The coaching carousel has begun, an end-of-season changing of mentors ahead of the 2023 season, although the news that Caroline Garcia has split with Bertrand Perret, the coach who has guided her to a resurgence this year, just days ahead of the start of the WTA Finals was particularly unexpected.
I just would like to thank Bertrand and all the hard work we did this year. It was a great investment, personally and professionally. We started far away and we came to the top of it at the end of the season. He decided to leave the team after Mexico, and I respected the decision. Now I have to be focused on the present, on the action, my best preparation I can have to play this tournament. Caroline Garcia
The premature departure of Perret from the World No 6’s team appears to have been sudden, leaving the 29-year old Frenchwoman without a coach this week in Fort Worth, Texas.
Garcia had struggled on tour in 2020 and 2021, but rediscovered her best form this year with the help of Perret.
She started 2022 ranked 74 in the world and has risen up the rankings following a trio of titles in Bad Homburg, Warsaw and Cincinnati, while she also reached the semi-finals at the US Open, her best-ever performance at a Grand Slam event.
Garcia made it into the prestigious WTA Finals for the first time since 2017, and is hoping to emulate Amélie Mauresmo in becoming only the second Frenchwoman in history to win the season-ending crown.
Perret, however, reportedly did not want until the end of the season to terminate their working relationship.
“I would have liked to go to the Masters [WTA Finals], yes,” he told L’Equipe. “But I’m not a man of pretence and when it’s over, it’s over.
“There was no point in prolonging it artificially. I preferred to cut rather than tear.
“There have been problems. They ended up spoiling the atmosphere and I preferred to stop. I do this job for fun, and there wasn’t as much [any more].”
Addressing the change to her team during her pre-tournament press conference at the WTA Finals on Saturday, Garcia confirmed that her former mentor decided to stop their collaboration.
Perret has a wealth of experience in women’s tennis after also previously working with Ons Jabeur, Peng Shuai and Tatjana Maria.
“I just would like to thank Bertrand and all the hard work we did this year,” Garcia said. “It was a great investment, personally and professionally.
“We started far away and we came to the top of it at the end of the season.
“He decided to leave the team after Mexico, and I respected the decision.
“Now I have to be focused on the present, on the action, my best preparation I can have to play this tournament.”
In the wake of the split, Garcia has turned to the help of Juan Pablo Guzman, who previously worked with her during the second half of last season.
She has been drawn in the same group as the World No 1 Iga Swiatek, who she has beaten this season, rising teenager Coco Gauff and Daria Kasatkina.
Bianca Andreescu is also ending her arrangement with coach Sven Groeneveld, after he announced that he has decided not to continue his partnership with the Canadian.
Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, started working with Groeneveld just over a year ago but, after just one season together, the two are parting ways, and the Dutchman is seeking another coaching opportunity on the ATP or WTA Tour.
“After more than a year of coaching Bianca, I have decided not to extend our collaboration,” Groeneveld said in a statement posted on social media. “I am keen on new challenges in the men’s or women’s game.
“Wishing Bianca and her team great success going forward.”
In 2021 December, Andreescu announced an indefinite break from tennis to address her mental health.
After skipping the start of this season, Andreescu returned in Stuttgart, in April, and produced some notable results, including at the WTA 1000 event in Rome where she made the quarter-finals before losing to Swiatek.
During the grass season she reached the Bad Homburg final, but fell short in 3 sets to Garcia, and is now ranked No 46 in the world.
These changes followed the news that British No 1 Emma Raducanu was left without a coach two weeks ago when Dmitry Tursunov decided to end the partnership because some of ‘red flags that couldn’t be ignored’.
He is now working with Olympic champion Belinda Bencic from Switzerland.
In an interview for Tennis Majors, Tursunov cleared the air about the split, claiming he did not ditch Raducanu for Bencic, but only accepted the Swiss offer once their arrangement was officially over.
“No, I didn’t. It’s absolutely not true,” he said. “I was walking away from Emma regardless of whether there was another [player] available or not.
“We didn’t agree on the terms, and there were some red flags that just couldn’t be ignored.
“So that’s why it’s a little frustrating to read things like that. I wasn’t hopping from one player to another, I wouldn’t do that.”
Tursunov, who has worked in the past with Aryna Sabalenka and Anett Kontaveit, felt ‘there were going to be problems’ if he continued to work with Raducanu.
“Of course, I would rather stick around and work with one player but, again, I don’t always make that decision,” he added. “With Emma, I walked away, yes. That was my choice. I could have stuck around, I could have agreed on everything that her team proposed.
“But, deep down, I felt like that wasn’t the right thing to do. As difficult of a decision to walk away as it was, because I’ve never really walked away from a player, I felt like that was the right decision.
“Emotionally, I wanted to stay, but logically, I felt like I needed to leave. I felt like there were going to be problems later and I wanted to avoid them for my own peace of mind.”
Tursunov is the last in a series of coaches working with Raducanu over the past 16 months or so, starting with Nigel Sears, who guided her through her first WTA grass-court season and Wimbledon.
He was replaced by Andrew Richardson in July 2021, who helped her to an unprecedented US Open title at her first attempt, before, controversially, not being asked to stay on afterwards.
“I really need someone right now that has had that WTA Tour experience at the high levels,” she said at the time.
Raducanu coached herself at events in Romania and Austria later that year, recording just 2 match wins out of 4 and then, that November, Germany’s Torben Beltz stepped up to joing her team.
With more than a decade’s working partnership with three-time major champion and Angelique Kerber, it seemed the ideal fit, but a bout of Covid-19 in December and a succession physical problems marred the relationship.
Raducanu struggled with the heavy toil of playing full time on the WTA Tour and, less than 6 months later, Beltz was dismissed. He is now working with former World No 2 Anett Kontaveit from Estonia.
Raducanu travelled to Madrid with Louis Cayer, the LTA’s doubles coach, who acted as her ‘technical consultant’, but she fell short in a positive week marred by a back problem in a 3rd-round loss.
The same ailment pushed her to retire from her 1st-round match in Rome, where she travelled with the LTA’s Head of Women’s Tennis Iain Bates, conceding that she sometimes wished she had someone to tell her what to do.
Jane O’Donoghue, Raducanu’s coach in her junior days, stepped in to help her at Wimbledon.
A former player and LTA coach, O’Donoghue swapped her tennis career for the city, and now works for the Royal Bank of Canada, but apparently remains a behind-the-scenes mentor to Raducanu.
Despite an abdominal issue and a 2nd-round loss to Garcia at Wimbledon, Raducanu looked relaxed and happy with O’Donoghue but it was always going to be a stop-gap measure, and Tursunov was appointed for a trial period from August.
Although her US Open title defence ended in the opening round to an inspired and in-form Alizé Cornet, Raducanu produced wins over Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka plus a quarter-final run at the Citi Open in Washington, DC, over the summer.
More injury woes followed, though, and a problem with her wrist prompted a pull out of the Transylvania Open in Romania earlier this month, after which Tursunov made his exit.
Raducanu has enlisted fitness trainer Jez Green for the off-season, a man widely credited with taking Andy Murray’s athleticism to the next level at his prime, and seen as a smart appointment considering her physical issues this season.
For the time, though, the search for a coach continues for Raducanu, although Tursunov’s public remarks over ‘red flags’ probably serve as a warning to those who might consider taking up the challenge.