Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Milkweed and Mirka
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Milkweed and Mirka 11/27/2007 - 2:54 PM

Howdy, Tribe. I 'm still trying to re-adjust here, having spent so much time over the last few weeks either in the woods or otherwise out of touch with TennisWorld. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Our plans for a quiet  holiday at the farm in game-rich Andes worked out perfectly; in the morning, Cowboy Luke and I went on an adventure down to the creek; part of our mission was to complete a "homework" assignment for his kindergarten class: the kids had been asked to bring in seeds.


I figured, let's get something a little different from the ubiquitous pumpkin and apple seeds, so we collected a few milkweed seed pods. These pods are about the size of small plantains, and they're packed tight with seeds -  each of them a tiny, brown kernel surrounded by fine white floss that opens into a golf-ball sized parachute. The slightest breeze carries off the seeds once the pod splits in the fall, and if you look a patch of milkweed at this time of  year you could be forgiven for thinking you're regarding a patch of cotton. The white tufts are the pods, burst open, slowly discharging their cargo to colonize far and wide. We also collected some rose hips from the rosa rugosa bushes, a nice crimson head of sumac (you can brew a tea loaded with vitamin C from sumac.

After we collected our specimens, we drifted back to the house and got ready for our 4 PM Thanksgiving  meal at the Andes Hotel. We were joined by my older sister Judy and our neighbors Myles, Caroline and their three-year old, Grace. Luke is very jealous of Grace; when I tell him our nightly story story about Harvey the Mouse (Luke's alter-ego, a very naughty little mouse who lives at the farm), he always interrupts: "Daddy,tell the part where Harvey is mean to Gracie!"  Luke squirms and giggles with sheer delight when Harvey is mean to Gracie, even though Harvey always pays the price and learns a lesson.

Of course, Gracie in real life is clever and enterprising, and she knows how to push Luke's buttons (the other day, she found a way to scale my desk and get at a container of butter cookies that I had earlier forbidden Luke to touch - I swear she looked over her shoulder at him and smiled coyly as she jammed the first cookie into her mouth).

We'll begin Davis Cup coverage in earnest tomorrow, perhaps taking a look back over Davis Cup history for purpose related to the upcoming tie. I don't think there will be an official press conference in Portland until the draw is made on Thursday. One special feature we'll have is frequent poster GVgirl, giving us daily reports from Portland. I will be around all weekend, BTW. We're staying in the city this time, and I'll be watching Davis Cup along with you.

Oh, I have one bit of tennis news to pass on. You might remember that I recently posted at ESPN on the break-up of Brad Gilbert and Andy Murray. I emailed Brad after writing that post, and a related one here that touched on some of the same themes. Brad got back to me a few days later (but too late from me to do much with it, because of my travel schedule), writing in an email that while he didn't want to get into a public discussion about the split, he thought that I pretty much nailed it with my commentary at ESPN. From that, I have to believe that Brad was blind-sided by this decision, and is skeptical of the approach Murray wants to take going forward.

I noticed at one of the other threads (and thanks, everyone, for that great response to Andrew Friedman's fine Thanksgiving post!) that Roger Federer's "coaching situation" is on the table again. This is an interesting situation. Federer dominates the men's game, and obviously feels no special, game-based need to hire a coach. Fair enough. He also has a few characters in his life who probably provide useful input on the technical and strategic fronts.

But Roger's indifference to having a coach has to be linked to the role Mirka plays in his life, and she must be the biggest stumbling block to his hiring a coach. I mean, no matter what Mirka does (or doesn't) do for The Mighty Fed's game, it's pretty hard to imagine that if Mirka were out of the picture, Roger would be traveling, well, alone. Mirka takes up the psychic space in which a coach usually exists for a top player - meaning she is the one who watches Roger's back, who sits through those pre-Grand Slam final dinners, who tries to suppress whatever white noise surrounds him at a tournament.

Most players build teams around their coaches (even if they change coaches) and girlfriends and wives are expected to fit into the relational grid. But top players have different needs; for them, coaching becomes less about the X's and Os than about loyalty, comradeship and other "ambient" dimensions of the job - like knowing how to approach and solve problems in a way that creates as little stress and turbulence as possible. In other words, for top players, coaching usually has emotional dimensions comparable to the ones that exist in romantic relationships, which is always a challenge for the romantic partner of a top player (see ""H" for Henin).

I'll put it another way: there appears to be no room in Roger Federer's life for a coach, in terms of what coaches usually do for a player of Roger's caliber. I don't really see that situation changing, either - not unless TMF comes up against some serious challenges that shake his basic confidence in his game - or seem to present an insurmountable obstacle in a way that, say, Federer's inability to get hold of Rafael Nadal's game at Roland Garros does not. You don't get the sense that Roger feels a need to somehow crack the Rafa Code in Paris, hence he isn't going to hire a "coach" for that specific purpose.

For all I know, Mirka is a brilliant tennis analyst and strategist. But I'm more inclined to think that if Federer finds himself struggling, either against specific rivals or in general, the coaching theme will take on new life and he'll be more disposed to hiring someone.Watercooler3

Over to you, folks!

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Posted by Andrew 11/27/2007 at 02:56 PM

Ah. I see Sam has not yet put in an appearance...

Posted by jbradhunter 11/27/2007 at 03:03 PM

hey Pete- this new post isn't showing up in the list on the home page yet

Posted by jbradhunter 11/27/2007 at 03:04 PM

okay now it is :)

Posted by Andrew 11/27/2007 at 03:12 PM

To get to the thesis of the post: what would Federer want with a coach? To me, there are five possible roles a coach might (simultaneously) play: emotional support, trainer, technician, tactician, strategist.

Rule out roles 1, 2 and 5 for Federer. As Pete writes, the combination of Mirka and Federer himself makes 1 redundant (note how rarely Federer looks to his "bench" for support or reassurance in matches, compared to (say) Roddick).

Federer has two conditioning/fitness trainers already. And he's explicitly ruled out the need for a strategist - both because of his improvisational temperament, and his belief that fixed game plans don't work.

