning four of those competitions. Hingis stuck in at #1 overall in the world for an incredible 209 weeks.
Lansdorp is one of the greatest coaches that most people don’t talk about — depending on who you ask. Lansdorp was a vital part of Maria Sharapova’s ascent to the top despite the fact that her father took the credit. Lansdorp also coached a little known guy named Pete Sampras as well as two phenomenal female players in Lindsay Davenport and Anastasia Myskina. Davenport credited almost all of her success to the coaching of Lansdorp by saying, “I wouldn’t have achieved what I did without the strokes he gave me.”
There’s this professional player named Roger Federer who owes a bit of his success to the coaching of Stefan Edberg. Stefan Edberg has helped to shape the quality of Federer’s game around the net and he has also given the superstar some clarity and focus on the court. Edberg has helped keep Federer at the top of his game, even this late in the Swiss master’s career. Sure, Edberg may have come late but he is just as vital to the process as anyone could be.
You could call her Larisa Preobrazhenskaya or you could simply things by simply saying that she is the Mother of Tennis. Preobrazhenskaya essentially crafted Anna Kournikova in her school, the Spartak Club, back in Moscow. Preobrazhenskaya was considered Kournikova’s ‘second mother’ and the two united to create an avenue of success for Russian tennis players looking to make a name in the wider world. In fact, when Myskina and Dementieva faced off in the French Open Final it was the first time that two women trained from the Spartak Club would compete for the honor.
Hopman managed to earn enough respect from a teenage John McEnroe that the famously angry tennis player would always address him as, “Mister”. Hopman helped to cultivate John McEnroe into the Tennis legend that he would become. Hopman opened up the Hopman Tennis Academy in Florida and it is there that many of the best young players in the game are now going to grow. Hopman most famously dominated the Davis Cup where he won 16 different times while acting as captain.
We’re going a level above some of our greatest coaches now! Pickard was the coach behind Stefan Edburg’s success as a player as he guided Edburg to 6 Grand Slams. Pickard was an intense coach who was rigid in his applications and prodigious in his outreach. Pickard coached up Edburg’s diet, his training, and even his professional assistant life. Tony Pickard would peak with coaching success alongside Stefan Edburg but he still stuck in the game for a long time afterward.
Novak Djokovic picked up Marian Vajda as a coach back in 2006 and it wasn’t long until the pair started making tangible progress together. Vajda helped get Djokovic into playing shape by sculpting his body inside and out with a keen focus on diet, fitness, and mental clarity. Vajda was instrumental in getting Djokovic to fix his weakest link — his serve. Vajda was the puppet master behind Djokovic’s historic 43 match winning streak and the results came about after Vajda discovered that Djokovic was gluten intolerant.
Bollettieri is the big name behind the stardom of Andre Agassi. Bollettieri ran his academy out of Florida in a way that was described as, “Lord of the Flies — with forehands” by Agassi himself. Bollettieri has played an important role in some of the greatest careers of all time: Boris Becker, Agassi, Hingis, Serena and Venus as well as Maria Sharapova. Bollettieri has coached all of his life and it doesn’t seem like he is ever going to stop.
Tony Roche has worked alongside four of the World’s top players at one point in their career or another: Rafter, Federer, Hewitt, and Lendl. Roche does what he always does when he’s picked up as a coach: he leads his players to wins. Ivan Lendl, in particular, found huge success with Tony Roche after the two collaborated to improve on his volleys while gunning for a Wimbledon victory. Roche himself played professional tennis from 1968 to 1979 and it was during this span that he would rack up 26 titles and a record of 235 – 114. You can easily say that Roche DID and TAUGHT at a high level — a rare quality in coaches.
Richard Williams is the man behind Serena and Venus Williams — literally and figuratively. Richard is the father of the famous Williams’ sisters and he is also the man that coached them to the success that they now have. Richard saw how much tennis players were making so he decided to learn the game in order to teach it to his children. Richard has coached his way to over 100 titles as a singles coach and 28 titles as a doubles coach. It’s safe to say that Richard Williams succeeded as a father in just about every way possible and he did it with hard work and determination.