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Roger's ex-coach gets Stanislas going

sports Updated: Jan 06, 2011 00:26 IST
Deepti Patwardhan

Peter Lundgren picks up the chair, with a card-board box full of tennis balls on it, and places it in the centre of the court. One by one he hits them across the net, all of them are returned with a ferocious whack. Whack, whack, whack...twenty forehands on the trot.

He collects the balls. Another two sets of that; then they change sides. They repeat the drill for backhands. Some of the Indian players practicing on the adjacent court stop to watch them, engulfed by the intensity of it.

Lundgren is whipping Stanislas Wawrinka and the Swiss' dream to break back into the top-10. And he knows a thing or two about it.

A former player himself, in his first job as coach Lundgren helped the volatile Marcelo Rios, to top-10 glory.

He then took on a precocious teenager from Switzerland, and guided him to a Grand Slam win.

"Roger was talented, and crazy," says Lundgren, on the sidelines of the Chennai Open, of his star pupil-Roger Federer. "He used to get frustrated easily, and build it up until he exploded. And the other players used to wait for that moment, because after that he would just give it away.

"Even now he goes crazy from the inside sometimes, but he has just learned to hide it better."

Lundgren was in the players' box when Federer won the 2003 Wimbledon championship, the first of his 16 Slams.

"Winning Wimbledon was just a big relief for Roger. He was under so much pressure. It's hard for a player who is very talented. He has got such a suitcase of weapons, and he needs to get rid of at least half of it on court. When players are too talented, when they know they have so many options, they are younger they often go for the wrong ones. Once he won that Slam he grew into the custom."

Lundgren was the last coach that Federer had. After the two split company in 2003, having been together for seven years, Federer decided to go solo, hiring coaches only part-time or to help him achieve specific goals.

To add to the impressive list, Lundgren was also instrumental in Marat Safin win the 2005 Australian Open. "He was a big talent but in a different way," recalls the Swede. "He had more power, more strength. He would win when he wanted to."

Having won his first title by defeating Ramesh Krishnan in the final (Cologne, 1985), the Swede has watched generations of Indians come through. "They are very good doubles players," is his assessment. "They are born with good hands and eye for the ball. But nowadays you need to be good on the baseline area too. I think Indian players need to work on their defence and movement on court."

Lundgren on Somdev

It looked to me that he was not coming forward. I know he is a baseline player but he was a little bit too far and the other guy could attack him all the time. The balls were falling too short in the court.

It is going to be tough for him. He is a fighter and moves well but he needs to work on a weapon. Tennis is such nowadays that you need a lot of weapons, a good serve and forehand maybe. And even if you are good at something you need to work hard to make it happen all the time. That's why we do the drill, repeat balls to the forehand or backhand, boom boom boom, so that once you will find the right place to hit into the court. It has to become instinctive, because that's how it is, you don't have a lot of time to think on the court.

It's not too late, of course Somdev can work on developing a weapon even now. He needs to work on his attack shots and serve, because he has got good legs. He has broken into the top-100 so he knows what it takes. It's also got a lot to do with confidence.