So we're left with 2 and 3. I honestly feel that a top notch technician/tactician would help Federer. He clearly dropped serve consistency in mid year. He also has (still) some shotmaking vulnerabilities, particularly the wide FH. And his play (to me) still revolves around creating opportunities by varying depth more than adjusting angle (playing on width).

For example, he still has a tendency to attack the net against Nadal in one play, hitting a deep (usually topspin FH) approach, where (I feel) a combination of shots (wide to Nadal FH, wide to Nadal BH, finish at net) would have more success.

Maybe mici is available....

Posted by Sher 11/27/2007 at 03:26 PM

I don't think Federer needs a coach to teach him particular skills or to support him emotionally (although it never hurts to have another person watch your back). But it wouldn't hurt for him to have someone out there, studying what other players are doing, how they are playing, if they have some new/old holes in their games.

Federer remarked at some point during the US Open that he usually feels he knows his opponent's games enough that he only needs a few minutes to think of how he's going to play against them. Obviously this works for him in most cases as he has a smart enough approach to be able to adjust mid-game if something isn't working, but over the long runs it becomes a bit difficult to rely on the data that for all intents and purposes has become out-dated (see under "N" for Nalbandian). Neither Mirka nor Roger really have the time to study other people's games in the hope of seeing that one key point in a two hour match that provides insight into how to deal with an opponent. That, he might want a coach for.

Posted by jbradhunter 11/27/2007 at 03:27 PM

Andrew- nice post... about the technician and tactician points you so eloquently make. I can't imagine he would ever want a tactician/technician either, mainly because that would also cut into his independence that he protects. I have also read that he credits his improved backhand to the players that he's played against and not really to a coach.
Tennis being one on one, and Roger's reliance on himself during matches plus the tremendous success he's had-- I think he'll finish his career coachless. I'm afraid that if he really started relying on outside help, that his confidence would suffer as a result.

Posted by Grant 11/27/2007 at 03:30 PM

Further linking the Murray-Federer coaching situations, it seems that if a player doesn't want/need the traditional (I'm failing to come up with a snappy tern of describe the relationship. Platonic-life-partner? Guide? Virgil?) coach-player relationship, Murray's team of experts might be a good idea.

It is however a bit strange to me that the 'team of experts' idea, which seems suitable for Federer, is being used by Murray, who looks like he sometimes needs someone to kick his arse and motivate him a bit.

Posted by Ali C (In the bleak midwinter...) 11/27/2007 at 03:35 PM

Maybe one member of Murray's team will be a butt-kicker/motivator.

Posted by Grant 11/27/2007 at 03:37 PM

"Maybe one member of Murray's team will be a butt-kicker/motivator."

He'd better be, otherwise Murray will end up living in a van down by the river.

Posted by Ali C (In the bleak midwinter...) 11/27/2007 at 03:41 PM

Perhaps they'll bring in Jelena Jankovic for that role. She seems to have enough motivation to go around.

Posted by beth 11/27/2007 at 03:48 PM

I have often thought Murray could benefit from some time out - like one gives a misbehaving child. Perhaps a firm nanny should also be included in the team. Maybe that is the butt kicker he needs .

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed/Karen 11/27/2007 at 03:48 PM

Hey guys, this post is about Mirka, not Roger. Can we please keep it on point. In so saying, I think Mirka is fabulous. She always dresses for the occassion and she is a really sweet looking person. On the issue of whether she will allow a coach into the camp, unless he brings something that she is unable to offer to the camp, a.k.a. Federer's game, then hail no, no one is ever going to be allowed to do that.

Posted by jbradhunter 11/27/2007 at 03:55 PM

what would happen to Raj if he and Mirka broke up?

I am inclined to say that he would struggle on and off the court- but maybe his resolve is stronger than I think and he would be able to continue his on court success even while dealing with the personal adversity.

Posted by Tokyo Tom (tt) 11/27/2007 at 04:27 PM

If just thinking about firing Roche sent Fed into a tailspin, breaking up with Mirka would most likely do in his year. He might as well grow a beard and hike around South America sleeping on clay courts. What would he wear, who would do his hair?

I liked what Pete had to say about Paul A at his ceremony - how Paul helped in little ways while being happy to stay in the background. He added small things without interfering with the big picture or process. A great guy to hang around with - something I think Fed would have to feel about any coach.

While Brad G brings tons to the table, I get the impression his very high energy is wearing day to day. Andy M does not seem the type to take direction well.

Posted by Supersnark 11/27/2007 at 04:29 PM

Fed needs a fashion coach to help him pick a better bag for Wimby; I'm thinking faux fur leopard print.

Posted by Robin Pratt 11/27/2007 at 04:30 PM


Good insights. Worth reading for sure.

Federer's almost never looking at his box is the key here. He once said that he did not do it because what would happen one day if they were sick. I like that independence and hope beyond hope that coaching is never allowed in tennis on the court.

That being said, tennis champions tend to rely on what got them there. Most champions are headstrong and uncoachable by most people. Yes, Roger has been more flexible than most (leaving serve and volley) but now that he has become dominant, it is hard to argue that he should change. He is aware that you can overthink tennis (paralysis by analysis), so he seems to want to stay loose, not become programmed. I know from my consulting that the biggest hurdle for most successful leaders is being realistic about how their strengths can be overused and become a liability.

Any coach that Roger might have should be leery of tampering in any way with his strokes or movement. If by some lightning bolt, I had Roger's ear, I would simply suggest that he practice more with strong lefties such as Verdasco. I might try to arrange having him play Donald Young who is hitting more and more like Nadal. I would set up Young serving every point in ad court and force Roger to learn how to take the initiative against that swinging lefty serve when a big forehand waiting for any short or weak return. For the life of me, I don't know why he does not take more chances to break Nadal (like he did the last two ad points at Wimbledon). He only needs one or maybe two breaks a set on clay to have a real chance. If he gets into a baseline battle on clay with Rafa, he usually loses unless he hits some magnificent shot or shots.

