London | Coaching news: Raducanu, Halep, Swiatek, Bouzkova and Zheng

Traditionally there are several new coaching appointments made for the off season, and none has been so highly anticipated than that of Emma Raducanu, who has been off the WTA Tour since April dealing with her injuries and plans to return in Auckland in January.

Since February I have taken advantage of the time to rest, after some intense years of travelling. Now I have the energy to train again and enjoy my work. I am very happy to be able to contribute my experience again. Her [Bouzkova’s] agent contacted me to inquire about my availability and to ask if I wanted to train again. And now that we are at the end of the year and after evaluating everything, I have decided that it was a good time to return because I am excited about the project. Conchita Martinez

The former US Open champion and British No 1 has been training with staff at the National Tennis Centre, pretty much under wraps, but this week it is reported that she has gone back to her childhood coach, Nick Cavaday, who has a lot of experience working with talented players under the auspices of the LTA.

Raducanu’s track record with coaches is the subject of much discussion, and many have encouraged her to settle down with just one on a long term basis.

The choice of Cavaday could be a good match since he already knows her well, but whether the relationship will have longevity remains to seen.

Speaking to the Daily Mail recently, British tennis legend Ann Jones criticised Raducanu for her apparent indecisiveness amid the high turnover of coaches in her young career.

Raducanu became the first qualifier in tennis history to win a Grand Slam, and she did so without losing a set in all 10 matches she played in New York, where she was under the guidance of Andrew Richardson, who she summarily sacked as her coach a few weeks later because of his lack of experience ‘at the highest levels’.

Since 2021, the 21-year-old from Bromley has cut ties with 8 coaches, and her most recent coaching partnership with Sebastian Sachs lasted just 6 months.

Jones, the winner of 3 Grand Slam singles titles and the first British player to win Wimbledon in the Open Era, was baffled to hear that one of the reasons for Raducanu’s decision to chop and change was that her coaches could not keep up with her skepticism on a tennis court.

“Well, what did she think we all did?” Jones said. “We had to find our own answers. You have to work at things yourself.

“To fire a coach after she had just won the US Open was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

“Life is about momentum. If you’ve got the momentum, you have to take advantage of it and carry on. You’ve got a natural game. What you need to do is to improve what you have got. You don’t have coaches come along and change your game.

“The results are clear. You get injured, because it’s not natural for you to hit the ball in that way. It was natural to hit it the way you hit it in the first place.

“How do you recover your natural game after it has been changed? It’s very difficult to find what you had before. I think she’s really enjoyed winning and I don’t think she wants to lose now.

“It’s a waste and we could do with a champion here.”


Simona Halep has walked away from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou because of a lack of trust over her 4-year doping ban

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

Elsewhere, in a controversial move, Simona Halep, the former World No 1 who is currently under a 4-year doping ban, has split with her high profile coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.

Halep, who is appealing her sentence with CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, an independent institution, based in Lausanne, involved in resolving legal disputes in the field of sport, has confirmed that she has terminated her coaching relationship with Mouratoglou because she felt that her trust had been broken.

Mouratoglou confirmed in an interview in early November that the banned substance roxadustat found in her system at the 2021 US Open was just from contamination, and added that the source was a collagen that he had recommended to her.

“It’s true that he spoke out. I wish that he could have done that a little bit earlier,” Halep told Euronews Romania last week. “I have stopped working with the academy for a while already.

“So I always trusted this and my trust is broken a little bit right now and, in the future, I don’t know it’s gonna be if I can trust again.”

Halep has moved to Dubai where she is training in the hope that her sentence will be thrown out and she will be able to return to the tour in 2024.

“Four years is going to be a lot, at least for my age,” 32-year old Halep said. “For an athlete that has done 25 years every day doing this thing and dedicated my life to tennis and for sport. I don’t know how it’s going to be, but it’s catastrophic.”

Halep admits that if the ban stands, then her pro tennis career is effectively over.


Iga Swiatek's coach Tomasz Wiktorowski is named 2023 WTA Coach of the Year

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Meanwhile, current World No 1, Iga Swiatek is living testimony to sticking with her team, and their success was recognised by the WTA when her coach Tomasz Wiktorowski received the 2023 WTA Coach of the Year award, which was voted for by WTA registered coaches.

