Tennis: Wimbledon '99 - THE GURUS GUIDE: A COACH JOURNEY AROUND THE BRIGHT LIGHTS OF SW19

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The Independent Online
David Felgate

Experienced former top 10 British player. Coached privately in the US in the late Eighties and then took up a coaching role with the Lawn Tennis Association.

Tim Henman is his only serious protege these days. They've been working together since 1992 and are very close (his wife is Tim's agent). Henman now world No 6.

He is as much a friend as a coach. He not only practises with Henman but also plans match strategies with him. Felgate also helps with mental conditioning.

"When I watch Tim play, I'm just one of the crowd. I'm very nervous. Tim will look at me during matches, but it's almost a reflex. I just try to keep him focused."

"David has been at court-side for seven years. I often turn to him during a match and shout. It's my way of making sure I get fired up at the right time."

Brad Gilbert

Won bronze at the 1988 Olympics. Known as a tough, if not elegant, competitor, he was always difficult to beat. Appropriately, he's the author of the Winning Ugly book.

Took charge of Andre Agassi in 1995, after the Las Vegan fell out with Nick Bollettieri. They are very close. Has led him to wins at the Australian, US and French Opens.

Very much a hands-on kind of coach. He is Agassi's friend, confidant and teacher. Has taught him to be stronger mentally and to win even when he's playing badly.

"Andre is a great guy and a great player to work for. During a match I like to be in a prominent position so that he can see me. A familiar face in the crowd reassures him."

"Brad won matches over guys who shoulda beaten him. I lost loads to guys I shoulda beat. That's why I needed him. Now I intellectualise about the game."

Pat Cash

Won Wimbledon in 1987 at the age of 22. Also twice runner-up at Australian Open in 1987 and 1988. Ranked as high as No 4 in the world in 1988. Now a media man.

Was approached last summer by Mark Philippoussis and his then solitary coach, Gavin Hooper, to come on board and lend a hand. He stayed; now they're very close.

Having been there and done that, has the full respect of his disciple. Has been working on Philippoussis' shaky temperament and looking to improve his record in Slams.

"Everybody is different. I never needed it that much, but Mark likes a lot of encouragement. I try not to give too much out, especially during a match. It is distracting."

"It's pretty funny really, but I can remember watching Pat win Wimbledon and then going out with my father to practise my volleys."

Miloslav Mecir

The Big Cat reached two Grand Slam finals in the Eighties. He was renowned and admired for his fantastic array of shots and incredible touch and vision on court.

Coach to fellow Slovak Karol Kucera since '97. Is changing the tall and powerful Kucera into a more refined player, helping him finish 1998 as No 8 in the world.

Kucera is now known as Little Cat, because he is playing more and more like his guru and full-time teacher. Mecir has taught him how to outwit better opponents.

"Coaching is very different to playing. I like to let the player be himself on court and play his game. I always encourage him, though, with a smile or a clap."

"I used to ball-boy for Mecir when I was a youngster in Bratislava. I have always looked up to him."

Richard Williams

More sports educator than coach. He is a personal motivator, someone who knows little about tennis but a lot about psyches. He is a Jehovah's Witness.

Coaches two of his five daughters, Venus and Serena. Along with his wife Oracene, they combine the parent-coach-manager roles. The family is close-knit and protective.

He is tough and meticulous in the planning of his daughters' development. Early on in their career, he ensured they did not play too much and progressed naturally.

"Venus is a very powerful player. She will be world No 1 one day. I have no doubt about it."

"Dad isn't always with us because he helps people who wouldn't have opportunities. Anyway, he did a very good job when we were at home."

Damir Dokic

Damir has no coaching badges or playing experience, which may explain why he has recently recruited Wally Masur to help with training. He is more of a mentor.

Looked after his daughter, Jelena Dokic, thoughout her early career. Along with his wife and son (who are always at his side), they are a very close and tight family unit.

Now that Masur deals with training, Damir can concentrate on the mental aspects of Jelena's game, as well as her preparation and support for big tournaments.

"My just being there [in the crowd] helps her a lot. It gives her that little bit more confidence and helps her to be fully concentrated and motivated."

"My dad is the only person who can help me on a personal level. I've worked with him so much that he knows what I should be doing and when."

Hana Mandlikova

Won 23 singles titles, including two Australian, one French, and one US Open in the Eighties. She also won the US Open doubles with Martina Navratilova.

Started coaching Jana Novotna nine years ago after retiring in 1990. The two, as fellow Czechs, are very close. Novotna is No 5 in the world and has won Wimbledon.

Early on, Mandlikova successfully worked on Novotna's fitness and training methods. More recently, her well-documented mental frailties were dramatically improved.

"I think she is an unbelievable fighter. Even when she was young, she would go out on court and give 200 per cent."

"Even at my age, a coach is very relevant. You still need to be reminded of the mistakes you make and what you need to work on."

Regis de Camaret

A controversial figure, de Camaret is not recognised by the French Tennis Federation. Often speaks his mind and has been reproached for coaching at court-side.

First took charge of Nathalie Tauziat, now 31, when she was just 13. They have been together ever since and thus enjoy a very close rapport.

He is a dominant, though not domineering, coach who is constantly at Tauziat's side bellowing out instructions.

"When she is leading in a match, she freezes too often rather than playing her own game as she did against Mirjana Lucic when a set up in the quarter-finals"

"All coaches coach during a tie. When Mrs Hingis sits behind the court and talks to her daughter, nobody gives her a warning. Regis is the same."

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