Apparently Roger does not really need a coach as we typically see coaches on tour. I could see him working out a week once in a while with Pete ot Andre and picking their brain just to push him with perhaps the only two players who can really know what he is going through. Not even a Gilbert can comprehend what talent Roger has, having not been on that plane before.

Norman Mailer once wrote about the Ali-Frazier fight that being the heavyweight champion of the world must feel a bit like being the big toe of God. Name a coach who is available who has ever had that feeling even for a moment. Both Andre and Pete have had their transcendent moments and people at that level have an affinity the rest of us don't know. That is one reason Roger and Tiger have made a rare connection. Tiger sought out Michael Jordan when he ascended because no one had been like Michael.

I don't think there is any room up there for the rest of us mortals.

Posted by lulu 11/27/2007 at 04:32 PM

"For all I know, Mirka is a brilliant tennis analyst and strategist."
Could you please elaborate on this, Pete ?

Posted by Todd and in Charge 11/27/2007 at 04:37 PM

TMF seems pretty self-reflective; one would think he has a pretty good feel for what he needs to improve on, and why. My guess is a public "coach" presence enters the picture once there is some decline of some kind that is noticeable to Fed and that he is unable to correct himself (obviously, over time, this will be inevitable).

Great reflections on Turkey Day, Pete.

Welcome back!

Posted by Sam 11/27/2007 at 04:51 PM

"Ah. I see Sam has not yet put in an appearance.."

Andrew: ;-)

Tokyo Tom: Glad you brought up Annacone. Someone with his style would be a good fit for Federer, if he decided to get a coach. But until Federer starts to decline (i.e. not winning Slams), I don't see him looking for a coach, nor do I think there should be any rush to get one.

Posted by Tokyo Tom (tt) 11/27/2007 at 04:52 PM

While picking up my racquet today - I tried to switch to syn gut from mulit mains and syn crosses -(cold weather makes them a bit more stiff - but the ball kept flying on me so had to switch back). The pro/stringer said Fed uses real gut on the mains and multi on the crosses - opposite of most pros today. For a mortal about $50 a pop - but he commented how amazing it played.

The point - he is an original even with how he strings his racquet = the 17 g multi on the mains gives tons more top and control with a fast swing while the 16g syn keeps some of the pop multis lose. I have yet to figure out why he likes the opposite config (side spin?)

Anyone else understand this approach to stringing?

Posted by TG Randini 11/27/2007 at 04:52 PM

At Garros, after Rafa does his boxing thing at the net before the match starts... Roger should bring out an Anazazi shaman experienced in dust ... to perform a pre-match ritual.

Then all Fed has to do is attack and hit angles. Get down and dirty. Forget about art for once. If he does that, there is no doubt then.


Posted by Bismarck 11/27/2007 at 05:09 PM

maybe a coach could help him to be even better.
but i think it is just as possible that his results suffer cause it doesn´t "click" perfectly with him and his coach.
but in a way i almost miss the days when mr yes optus was sleeping through fed´s matches.

and i have to second lulu´s question:
when has there ever been public evidence that miroslava vavrinec is a brilliant tennis analyst and strategist? or does she ooze her brilliance only behind closed doors?
would be really interested to know why you think so, Pete.

Posted by Tokyo Tom (tt) 11/27/2007 at 05:14 PM

Bissy - I think Pete is saying "For all I know" or in other words - he does not know perhaps she is and he needs no other strategic advise

Posted by Grant 11/27/2007 at 05:15 PM

Bismarck & Lulu: The expression "For all I know" tends to precede a statement that the speaker does not actually know. It is not used to introduce fact, but rather uncertainty. So what Pete was saying was "I don't know whether or not Mirka is a brilliant tennis analyst and strategist. Maybe she is, maybe she isn't."

Posted by jbradhunter 11/27/2007 at 05:18 PM

Tokyo Tom!
maybe these links will help with your hybrid question- if not, you can always search the stringing forum

Posted by Or 11/27/2007 at 05:19 PM

I have similiar thoughts as you do, Pete.

Roger wants a coach, I believe - I don't think it was his intentions of going so long without one.

Had we known more about why it stopped working with Tony, it might have given us more insight.

The 12-15 weeks was obviously working for Roger, at the AO 2007 he sounded very happy with the way things are going, there was obviously a correct balance (or so it would seem) between Mirka and Tony, Mirka did her coaching bit (or the 'keep Roger sane' bit) on the every day basis, while Tony sweated with Roger in Dubai.

And then Canas happened, twice - and Roger seemed to have expected a little more support from Tony and obviously didn't get it, there was somewhat of a communication faliure between the two, it weighted down on Roger, and after Volandri he ended it (obviously feeling that continuing a relationship that wasn't working was doing him more harm than good)

So, obviously Roger would not want to get back to an arrangment that failed him in the past, he would be looking for something more permenant, who would be right there in case of a mishap - like losing early in two Masters he won the previous year.

And he is obviously having problems with it, I'm not at all sure he has a short list, or that he is happy with the short list he does have.

A coach would have to be very secure to take Roger on, especially working with him in limited boundries - not being able to mess around with his shots too much.

What is even the short list nowadays? Annacone and Cahill are busy, Roger huffed at the idea of Brad Gilbert. Who else is out there? There aren't too many names.

If Roger start next year without a coach, he will remain coachless for quite a while - unless he starts losing.

Maybe, eventually - he'll ask Hennman to do it? Insane? I'm not sure.

Posted by Pete 11/27/2007 at 05:19 PM

Hey, Mikey Seabra sent me some pics of Mirka from her playing days. I'll post them tomorrow. Grant is right, Mirka may be a brilliant analyst, but I have no evidence, either way, and am inclined to think she is not. I think if she were, TMF would have acknowledged it by now, even if it was only inadvertently (in a quip in a press conference, in an off-handed and unguarded moment during an interview).

Posted by codepoke 11/27/2007 at 05:20 PM


> On the issue of whether she will allow a coach into the camp ...