Swiatek herself was crowned the WTA Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.

Wiktorowski is one of the sharpest tennis minds from Poland, and has been working with Swiatek since the start of the 2022 season.

Like Swiatek, the 42-year-old hails from Warsaw and previously coached Agnieszka Radwanska, one of the most prominent Polish players, between 2011 and 2018.

Wiktorowski has also served as captain for Poland’s Billie Jean King Cup team, formerly the Fed Cup, and coached Poland’s Olympic tennis squads in 2012 and 2016.

Under his guidance, Swiatek has won 3 of her 4 Grand Slams, and he is credited for instilling her aggressive approach in her baseline game.

Swiatek has also achieved something that no other WTA player has managed before, helping not just one but two of her coaches to pick up the prestigious award.

The first time it happened was in her breakout season when she won her first Grand Slam in Paris, after which her longtime coach, Piotr Sierzputowski, lifted the 2020 WTA Coach of the Year.

She is now the only woman to have two Coaches of the Year awards linked to her.


Marie Bouzkova has named Conchita Martinez as her new coach for 2024

© Fran Santiago/Getty Images for ITF

Elsewhere, Czech Marie Bouzkova is keen to keep her momentum going after a strong finish to the 2023 season, and has turned to another former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez to help her continue her progress.

Martinez also has accolades as a coach, having taken home the WTA Coach of the Year award in 2021 when she was working with Garbiñe Muguruza, while she also previously coached Bouzkova’s compatriot Karoline Pliskova.

The Spaniard has skippered her country’s Billie Jean King Cup team and, more recently, Martinez served as the tournament director of the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Seville.

“Since February I have taken advantage of the time to rest, after some intense years of travelling,” Martinez said during an interview with Eurosport Spain. “Now I have the energy to train again and enjoy my work. I am very happy to be able to contribute my experience again.

“Her [Bouzkova’s] agent contacted me to inquire about my availability and to ask if I wanted to train again. And now that we are at the end of the year and after evaluating everything, I have decided that it was a good time to return because I am excited about the project.”

Bouzkova narrowly fell short of claiming her second career title at the Jiangxi Open in October but lost out to fellow Czech, Katerina Siniakova.

A former junior US Open winner, Bouzkova is ranked No 34 in the world, and won the 2022 Prague Open, while she also made it to the quarter-finals of Wimbledon last year.

“I love her because she is a very feisty and competitive player,” Martinez continued. “She has many [years] to continue growing and improving as a tennis player. She is very professional and is focused on her work 100%.

“Honestly, I think she has a lot of room for improvement in many aspects. It is true that she is quite complete, but I would like to focus on her gradually playing more aggressively without losing her essence as a great fighter.

“I definitely think she has the potential to be high in the rankings, but it takes time to work on.”


Qinwen Zheng has returned to her long-time coach Pere Riba for next season

© STR/AFP via Getty Images

Another talent, Zheng Qinwen has reunited with her former longtime coach, Pere Riba, the World No 15 announcing in an Instagram post that she is going ‘back to the original’.

“Reunited after some time apart, ready to embark on the journey together and prepare for the upcoming year,” she wrote.

Riba and Zheng worked together beginning in 2021, and split after Roland Garros this year.

Barcelona-based Zheng rose from outside the Top 100 to inside the Top 30 under Riba’s tutelage, and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2022.

Following the split, Zheng then hired Wim Fissette, who guided her to her first career Hologic WTA Tour singles title in Palermo and the quarter-finals of the US Open this summer, but they split shortly after, with the Belgian choosing to return to work with his former charge, Naomi Osaka, who is returning to the tour after the birth of her first child.

Riba, meanwhile, joined up with Coco Gauff ahead of Wimbledon, and was by the American’s side with co-coach Brad Gilbert for a sizzling summer that culminated with her first Grand Slam singles title at the US Open

They, too, split after less than 6 months, with Gauff confirming during the WTA Finals in Cancun that she and Riba had parted ways.

Riba wished the 19-year-old well when confirming their split in a social media post, saying at the time that he needed to ‘step back’ due to ‘personal and family health reasons’.


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