Wawrinka & Davydenko seek inspiration in new coaches
Since the drama of Wimbledon and the excitement of a French victory over Spain in the Davis Cup, there has been an unusual turn of events in the tennis media.
All at once, the headlines are all focused off-court.
First, Serena Williams announced she would be off the tour until the US Open following foot surgery. She needed this drastic treatment after cutting her foot on broken glass at a party: and it seems that even Flushing Meadows not yet a certainty.
Meanwhile, Roddick made headlines with his newly-shaven head, the shock being that he removed his cap long enough to have his hair cut at all.
Rafael Nadal dominated the Web with his bare chest, sported at a beach on Mallorca’s neighbouring Balearic island of Formentera.
Roger Federer managed a newsroom double-whammy despite a six-week absence from tennis between Wimbledon and the Toronto Masters. Pictured aboard a huge luxury yacht off the Corsican coast with this family, “all at sea” may have been the tempting headline after two Grand Slam quarter-final losses.
But then came the news that Federer was the world’s second highest-earning athlete in 2009 -$61,768,110 since you ask -second only to Tiger Woods.
And in the antipodes, it has been television itself making the news with the announcement, from Australia’s Channel 9 that, because Wimbledon “hasn’t rated well in recent years,” it was ending its 40-year history of covering the Championships.
But just as some players have one last fling on clay and others begin to acclimatise to the searing heat of the US Open Series, it is a couple of behind-the-scenes-men who are quietly generating some of the most interesting headlines.
From the Davydenko camp comes news that Eduardo will no longer coach brother Nikolay. Their’s has been a long and successful partnership dating back to junior years. Even when Nikolay travelled to Germany before turning professional, his brother was his primary coach.
Now Eduardo is intending to focus on the tennis career of his 17-year-old son, and Nikolay is looking for help from elsewhere.
Had he been in the marketplace a little sooner, he might have fancied submitting to the coaching hand of Peter Lundgren, the Swede who has already steered the careers of some illustrious players.
He took Marcelos Rios to the top 10, helped the underachieving Marat Safin win one of his two Grand Slams, has worked with Marcos Baghdatis and, most famously, coached Federer in the years leading up to his first Slam title at Wimbledon.
Federer thanked him, walked away, and has never had a full-time coach since. Interesting, then, that Federer’s fellow Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka, has turned to Lundgren following his own early exit from Wimbledon this year.
But what is more striking about this move is that the Swiss No2 has called an end to his partnership with the coach who has supported him since he was a boy, and seen him through a Roland Garros junior title and eight years on the professional tour.
There was little explanation in the announcement: “I would like to thank Dimitri [Zavialoff] for all the work togetherÃ¢â‚¬Â¦He played a major role in my career and I am extremely grateful.”
Wawrinka’s first-round exit at Wimbledon was a tight five-setter against the fast-rising Denis Istomin, so no shame there.
He also had a decent spring season on clay, winning only his second Tour title in Casablanca. He then had the misfortune to meet Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters, Nadal in the Rome Masters, and Federer at both the Madrid Masters and the French Open, so again, no shame in those losses.
But Wawrinka has had a gradual slide since hitting an all-time high ranking of nine in the summer of 2008, sitting in the mid-20s for the last 12 months.
Aged just 25, he clearly sees this reverse in his tennis career as premature and now, well settled into marriage and fatherhood, appears ready to do something about it.
Lundgren talked to his new charge about what he wanted to achieve: “He said he wants to return to the top 10. It’s what you want to hear as a coach.”
Lundgren added that he intends to get Wawrinka to become more aggressive, and the Swiss already has great tools to implement a more forward-moving game: a strong serve and forehand, and one of the tour’s finest backhands -a glorious single-handed bullet of a drive both cross-court and down the line.
First, however, he will almost certainly work on fitness and endurance, the essential foundation both for improving his game and building his confidence.
As Wawrinka works with his new coach in Switzerland ahead of his hard-court campaign -he starts in Washington at the beginning of August -he will hope he does not run into Federer for a third time.
But if he does, Wawrinka will at least have the benefit Lundgren’s inside knowledge of his former charge. Though on balance, it seems unlikely there is anything left that the Swiss compatriots do not already know about each other’s game.