A truer analysis I don't think we'll see.

Posted by Ruth 11/27/2007 at 05:22 PM

I have always thought that one of the main jobs performed by a coach is watching closely what the other players are doing in order to advise his/her player how to approach the match with something more than the usual "I just play my game" attitude. That is why, I'm sure, that, at the tournaments I attend, I often see coaches and parents in the stands observing the next player that their player/child will meet in the next round of a tournament.

Now, neither Mirka nor Roger will be caught dead doint this; but I distinctly remember hearing Roger say (in a TC piece) that he watched A LOT of tennis on TV and that Mirka complained that he, perhaps, looked at too much tennis. So, he is not exactly walking in cold to his matches and playing "by instinct." And his watching the players on TV might be enough if only a few players--those whose matches are frequently televised -- are the only players he needed to observe.

But in order to be prepared for the Canases and Volandris and, even, the Nalbandians who had not played a lot on the main courts/TV when they met TMF and in order to continue to dominate the increasing number of higher ranked players who finally (thank God!) are daring to put up a fight against him, Roger might do well to have a real coach who can and will observe his opponents and strategize for and WITH him in the future.

Posted by Or 11/27/2007 at 05:22 PM

Oh, and BTW -

I don't want to even think what would happen to him should they ever split up, I predict a total meltdown. He lost a match to *Volandri* what? 6:2, 6:4? and looked utterly dejected in the process when breaking up with Roche. I hate to think what a break up with a life-partner of 8 years would do to him, and I hope not to find out.

Posted by codepoke 11/27/2007 at 05:26 PM

> emotional support, trainer, technician, tactician, strategist

And as mentioned above, Scout. But does Fed really need to scout many of these people? I think yes. Being surprised by some new skill from Djoko or Isner would not be pretty.

Posted by Or 11/27/2007 at 05:33 PM

Re: Mirka being a brilliant analyst.

I too, tend to think not. Roger was very clear on what she does and doesn't do - she's there for him mentally and emotionally (that goes without saying) and mainly she handles his media obligations. She doesn't deal with tournaments - that's for his family and IMG, I think she doesn't deal with finding practice partners, either. There was this guy, not Jesse Levine, the other one - who trained with Roger one day when it was too hot for Mirka? It wasn't Mirka who made the phone call for him, it was someone from IMG.

I do recall an interview where Roger was directly asked about her role as a 'coach', or something similiar (I'll have to dig up to find it, because I can't recall where I read it) and he said something like 'we speak about it a little" but definitly didn't give the impression she's typing out players ATP profiles and making small notes like "Weak backhand, can be exploited", or "Retired in 4 matches this year due to bad fitness, run him all over the court". I'll look it up.

Posted by Bismarck 11/27/2007 at 05:33 PM

well, that makes things much clearer. so it was just a case of lousy english skills on my part.
thanks tt, Grant and Pete.

Posted by Tennislover Foo 11/27/2007 at 05:34 PM

Or, I share your concern about TMF's dependence on Mirka, he sure does seem to rely on her for ever so many things, it would really be a pity if they were to part company. As many others here have astutely pointed out, he would surely start to decline precipitously without her.


oy this is addictive

Posted by Suresh 11/27/2007 at 05:38 PM

One viewpoint could be ..... well, we will probably see coach the handbag make its presence felt in its myriad shapes, forms and sizes before coach the tactician, strategist etc.

Let the money flow towards coach handbags and not coach Roche, Brad, Paul etc.

Federer does not look at his box for fear of becoming dependent on his entourage for advice.At the same time, he is looking for a coach, but in no rush either.

The above statements suggest that Federer is looking for a coach, but he is very picky - if he does not get one, fair enough, he has the confidence to do it without a coach.

I agree with Andrew that Federer seems to vary depth or go for winners from the baseline more often than using the angles. It is here that a coach will help in strategizing, providing inputs about Federer's strenghts and weaknesses.

Or is there a hint of stubborness to him? That he does not want to tinker his game much, and play the way he wants to and still dominate the tour and everyone ?

There is a tendency for him to play a little more cautiously on break points, he gets there playing aggressively, but tends to hold back a little once he gets to break points.

In the end, it is more important for Federer to feel comfortable with the coach first than to get the technical inputs, and moreover he backs himself to the hilt - so will not see any kneejerk reaction.

Posted by Beckham (Still Searching for a Coach) 11/27/2007 at 05:38 PM

Well said Ruth!!!

Roger was definitely surprised by Nalby's serve in Madrid...he just didn't see it coming...and a coach WOULD have seen it coming...he needs a coach for the little things i.e. how about stepping in and taking the ball on the rise when Rafa hits those loopy shots to his about being proactive on a second serve??? And as fantastic as Mirka is she is no coach...I tend to believe that Mirka would be happy with anything that IS good for the if the right coach came along...she'd be all ON board...and I'm not worried about Rafa on clay either (we all know he's the elephant in the room) about all the other elephants out there who are spending hours and hours figuring how to beat the Fed???

And if Mirka ever left the Fed...he really would give up tennis because I don't think he'd ever locate his FH again...C'est finni!!!

PS: Fed KNOWS that he needs tactics against Rafa on Clay...he conceded that at the FO...

Posted by jbradhunter 11/27/2007 at 05:40 PM

where's Tari?
she's missing all the concerned fun going on in here :)

Posted by Suresh 11/27/2007 at 05:45 PM

I believe communication problems with Roche preceded Roger's defeats to Canas. The losses may have hastened the split....

Posted by Or 11/27/2007 at 05:48 PM

We know the prblems existed in Rome, how much time before that is hard to say, whether losing to Canas were a direct result of the coaching issue or the begining of it, is hard to tell.

Was Roche there when Roger won Dubai?

