The relationship between a coach and a tennis player is not straightforward. The player hires and pays the coach, who then tells the player what to do. It is a relationship that requires maturity and honesty on both sides.
As Laura Robson ponders her next move following a parting of the ways with her coach, Miles Maclagan, the British No 1 should look back over her progress since the day she burst into the public's consciousness with her victory in the Wimbledon junior tournament at the age of 14. In the subsequent five years Robson has become one of the sport's most promising and marketable young talents, but she has encountered troughs as well as peaks during that time.
If the last two months have brought mostly disappointment, with just three victories in the four tournaments she has played since the US Open, the period between the 2012 Olympics and this spring was a time of stunning achievement as Robson beat Kim Clijsters and Li Na at the US Open and Petra Kvitova at the Australian Open while climbing up the world rankings. By the time she reached a career-high No 27 after Wimbledon, Robson had risen more than 100 places since the start of last year.
That spell coincided largely with Zeljko Krajan's time as Robson's coach. The Croat, who took Dinara Safina to No 1 in the world, is known as a hard taskmaster and his influence on Robson was evident. The 19-year-old Briton has always been a great shot-maker, blessed with natural timing, but coaches have had to work hard on the physical side of her game.
Robson has never been the quickest or most natural mover and it is said that she is not the most diligent of trainers. In the past those weaknesses were evident in matches in her choice of shots. When in trouble, Robson too often went for big winners rather than forcing her opponent to hit the extra ball.
Krajan, however, turned her into a much more effective player by getting her to chase down every shot and to keep rallies alive as long as possible. Robson looked fitter and more capable of lasting the pace, as she showed in beating Kvitova after more than three hours on a sweltering evening in Melbourne.
Maclagan is clearly a very talented coach, as he showed in his time with Andy Murray. However, in coaching the current world No 3, the softly spoken Maclagan was dealing with a man who never needed to be cajoled into working hard. Maclagan had also had little experience of women's tennis.
When Robson appointed Maclagan in May, her camp emphasised that it was a temporary measure and no long-term decisions had been taken. Robson's best Wimbledon yet – she reached the fourth round – helped persuade her to continue the arrangement into the summer, but with her results tailing off in recent weeks the current world No 46 has decided it is time for a change.
Appointing Maclagan was a mistake, but at least Robson has acted quickly, in time for a replacement to prepare her for next season. Now comes the hard part: finding a replacement she can work with who will crack the whip sufficiently to take her to the next level.Reuse content