Serena Williams back on court in Melbourne in January 2018? “That’s the goal,” says her coach Patrick Mouratoglou. Since winning the Australian Open at the beginning of the year and revealing she was pregnant in mid-April, Williams has not competed in any tournaments. The U.S. Open marks the third straight Grand Slam played without the 23-time major winner, as Williams is expected to give birth to her first child in September.
As for Mouratoglou, you can still find him at all of the majors this year, just not with a coaching cap on. Nowadays, the Frenchman is busy doing television commentary for Eurosport and ESPN and managing his tennis academy near Nice, France. He’s happy, but at the same time impatient to get back to the routine he prefers: helping Williams to win Grand Slam titles. With the release of his new book, The Coach, this summer, Mouratoglou took a moment to talk about his coaching career and share updates from Williams. And guess what? She can’t wait to be back on tour.
Carole Bouchard:Reading your book, it really seems that starting to work with Serena was the turning point you were waiting for in your career.
Patrick Mouratoglou: When I started that job, winning Grand Slam titles as a coach one day was my goal. I said to myself: “If I work well with every player, if I make them improve, normally my career is going to improve too and one day I’ll maybe have the chance to work with someone who can do it.” And we’re talking about a minority of players. When it happened, I was told that it was an achievement for me but I said no it’s not—it’s a starting point. If it’s for [Serena] to do the same thing she was doing before me, it’s useless. I want to make a real difference. So yeah, I did my work the best I could, believing one day I’d deserve this, that one player like that would come to me.
CB: So you’ve now put all this experience you gained along the way inside your book. What do you expect the feedback about it to be?
PM: I thought it was a great opportunity to talk about coaching, as this word is now used for everything and nothing. People actually know very little of that job. I also wanted my book to be a bit of an example for people that could see parts of themselves in who I was when I was younger. People have no idea I’ve went through all of this. But by taking a couple of decisions, one can totally change the path of his life. I was off to become the loser of the century on all levels, and I was able to change that in order to live the life I dreamt of. It’s also a message that it could happen to anyone.
CB: So how have you handled those months without being on tour with Serena?
PM: It’s been fine, because I have the academy and I’m still at the majors for the television work so I’m still experiencing the event, even if it’s in a different way. But clearly there’s something missing of course. Serena got me used to go to each Grand Slam event to win it, to feel that I had an indirect influence on the outcome of that kind of tournament. You even learn to like the stress. And we always had a great time together.
CB: Had you planned a training program through her pregnancy?
PM: We agreed that she would go on hitting through it, and do some fitness in order to have the least work possible to do after the birth in order to come back to a decent level and start working. But still, it’s something new for her and we don’t know how her body is going to react, or even how the birth is going to go. We’re in touch, I’m in charge of getting the team back together again. We’re going to have a new sparring partner for example, but the rest of the team remains the same. Serena wants to play again in September, but she’s dreaming. [Smiles.]
She told me, “I need a sparring partner for September.” And I answered, “Listen, if some guy throws you a ball with the hand in September, I think it’ll be fine.” Her answer: “Don’t underestimate me.” [Laughs.]
CB: That’s a good sign about her motivation, in case you had some doubts…
PM: I have to wonder because it’s really difficult to anticipate the way she’ll react. Yet, her motivation is so important that I don’t really have a doubt on the fact that she’s going to work twice as hard to come back. I believe 100% in her returning to her best level. There’s no guarantee in sports but that an outstanding challenge for her. She nearly owns all the records so she needs new challenges. It’s great.
CB: So we should expect to see Serena at the Australian Open?
PM: That’s the goal, but we’ll see. It’ll depend on the date from when she can really be back working at 100%. We’re going to raise the workload progressively and then a day will come where she’ll be able to play and train normally. The question is: how many weeks like this will we get? If we have enough weeks like that then she’ll be ready. If not, I’ve already told her that we’ll push back her comeback. It wouldn’t be a good idea to go there being at 50%.
The Coach by Patrick Mouratoglou, was released in June 2017 and is published by Wymer UK.