Posted by jbradhunter 11/27/2007 at 05:51 PM

I don't know, but Mirka sounds a bit like Madame Rose to me ;)

Posted by Suresh 11/27/2007 at 05:53 PM

'I don't know, but Mirka sounds a bit like Madame Rose to me'

As Federer would respond - 'its a pity....' lol

Posted by smee 11/27/2007 at 05:55 PM

I honestly don't think Roger needs a new coach and I agree with Pete that Mirka provides much of that support and white noise canceling for him. His technique is great. His sense of the court and anticipation of his opponent is beyond great and most of the time, so are his tactics (the exception always being RG against Rafa). Rafa, on the other hand, could use some help. Perhaps a consultant of sorts for the hard court surface. I think he and Toni both know what needs to happen, but somehow it's not happening. Rafa himself has admitted it's harder to execute an aggressive style of play and when forced into a corner he retreats behind the baseline. In other words, Rafa KAD that I am, I think Roger has it exactly right and Mirka is very valuable to him. Rafa, on the other hand, might need to think about widening that inner circle a little.

Posted by jbradhunter 11/27/2007 at 05:59 PM

Toni has been looking like a man waiting to be executed lately during Rafa's matches

Posted by Beckham (Still Searching for a Coach) 11/27/2007 at 06:00 PM

Or: I believe the communication problems started at the USO 2006(???)...Fed was asked if he'd spoken to Rochey in one of his interviews and he said NO...I suppose it didn't bother him then but he expected to hear from Rochey after the losses and I don't think he did...and I believe I read something about Rochey saying the 2 losses woulda shaken Fed's confidence...besides wasn't there a rumour floating out there that the Fed didn't believe in Rochey's tactics on clay????

Posted by Andrew 11/27/2007 at 06:01 PM

A substantial disagreement between Federer and Roche was over coaching style: Roche, I believe, tended to emphasize drills (hit 100 BH volleys) while Federer is more comfortable playing points.

Steve Tignor noted the communication gap between Roche and Federer in his piece from Rome here:

Thinking about Roche's style, he'd likely be a candidate for the technician role. Tactical, anyone?

Posted by skip1515 11/27/2007 at 06:01 PM

History tidbit: according to Mrs. Kammer, my 2nd grade teacher, children gathered silkweed during the Second World War for the US Air Force, for use as insulating material in flyers' jackets and coats. Whether kids across the US did this or not, I don't know. She grew up in Wisconsin (or, Minnesota?). I never heard of this from any East coast folks, but have no reason to doubt it.

On another note....

Different players need coaches for different reasons. Some players are x's & o's types; Agassi's time in the commentator's seat suggested he was very much like that, and therefore his affinity for Gilbert and Cahill is more easily understood. Others players, like Sampras, seem to look for a coach to establish an atmosphere rather than a mental or physical regimen, e.g., his time with Annacone.

It'd be interesting to know if Sampras' relationship with Gullickson was oriented more towards the x's and o's, and technique, since it was earlier in his career. I suspect so, and it would remind us that for any one player the definition of a successful coach is likely to change over time.

Posted by Sam 11/27/2007 at 06:08 PM

skip: From some things I watched on Sampras-Gullickson, I got the impression that the biggest things Gullickson did for Sampras were (in no particular order):

1) Give him a "lunch-pail" mentality - i.e. find a way to win even when you're not on your A game. He also helped Sampras change his initially negative attitude towards playing on grass.
2) Make tactical adjustments - a key one was helping him change his returning position when playing lefties.
3) Be a good friend - Sampras was introverted and Gullickson tried to help get him out of his shell.

Posted by smee 11/27/2007 at 06:12 PM

Best I remember Sampras and Gullickson were extraordinarily close. He was like a father figure to him and I think he helped create the kind of atmosphere that helped Pete succeed. I imagine there was more of a focus on Xs and Os and technique than there was in the later years with Annacone. In the early years there was also his girlfriend, Delaina something or the other, who was significantly older than Pete and was always around, until she wasn't (i'm not suggesting she played any kind of coaching role... i just randomly remembered her).

Back to Fed, I do think he could use some help scouting out his opponents, even though he does seem to spend a ton of time watching tennis.

Posted by jbradhunter 11/27/2007 at 06:17 PM

I thought Tony wanted Fed to be more aggressive on the clay, especially against Rafa

Posted by jbradhunter 11/27/2007 at 06:18 PM

the aggressive Feddid beat Rafa in Hamburg, and almost beat Rafa in Rome- so where's the aggressive Fed when an RG final rolls around? Is Fed too uncomfortable with the tactic to use it in a big match?

Posted by beth 11/27/2007 at 06:19 PM

Sam - was Gullickson Pete's first coach when he started the pro tour? I don't remember the coach. But , Pete had just finished his sophomore year at PV High when he left to go pro. That would have made him all of 15 or 16 . And most of the reports from here were that he was socially awkward in high school. A surrogate father was exactly what he needed at that time.
smee - I don't believe the girlfriend surfaced until much later - after he had won the US Open.

Posted by Bismarck 11/27/2007 at 06:22 PM

was the rumour that fed was a lil mean with the (bonus) money for poor old yes optus ever completely dismissed?
or was it mean mirka? i can´t even remember rumours properly...

Tennisloving Foo, your well stated concern has evoked similar concerns in me. hee.

Posted by smee 11/27/2007 at 06:22 PM

I don't know if it's discomfort or stubbornness against Rafa on clay. I don't see Hamburg as that representative as Rafa was clearly out of gas having played all those finals in a row. I do think Fed started out more aggressively in RG and then Rafa saved all those break points in the first set and the doubts started to creep in for Fed

Posted by jbradhunter 11/27/2007 at 06:25 PM

smee- I thinks it's prolly some of both- discomfort and stubbornness

my point though, I think Fed shoulda listened to Tony's game plan and maybe he'd have been an RG champion in recent years

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed/Karen 11/27/2007 at 06:28 PM

Anyone ever heard the saying, behind every man, stands a good woman. Mirka is that good woman. She is there to ease the sorrows of the tennis pro, ensure that everything is to his liking and be the calm in the midst of the storm. At nights when the floating balls come to Fed's backhand, and he wakes up awash in cold sweat and his knees shaking, it is Mirka who grabs a towel and some Evian and says, there there my little liebchen, all vill be vell, dont vorry, that spin baller will not get you again. But I digress.

