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Q&A with Serena Williams' Coach

Q&A with Serena Williams' Coach
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Legendary tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou on how to stay motivated in lockdown, his daily routine and his guilty pleasure. 

Patrick Mouratoglou

Considered one of the most influential coaches in the world, Patrick Mouratoglou has a track record of helping players take home titles and identifying tomorrow’s talent. 

Since becoming Serena Williams’ tennis coach in 2012, she’s won 10 Grand Slam titles and 2 Olympic gold medals. His other talent includes Stefanos Tsitsipas, Grigor Dimitrov and 15-year old sensation Coco Gauff.

He also runs a tennis academy, The Mouratoglou Training Academy, based in the French Riviera. Every year the Academy hosts 200 full-time students, 4,000 campers and is a training centre for pro athletes including Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Mouratoglou also founded the Champ’seed Foundation to select and fund the most promising young talent to help them to reach the highest international level of tennis. The Academy hosts an annual Gala in June to raise funds for the foundation, attended by celebrities from showbiz and sporting arenas, although this year's fundraiser, along with most live tennis competitions, will be cancelled due to COVID-19. 

So this year, he is launching the first global competitive, live broadcast tennis showdown league without spectators, starting this month. The Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS) aims to reinvent the way tennis is usually experienced and consumed. Fans from all over the world will interact in real time with their favourite players, listen to every conversation between players and coaches (on-court or video coaching will take place) and live an immersive, never-seen-before experience from home.

The inaugural UTS competition will be held every weekend for 5 weeks starting from May 16-17 2020. Each weekend, 10 matches will take place, accounting for a total 50 matches scheduled throughout May and June, without spectators. So far, confirmed players include David Goffin, Fabio Fognini, Alex Popyrin, Benoit Paire, and Lucas Pouille. 

"Players have been really missing matches. It is important for them to have a goal and a deadline otherwise finding the motivation to practice is much tougher," he said. 

Mouratoglou recently raised global awareness of the issues with prize money distribution amongst tennis players in an open letter published on April 7 2020. His aim with the UTS is to create a long-term financial solution for both top and especially lower-ranked players through this global initiative.

“The UTS defines itself as a player-centric league, and therefore features a system focusing on the redistribution of income among the players,” he said. In addition, the code of conduct for players will be light in order to encourage the players to express their emotions more freely than ever before on-court. “It is a platform created to showcase the incredible talent, athleticism and personalities of the wide range of tennis players," he added.

He speaks to Billionaire.

On the court with Serena Williams

At a time like this with so much uncertainty, how do you inspire motivation?

I believe that every situation that we go through, even the worst one, has a positive side. I always try to find the positive in everything. In our current situation people are sick and dying, the entire world is stuck and the consequences of the virus on the economy are probably going to be extremely bad.

However I believe we can find positives in it; we are in a new situation and we have to adapt and find solutions which will make us grow. I tell my students that we have to look at the opportunities rather than the problems. They probably have more time than usual, let’s use it to learn new things. This quarantine is a test for their ability to discipline themselves, wake up in the morning and  build their own routine. It is also challenging for self-organising their week. Managing those parameters and learning will make them grow and emerge stronger people at the end of the lockdown.

You are known for often taking tennis players who are underachieving and turning them into stars. How do you do that?

I love and need challenges so I always enjoy having the ability to have an impact and make a difference in a player’s life and career.

I believe that our self-perception is the result of our experiences. The majority of players and people have low self-esteem and it affects their beliefs in their ability to perform or achieve a goal. Our mind is our most powerful engine and if it’s not leading the way your body won’t cooperate. . When your  confidence isn’t high your spirit doesn’t believe and it creates mental blocks and limits - my job is to break those.

The only way to help players go further than ever is to create positive experiences to build their confidence. When confidence is higher, the belief they have in their ability to deliver is higher, and the motivation follows. They are ready to perform.

What is the key to being a good teacher?

The key to being a good teacher is to be a good listener. Listening is forgetting who we are in order to receive what the person is saying without any kind of judgement.  Beyond this, you need to gather all the information that is available; the more data, the more accurate your analysis.

Once the information is compiled and analysed, it is time to strategize and create a plan tailored to that player. In order to help the player make the necessary changes, this has  to be communicated in the best possible way, another key to being a good teacher.

What is the key to being a world champion?

A Champion is different; a Champion thinks differently.

He believes and backs himself and is extremely ambitious. He sets his standards very high and refuses to ever fall below them. After every goal is reached,  he sets new goals immediately. He is permanently striving  to reach new heights, which means that he is never satisfied.

 Being a Champion is an attitude.

Do you think Coronavirus marks a permanent shift in the way we consume sports, which will continue even after the pandemic is over? How so?

I think that the Covid-19 crisis will touch all sectors of the economy. It is difficult to imagine this right now as we are still in the middle of it. Time will tell if the sponsors are still investing in sports events, if the tournaments will survive. What is certain is the power of digital, which becomes stronger as people are stuck at home for so long and have started to form new habits. It would have happened eventually, but CoronaVirus has accelerated it. Events without crowds will take place and we will see how it is perceived from both players and viewers.

What is your personal daily health and fitness routine, including nutrition, from when you awake until going to bed and timings?

I think that we can all combine everything, but it needs a lot of organisation and discipline. People say that they don’t have time, but in reality, they don’t 'make' time.

I wake up at 6 and take care of my dogs; walk them, play with them, train and feed them. Then I do my fitness for between an hour and 1,5h. After that I work on the tennis court until 12 and then it’s time for a quick lunch or a tennis match. After that I start my office work and run my businesses. At 7 I am home to take care of my family and go to bed early at 11.

As a coach you have to set an example, but what are your guilty pleasures!?

I don’t think that I have guilty pleasures. I have a life philosophy that we are on that planet for an extremely short period of time and we have to make that time remarkable. We do create our life, we make it what we want it to be. I want mine to give me the opportunity to live my passion, spend time around great positive people, feel that I helped people grow and have a positive impact on that planet (as much as I can of course). I spend my days being focused on that. Maybe my guilty pleasure is quality dinners with my friends drinking wine ? I love wine!