May 12, 2017
Following the invitation of PTR CEO Dan Santorum (in association with FIT-Italian Tennis Federation-), I decided to attend the 3rd International Coaches Symposium organized this last weekend in Rome, during the Italian Open. The guest list seemed at least promising, with numerous prestigious international speakers who would present their own approach to tennis teaching methodology. And it did not fail to deliver: after the beautifully organized opening ceremony, the first one to enter the scene at Foro Italico’s „Next Gen Arena“ was none other than the founder of IMG Academy, Nick Bollettieri, a man who has had such a big influence on the game as we know it today. Among the students who trained at IMG we name: Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Jim Courier, Kei Nishikori, Serena Williams, and Maria Sharapova. We are an official representative of the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy (known today as IMG Academy) since 1993 and I was very pleased to notice the methods and philosophy presented which are also implemented in our tennis program. Among the topics, we name the „Big Forehand“, which teaches players to dominate the court using a flawless forehand technique and quick footwork. Also, the steps required to become a „winner“ and encouraging college tennis, have been part of the discussion.
What followed up was a wonderful demonstration of volley teaching methods, with Andreas Seppi as the main protagonist.
Spaniard Emilio Sanchez (former World No. 7 and co-founder of the prestigious Sanchez-Casal Academy) led the way in the second part of the day. His interesting speech came as a reminder of the „old tennis school“ and featured a demonstration of the slice efficiency, in both offensive and defensive situations, while also developing habits of moving forwards and backwards on the court.
„Anticipation“ was the focus point of Dermot Sweeney’s presentation (coach of various top 20 ranked juniors), featuring various methods of reading the opponent.
Craig O’Shannesy discussed how important are the first four shots in tennis, with given percentage data from past Grand Slams and numerous other tournaments. Almost 70% of the points played, at any level, are over after the first four shots or sooner, making serve and return as crucial as ever. Another interesting fact, the current world number one, Andy Murray, has a point-win percentage of 55%, which gives us a lot to think about how we should approach a lost point.
Next to follow was Italian Lorenzo Beltrame (Named PTR Professional of the Year) who discussed the mental area of the game, presenting various ways of managing thoughts/emotions. The practical demonstration included routines which should be implement by players during a match, showing positivity and confidence between points, even after a crucial mistake. Opening the heart and mind of a player towards the game, and learning how he/she thinks, is a big step in helping him grow.
This fabulous day was concluded by two of the most iconic people in tennis today: Judy Murray and Patrick Mouratoglou. First, Judy’s emotional speech told their story including various obstacles overcame by Andy and Jamie Murray, throughout their careers, and how important it is to find the right environment and right coach at the right time. Appointed Great Britain’s Fed Cup captain between 2011 and 2016, she proved herself also as a coach, and not just the mother of the current World No. 1.
Last came „The Mentalist“, Pat Mouratoglou, renowned coach of numerous ATP and WTA players (currently working with Serena Williams), and owner of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy near Nice, France. With a dominating presence, he focused mainly on pre-match preparation (tactical and mental details) and also post-match reactions (acceptance of failure as part of the path to success). An example, which we also implement in our learning process, would be working mainly on the player’s strengths the week before a tournament, helping him gain more confidence. „All players are different, but they all are searching for confidence to help them win more.“ With this strong message, and a final group photo, the 3rd International Coaches Symposium came to an end.
Despite having different approaches to obtaining success and creating the next champion, all of the participants share one thing: true passion for the game.