As to the other players' supporting cast, what about the Williams camp and Henin. What would Venus/Serena do if Papa and Mama Williams were not there. What would Justine do if she looked up one day and there was no Carlos? What in hail would happen to Maria if there was no Yuri? We have already seen that Serena is willing to travel without her parents, as she did this past fall during the indoor season. I am not sure that Venus travelled with either parent during her Taiwan romp this fall. Has anyone ever seen Maria at a match without Yuri? How about Justine? I saw a Fed Cup match and Carlos was on the sideline coaching the coach of the Belgian Fed Cup team. Is it that these players are dependent on their support staff for moral support or are they there to just be there. To give the pros an anchor in the midst of the storm. Question: Who do you think would perform better/worse without constant supporting presence?

Posted by Suresh 11/27/2007 at 06:43 PM

Tokyo Tom..good question.

The mains have a greater effect on the string bed than the crosses, and maybe Federer wants to maximize what the gut can provide and at the same have luxilon as the crosses.

Gut provides a softer string bed and more pop.
Luxilon is a dead string - it provides more control, racquet head can be whipped faster.

Posted by Suresh 11/27/2007 at 06:45 PM

Federer cannot pull a captain Wasabi on a coach.... lol

Posted by jbradhunter 11/27/2007 at 07:06 PM

Bud Collins asks Raj after the AO final of 2008...
"Roger, if you were stuck on a desert island and could have 2 things what would they be?"

Posted by mad about fed 11/27/2007 at 07:24 PM

my .02 on the fed/coach

for a guy who has won most of his titles from 2004 to 11/07(5 slams?) without a coach kinda speaks for itself, don't it? considering the fact that tony didn't travel with him that much and they didn't talk on the phone that often, again it kinda speaks for itself. so,if fed didn't need a coach when he had one why does need one now that he doesn't? fed is very self-sufficient physically, emotionally and mentally. he's good at analyzing the good, the bad and the ugly of his game, as well as his opponents.

case in point the YEC he lost the first match against a guy he had routinely beaten 10 out 10 times and what did he do? he went home and analyze the match, put a few X's at the tooop some O's at the boottom some off to both siide stood back and said "right, right". then came out and kick major butt. he came out lookin to put a beatdown on anybody standing in his way, the last four didn't know what hit 'em.

so would getting a coach be a bad thing? no, but it won't be the answer either, that i think lies with fed.

Posted by Sherlock 11/27/2007 at 07:24 PM

That's a dangerous question, jbrad. :)

Posted by Eddy 11/27/2007 at 07:55 PM

I think Fed has a fitness guy right? He just doesn't have an actual coach.

Posted by Bunz4ever 11/27/2007 at 08:23 PM

I'm here, jbrad. :) Hilarious!

Seriously, I can't wait to hear the whole story here about the real scoop on Mirka. Will we ever know? Those Swissies! They are so...soooo...private. *sigh*

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 11/27/2007 at 08:30 PM

I think Mirka is a great girlfriend for Fed, and provides him with emotional stability. But she is no replacement for a coach. She accompanies him to all his matches, but I never see her go scout out other matches for him with him being around. She is just by his side all the time, 24/7 it seems.

She certainly hasn't been able to clear the cobwebs from his brain that besiege him when he plays Nadal on clay. Both French Open finals, this year and last, Fed seemed plagued with self-doubt. He truly believes Nadal is superior to him on clay. I believe the first set of the FO final this year was lost on Fed's racquet. All those break point chances squandered ! He needs a coach who can sit with him and go through tapes of his matches against Nadal, and instill in him belief that he can beat him - if he would just play aggressive, smart tennis, and play with more courage. That fighting spirit he showed in the 5th set of Wimbledon ... that's what we need more of. Also, I agree with others that a coach can help scout other players' games, give him more insight into other their strengths and weaknesses, so he wouldn't be surprised as often. After all, all the other players and their coaches are studying tapes of him !

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 11/27/2007 at 08:40 PM

And the Fed coaching debate rages on. :-)

Pete should have titled this post:

"Sam vs. Beckham" LOL

And then included a point/counterpoint by each. Sam's would be titled: "Fed Don't Need No Stinkin' Coach." Beckham's would be called: "Sam Doesn't Know What He's Talking About ... FED NEEDS A COACH NOW!!! and I Will Remain Completely Frazzled Until He Gets One!!!" LOL

And I will continue to referee as I am fond of both posters. :-)

*tangi waves to Sam and Beckham*

Posted by TennisRone 11/27/2007 at 08:54 PM

I'm not sure whom would be next in the Roger corner. What Coach would want to be in the "3rd person" role. Rog, Mirka, then Coach. Tony Roach has been around long enough where he surely didn't feel any need to be noticed. I imagine any Coach would want to be associated with Fed...but is there a risk that this coach may not receive the proper credit should he/she enhance a portion of Fed's game? I don't know the answer to that question. Fed has always been humble and I'd imagine he'd always at least credit his coach with part of the credit. I imagine Mirka does fill in some tennis observational holes that Fed may have, but I don't think she is a guru either. \

Murray breaks up with Brad...strange. I wonder who'll be Brad's next project.

Posted by dcfan 11/27/2007 at 08:59 PM

Another boring blog entry about who else? Roger Federer. YAWN. Enough of him already. Bring on the Davis Cup! Gooooo USA!!!!

Posted by Andrew Miller 11/27/2007 at 09:01 PM

Quote: "writing in an email that while he didn't want to get into a public discussion about the split, he thought that I pretty much nailed it with my commentary at ESPN. From that, I have to believe that Brad was blind-sided by this decision, and is skeptical of the approach Murray wants to take going forward."

