Defeat can often tell you more about a player than victory and I think that Nicole Vaidisova's spirited three-set loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova yesterday was a case in point. Nicole, who only turned 16 in April, has been a student at my academy for a few years. The fact that she took Kuznetsova, the No 5 seed and one of the world's top players, to three sets, is a positive. It shows continued upward development in her first full year of senior Slams and her first Wimbledon.
The moment that turned out to be pivotal, I believe, was actually in the first set when she was serving for the set and did not grasp that chance. She let Kuznetsova back in, and although Nicole fought hard and won the second set on a tie-break, the damage was done. The powerful Kuznetsova, four years older than Nicole, and with plenty of Slam experience and a US Open title in her locker, went on to win 7-5, 6-7, 6-2.
Losing is a beneficial experience when you learn from it. I have no doubt at all that Nicole will have learned. She hates losing. She's a fierce competitor. And she will remember the moment that she didn't take the chance. Players who achieve great things when very young do so because they grasp those chances. Boris Becker did. Maria Sharapova did. Nicole will in the future, and experiences like yesterday will be a contributory factor.
Of the young students who currently work at the academy, I'd identify Nicole as the one who is heading in the same direction as Sharapova - to the top. She only made her debut in the senior singles rankings a little over a year ago, at No 264. Aged 15 and three months, she became the sixth-youngest player in tour history to win a singles event, in Vancouver. She won a second title in Tashkent and there was no shame in losing in her Grand Slam debut, the US Open, to Justine Henin.
Nicole is now ranked No 30 and she has a huge future. She's smart, and speaks several languages. She's fun to be around. And she's very grounded, with a wonderful family - mum, dad, two younger brothers who also keep her grounded - who understand precisely what is required to help her. I've seen a lot of families involved in their kids' tennis, and I strongly believe in the concept of the "perfect triangle", or in other words, a coach, family and student working together and understanding each other. Nicole is lucky to have a rare perfect triangle.
Her dad, Alex, coaches her. They spend hours and hours every day practising at the academy. He's very methodical and knowledgeable. He spends ages on technique. But he is also not hesitant to ask for assistance, and what my team of coaches and I provide is help when he wants it. Being willing to learn more, always, is the key to improvement.Reuse content