Four-time Wimbledon semifinalist and former British No 1 Tim Henman is intrigued by the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray among others hiring former greats like Boris Becker, Ivan Ljubicic, Stefan Edberg, Ivan Lendl as part of their coaching staff.
“It is interesting you know. Murray had Lendl and I think it is great for the present players because those big players from the past have good experiences to understand the game and it is good for the interest in tennis,” said Henman.
But, the question bothering most tennis fans is what can you teach a Federer, who has won 17 Grand Slams, or a Djokovic, who has won 11. “It is not about teaching them how to hit shots. It is much more about strategies and game plans against different players and the mental side of tennis. It is not how to teach Federer a forehand. He knows how to play those shots. It is more about the mental side,” felt Henman.
So with Amelie Mauresmo in Andy’s corner now, do things change with a top female athlete giving inputs? “It doesn’t matter whether you are male or female. For me, there aren’t many women coaches working on the men’s tour. As I said it is about the information. It is about strategies, game plans and mental side of nurturing a player,” added Henman.
Henman himself has had multiple coaches in his career --- David Lloyd, David Felgate (1992-2001), Larry Stefanki (2001-03) and Paul Annacone (2003-07), none of them Grand Slam singles champs. However, if given the choice of hiring a former great as coach, Henman would decline the offer.
“No I wouldn’t because Paul Annacone, my last coach, obviously was a top-20 player and he worked with Pete Sampras. It is about finding what works for you. For example, Rafael Nadal is one of the greatest players of the game and he is coached by his uncle. So it is about what works best for you,” said the former British No 1.
Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray have won an astonishing 44 of the last 51 Grand Slam events played in tennis. But, of late, Nadal seems to be missing a trick. So should the ‘King of clay’ make changes in his coaching staff which currently consists of Toni Nadal, his uncle, who has been in his corner since he held a tennis racket. “It is up to him. You don’t need to be a good player to be a good coach. I think he hasn’t played his best tennis over the last 18 months. When I changed my coach I did find a different perspective, different information coming. My advice would be to try something different. But it doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what he thinks,” said Henman.
Talking about coaching, Henman said that he was approached to coach a top player, but he declined the offer. “Yes I was approached to coach a top player, who I will not name. But I said no because I’d have to travel for 25 to 30 weeks for the year. I have my family and I have travelled so much in my own career that it doesn’t appeal to me,” said Henman.