I will have to go against the grain here and say that, from an observer's point of view, surely Andy Roddick and Andy Murray's decisions to part with Brad Gilbert must, in some way, be a commentary about Brad Gilbert's style. In the pre-commentator days, Gilbert was nothing but a coach - he wasnt writing winning ugly books, or making predictions about who had the hottest hand going into the Australian Open. He was a guy with a pair of sunglasses and cap who scouted opponents and looked at his full time job as such: "My job is coaching Andre Agassi. It is a great job." That way of viewing the world - holding aside his greater "Winning Ugly Book Writing" ambitions and the Sequel: "Winning Even Uglier, If You Can Stomach It" (that's not a real title but I think I express the point - why is there a sequel?) and keeping his Broadcasting ambitions at bay - led Gilbert and Agassi into "The Promised Land" of grand slam titles and rejuvinated, if not jubilant and downright INSPIRED tennis from someone who had "so much talent, and so little to show for it." That, of course, was Agassi before he paired with Gilbert - essentially, Agassi as a modern day "Juan Carlos Ferrero" or "Marat Safan" (a grand slam title and davis cup victory under his belt...but a tennis prodigy going nowhere nice, rather fast) me...I would be an idiot not to express that Brad Gilbert "THE BRAND" did not play a part in the departure of yet another talented Andy. Surely, it had to. If the universe is sending a message here, it's to ask Brad Gilbert a question: "What are you in the game for, man?" It smacks me as obvious that, no matter how much Roddick and Murray had to gain from Brad Gilbert's often brilliant coaching, for both of them to cut him loose speaks volumes about either the foolishness of youth, the foolishness of Gilbert, or makes me ask this question: "How bad must it have been going to throw away a couple big chances at grand slams in exchange for freedom from the Gilbert Franchise?". Personally I feel as if Roddick lost about a year's worth of potentially excellent tennis (a step backwards) with his firing of Gilbert (the whole year of 2005 and much of 2006 was just not very pretty from Roddick, until Cincinatti of 2006 where he downed Ferrero). With Andy Murray, who knows...he might be in for some disillusionment in 2008 or he could surprise - the next 12 months will tell in his results.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for Gilbert to rededicate himself and cut down a bit on some things, or decide where he wants his contributions to be in the next few years. If he takes Bogdanovic to bigger and better things - that would be impressive. It will answer another question - is Gilbert someone who just goes after huge incredible talent, talent that arguably would have won some grand slams without his help (but surely benefitted from his help), and just cherry pick? Or does he really have something to offer to the everyday ATP player?

My hunch is that he can certainly do something to answer that question. Would like to see how it unfolds and to see if the "Shadow Gilbert" doesnt get in the way, as it seems it must have with his courting of the young guns of the ATP.

Posted by Tim ($1.95 for Starbucks) 11/27/2007 at 09:01 PM

um, Mirka is about texting, collectin the check and keepin her man happy, end of story... not exactly a 'coach' in the traditional sense! she's clearly a huge emotional security blanket for TMF, and that's been essential to his 12 Slams and counting...

to chime in bluntly--Fed dont need no stinkin coach, he maybe sorta needs a buddy htting partner who gets Slam pressure who he can bs with over dinner, and have for support in his box (no eye contact necessary) ...

there is no human being alive on this planet who can shed light on the boundaries of a tennis court, his opponents or dealing with Slam pressure, other than Sampras or Agassi... other than that, who?

Fed could use their emotional support or confidence, but tactically, hes a guy who learns as he goes, and eventually figures it out... Rolland Garros is like Nalbandian, Henman, Hewitt and now Nadal...he will figure it out and come out with a win, at least ONCE... that's all he needs, and he's 26 years old...

big smile just thinking about it...

*I bought coffee cake on the way home, so shoot me!*

Posted by Sam 11/27/2007 at 09:05 PM

LOL tangi. That pretty much sums it up!

Anyone know how many Slams Federer has won without a coach? There are 5 definites (2004 - AO, W, USO; 2007 - W, USO) I can think of.

Posted by Bunz4ever 11/27/2007 at 09:12 PM

I'm pretty sure that Roger didn't pick up Tony Roche until the off season one year. So it had to be end of 2005, right? So that would make Wimby and USO that year as coachless wins.

Posted by Tari a/k/a Bunz4ever 11/27/2007 at 09:13 PM

Well, crap. I always mess up when I try to use another name. :)

Posted by Tim ($1.95 for Starbucks) 11/27/2007 at 09:13 PM

Roger dont need no stinkin coach!

Posted by Grant 11/27/2007 at 09:16 PM

"to chime in bluntly--Fed dont need no stinkin coach, he maybe sorta needs a buddy htting partner who gets Slam pressure who he can bs with over dinner, and have for support in his box (no eye contact necessary) ..."

I think he could also use a scout (he has more committments now than he used to, so less time to watch tennis) and someone to give the occasional bit of tactical advice.

Oh wait, this is starting to sound like that "Team of Experts" idea!

Posted by Sam 11/27/2007 at 09:20 PM

That's right Tim! I do like the scout idea that a few people mentioned.

Just looked it up - Roche became coach in 2005 and Federer won 6 Slams with him (2005 - W, USO, 2006 - AO, W, USO).

Posted by Tim ($1.95 for Starbucks) 11/27/2007 at 09:21 PM

please Federer is still sitting in his luxury suite at the Slams, devouring every night session, watching his rivals, his computer chip in his brain taking notes... he can only get better as he goes, in terms of strategy....his legend is secure, i hope he can believe he can swing freely now, and enjoy the challenge...

easier said than done!

Posted by RedClaw 11/27/2007 at 09:24 PM

Ahh... You're all adorable.

Grant, I haven't seen you around before, but you had me the moment you compared the coach role to that of Virgil. Anyone who so casually references the Divine Comedy! Wooh!

As far as this goes, I hope Roger gets a good coach - I can't see how it could hurt him much. I think he has the sense not to listen overly... What IS Annacone up to, anyway?

