Darren Cahill and Chris Evert took part in an ESPN conference call ahead of the upcoming Australian Open, and of course the recent high profile coaching hires among the top players was up for discussion. Chris Evert already thinks it’s the “story of the year” though she’s lukewarm about the Edberg/Federer partnership. Darren Cahill claims that his former charge, Andre Agassi, is one legend who won’t be hopping back on the tennis tour anytime soon.
An excerpt from the conversation is below.
Q. Would you both give me your thoughts on the surge of ex-great champions becoming coaches. It started with Lendl, Becker is in the game, Chang. Specifically for you, Darren, since you know him so well, what do you say the chances are of Andre ever getting into the coaching game.
CHRIS EVERT: I think that’s actually the story of the year, is the coaches. When you look at the men and the women, even the women, you look at Sharapova (Sven Groeneveld), Stephens (Annacone), Wozniacki having Hogstedt. Stosur changed (to Miles Maclagan), Robson changed (to Nick Saviano). I think these players think the coach changes is going to give them the edge they need to go the extra mile.
I don’t know if anybody can do as well as Lendl has done with Murray because Lendl and Murray to me was the perfect, right from the get-go, combination. Lendl’s strengths were Murray’s weaknesses at that point, which was focus. Lendl was so ice cold out there, really had that determination. He was unemotional. I think that’s what he’s helped Andy Murray with.
When I look at Djokovic, I look at Djokovic/Becker, I’m feeling good about that combination because I think Becker was very aggressive. He went for all his shots. I think Djokovic could go for his shots a little bit more. I think that’s where Djokovic is so consistent and so smooth, has that great timing and smoothness. But he could probably go out of the box a little bit more and take a few more chances, come to the net, hit some more winners.
I think Becker’s aggressive personality and aggressive game could give him the edge that he needs. Although Djokovic still had a great year last year. It’s not like he’s going to be transformed into another type of player, but I think Becker can add some additional elements.
Edberg/Federer, I don’t know how anybody can tell Roger Federer what to do. He has a great game. If there is a problem with Federer, it’s the fact he just isn’t consistent day in, day out. He’s got the game. We’ve seen it. He can beat all the top players. But I think it’s more the motivation, to stay in there, to hang in there, to close matches, to be sharp every single day. I’m not quite sure that is something that can be achieved when you have played as many matches as Federer has. I like all the combos. The women’s also.
DARREN CAHILL: First of all, I think it’s great that anytime these former champions want to get back into the game, the big winner in this is tennis. It’s great to see these guys put their hand up and get back into the game, whether it be commentating, coaching. But becoming re-involved in the game is great for tennis in general.
Mostly for it to work, it has to be for the right reasons. Most of these that we’ve seen lately seem to be not right reasons. Let’s be honest, one of the big reasons we haven’t seen a lot of former champions get back into the game, a good salary a coach makes, these guys can go out and do public speaking and exhibitions and make that money in three or four days. Being on the road with another player is not in their best interest most of the time.
This is a special generation of tennis players in the men’s game, a little bit of these players seeing that, wanting to be involved with that. I think also the fact that these players are now reaching out to these guys and getting them involved has made a big difference, including these players, they’re picking up the phone now and making the phone calls to these former legends and saying, Hey, do you want to help me? The players are getting on the front foot, much like Andre used to do.
Also if you go through the course of a lot of the five-set matches, especially the tight ones, the top four, I put Federer in there, not Ferrer, mostly it’s 10 or 12 points that will separate winning or losing in one of these matches. These guys can bring to the table something that most coaches cannot. They’ve been there. They’ve experienced it. They’ve lived it. They’ve problem solved through it. And if they can change the course of a half a dozen points, that’s 12 points in a match that they can change. That might be through strategy, through belief, through psychology, fitness, off-court preparation. They are bringing an X factor to the court that a lot of normal coaches cannot.
I think it’s a great thing that we can all learn from these guys. I’ll put my coach’s hat on. I’ve learned a lot from Lendl working with Andy Murray. Becker involved, Ivanisevic involved, Chang involved. Each one of these guys are going to bring strengths to the table, and I think it’s a wonderful thing.
As far as Andre is concerned, I think if you’re going to pick one player that probably won’t get back into full-time coaching, he’s had several offers, big players, top 10s, on both the male and female side have approached him, but I think you’ve seen his life now move more towards the education in the United States. He’s heavily involved in that. I think it would take a drastic alteration for him to turn his attention back to tennis.
Do you agree with Chris that this is the story of 2014? Which pairing interests you most? And who do you think approached Andre?