Posted by Tim ($1.95 for Starbucks) 11/27/2007 at 09:25 PM

Sam, cmon! Rochie wasnt even THERE for those Open wins, does that count!

pfffft! Seems like Fed man has won most of his Slams single, with Mirka texting and Fed taking care of business...

when is the TW Xmas party>>>??

*caffeine free please*

Posted by skip1515 11/27/2007 at 09:25 PM

Andrew Miller, that's one fine commentary.

One thing that Pete didn't write about directly, but suggested in describing coaches, their roles, and the Roger/Mirka relationship, is the Andy Murray/Judy Murray junta. Murray's mum is an ex-player of some ability, no shrinking violet, and more openly involved in his career than any other male pro's parents that I can think of.

She may well provide the emotional support that Pete mentions, plus the primary coaching direction, if not the on court generalship.

Assuming this is the case, and combining that with your description of Gilbert's coaching tack post-Agassi, the Murray/Gilbert split becomes less surprising.

Posted by Tim ($1.95 for Starbucks) 11/27/2007 at 09:27 PM

please all annacone did was have dinner with pete and support him, he didnt say scaddiddle that Sampras didnt already know...

Annacone is no genius... but he would fit in with Fed's low key personality, for that enough!?

Posted by Tari 11/27/2007 at 09:38 PM

We'll definitely have to have a party, Tim. Did I tell you I found a new favorite GE? A French martini. YUM.

I'm not sure what Annacone did for Pete, either. Why, oh, why couldn't Fed get Cahill? If only just because I love watching him
practice shirtless? Please. Did you expect that I knew some impressive technical reason?? :))

Posted by CL 11/27/2007 at 09:47 PM

beth - you get best comment for "yes opus sleeping through matches" ROFL....

jbrad... I'm guessing one of the answers WASN'T Tony Roche.

And even if you vote yes, then who?

And isn't milkweed the more or less the entire diet of Monarch butterflies? And why aren't they called 'flutterbys' which is so much more evocotive.

Off to check Steve's thread for Laver video. Did Laver have a coach?

Posted by Tim ($1.95 for Starbucks) 11/27/2007 at 09:57 PM

Tari we need to set up an xmas party in nyc, with an open invite to the world!

nothing better than a very dirty Martini, extra olives...

Fed dont need no stinkin coach, theyre a crutch for mentally weak, hapless players who cant get their act together!

*pot, and martinis, be stirred*

Posted by Tari 11/27/2007 at 10:02 PM

I like those too, Tim. I fixed a dirty for my sister recently, and she tried it, grimaced and set it aside...only to keep going back to it and end up finishing it. :)) She likes them now.

The French one has Chambord, vodka, pineapple juice, and a twist of lemon. Just delicious.

Posted by Beckham (Still Searching for a Coach) 11/27/2007 at 10:10 PM

Ms. Popsicle: LOL...darn right...

Andrew Miller: interesting thoughts...makes you wonder, No???

Posted by 11/27/2007 at 10:11 PM don't need no stinkin' barista!!! Head home and warm up the Proctor Silex or Bunn Coffee maker. $3.99 for 20 pots baby!

It's funny how we are so motivated to find a 13 time GS winner/World's number one for ??? years in a row and find him a Coach. Heck, Rafa's Coach is his Uncle. I'd rather be the Coach of the other guy motivating my player to beat Fed.

Posted by TennisRone 11/27/2007 at 10:12 PM

...sorry, anon. poster was me...

Posted by Tim ($1.95 for Starbucks) 11/27/2007 at 10:13 PM

Uncle Toni needs to be send packing and take long coaching at the sidelines free vacation, dont we all see it?


Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 11/27/2007 at 10:14 PM

I have heard Fed say that he will ask Mirka how she would play an upcoming opponent of his (not how she thinks he ought to play said opponent).

Posted by Tim ($1.95 for Starbucks) 11/27/2007 at 10:15 PM

I know but making it at home is so BORING! i like to get out and take a walk and bring it back to the office and...

*addictive reasoning*

Posted by Tim ($1.95 for Starbucks) 11/27/2007 at 10:16 PM

Mirka just says 'hit big serves and bring home to check, I need shoes and electronics!' and Fed says, 'yes' dear ...

some coach!

Posted by Grant 11/27/2007 at 10:17 PM

"Bunn Coffee maker. $3.99 for 20 pots baby!"

So much better than the Bunz4ever coffee maker.

(You see RedClaw, I live in hope that the occasional literary reference will make up for the other 99% of the time, when I say stupid things like that)

Posted by TennisRone 11/27/2007 at 10:19 PM

Ah...but you can make the coffee and post on TW! Either that or take your savings and invest in some of the fancy string combos Fed uses to toy with his ATP opponents!

Posted by Tim ($1.95 for Starbucks) 11/27/2007 at 10:20 PM

if Rafa ever needs some fast cash, he could endorse the Bunz4Ever coffee maker... better hurry up, of course, he's gettin old

Posted by TennisRone 11/27/2007 at 10:21 PM

Mirka does like her sunglasses....

Bunz4ever Coffee Maker machine would be a heck of a lot more marketable...great thought Grant! Ha!

Posted by Tim ($1.95 for Starbucks) 11/27/2007 at 10:22 PM

those Rafa bunz will end up in the week old sale soon enough!

Posted by 11/27/2007 at 10:23 PM

Don't get the ladies going...they'll start using their imagination regarding Rafa's Bunz....Machine.

Posted by TennisRone 11/27/2007 at 10:24 PM

Curses! What happened to TypePad remembering my ID! Another anon post

Posted by Tari 11/27/2007 at 10:25 PM

I'm not sure whether Bunz are getting dissed or not now. :)

Posted by Tim ($1.95 for Starbucks) 11/27/2007 at 10:25 PM

bah rafa's bunz are getting soggy, enough said!


Posted by CL 11/27/2007 at 10:28 PM

Yes to extra, EXTRA olives, (savse on canape' costs)...the hail with the displacement factor, say I... ok with dirty martinis but prefer the standard variety. And just to keep the bartender honest, sometimes I ask for extra olives AND a twist. Poor thing.

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