P A T R I C K M O U R A T O G L O U
Interview & Photographs by} John Russo
Q: I don’t think you are A Coach, I think you are THE Coach.
How do you handle the pressure and expectation that goes with being at the highest level of your field?
A: When you take the decision to work in sports at the highest level, it is all about pressure. We all feel it, players and coaches, we all live with it on a daily basis. Especially in a sport like tennis, pressure is our daily companion because players compete all year long.
I personally love pressure. Because our job revolves around handling it and using it to our benefit.
Pressure can either boost you, or kill you, and the difference between a good player and a top player is often the way they process it.
I have a lot of expectations and because I do, pressure is very high. When I started working with Serena in 2012 (10 years ago), I did a lot of press interviews and a very common question I got was how I handled the fact that collaborating with Serena was an achievement for me. Even though I was very proud and blessed to be able to work with such a champion, I answered by saying that I saw it as a start and not an achievement, and the results she would make with me compared to before would say if we could talk about achievement or not.
Q: When did the idea of creating a tennis Academy come to you? How long did it take you to go from concept to reality?
A: When I had to stop playing tennis, I was 16 and it was the worst moment of my life. I was destroyed. I felt like the reason why I was living was taken away from me. It took me 10 years to recover from it, grow and be ready for the next chapter of my life. After working for 6 years in renewable energies, being 26, I took a big decision.
I decided first to go back to what I loved the most, tennis and spend my life doing what I’m passionate about.
Then I decided that I wanted to create a tennis academy to give the opportunity to help young athletes fulfill their potential and help them achieve their dreams and goals. At the Mouratoglou Academy, our mission and purpose is to give our students the tools and the support to succeed in tennis, in their education but most importantly in their personal journey. The chance I had not been given, I wanted to give to others.
It took me just a few weeks. I went to all the tennis clubs around Paris and looked for courts to rent and then negotiated the rate.
I literally started my tennis academy by renting 2 courts for 8 hours a day in a tennis club back in 1996. Now 25 years later, the Academy has become a Resort that includes 360 services: a four-star hotel, 2 restaurants, a spa, a French & International school, country club and sports medicine center that welcomes everyone from beginners to world champions.
Q: Was anyone a driving force of support for you on this journey?
A: I started with another coach, and then I continued by myself a few years later. But throughout this journey I met many people who have been either incredibly supportive or who have helped me become better.
I think of Bob Brett for example who I have worked with for 6 years and who has shared a lot of his knowledge with me.
Some other people who I have met along the way have become very important to me and I am still working with them 20 years later. That is how I have been able to guarantee a high level of consistency and quality.
Q: You not only developed a world class tennis academy, you also have a wonderful resort with a luxury hotel, student housing, several dining options, a wellness center, a fitness center, a pro shop and a knowledgeable and dedicated staff that makes sure the experience is the highest level. There are so many moving parts. You really took this concept to the highest level and with operating at such a high level comes the pressure. How do you sleep at night? That’s a lot.
A: (smile) Well, I believe that I am lucky to enjoy myself a lot in doing what I am doing. I am working in a field that I’m passionate about and I am helping children succeed on and off the court. I also had the opportunity to create a paradise for sport lovers. Mouratoglou Resort is one of a kind. We are located in the heart of the French Riviera, on a 12-hectare piece of land dedicated to tennis, fitness and well-being and only 20 minutes from Nice International airport. We offer a wide range of sport and exercise activities including, padel, yoga, pilates and much more, as well as a luxurious 700m2 spa, 4 pools and 34 tennis courts including 8 indoors. We are also very proud to have an innovative sports medicine center that can includes physical therapy, cryotherapy, balneotherapy, osteopathy and specific supportive treatments for all athletes. And after the effort, our clients can enjoy a sophisticated and creative meal in our L’Emblème restaurant, overlooking our iconic racquet shaped pool, or enjoy Asian flavors at our Japanese pop-up restaurant, managed by our Japanese chef. My latest project which is the creation and launch of UTS, a revolutionary professional tennis league doesn’t help me get more sleep! So, to answer your question, yes it is probably a lot but I believe that as long as you have the drive and passion, you don’t feel as though it is too much.
Q: How do you balance time training your main athletes, (Serena, Stefano and Coco) your Academy, your other business ventures and family time? Are there multiple Patrick’s in existence we don’t know about?
A: I believe that organization is a key. I love to do a lot. I love to create. I also love to spend time with people and give them time. That is why, I am currently working on writing my third book which is about personal development.
First, I really love to work. I have always loved it and I need a lot of time to do so. That is why my schedule is tight. It starts every morning at 6 and it finishes every night at 11. It is a choice. Not everyone has the desire to live that type of life and I totally understand that, but when one wants to achieve a lot of things, it is necessary. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is to be able to live the life that fits best with your concept of it.
Q: Having experienced the hotel and the tennis program I have to say it’s pretty seamless. I love the stretch in the am and the two different training sessions, morning and afternoon. Having the wellness center there for massage and stretching is a game changer. What is your secret for not only attracting tennis enthusiasts to the Resort /Academy but getting them hooked on returning year after year to maintain their game?
A: Our expertise is to offer guests experiences. That is our main goal. Whoever will come to a Mouratoglou venue, must remember it as something special, whether they are kids, teenagers, or adults, coming for a weekly camp or on a full-time basis, whether they join our restaurant, or one of our concerts.
From day one, I have decided to be able to adapt to the needs of each of our guests and propose a personalized experience. I have seen too many times systems in which people had to fit in. I never trusted those systems and I wanted to offer a totally different experience.
We want to make sure that when you come to a Mouratoglou Training Camp, you spend a week feeling like a pro, being taken care of as a pro and having a personal experience that is unique. I want everyone in the family to have its place and its own activities in the Resort, so that the end at the day everyone had an amazing experience that is fulfilling. And most importantly, I want people to feel the unique energy from our team and be satisfied from our services. The loyalty of our guests is the best proof that we are providing a very special experience.
Q: Why do you think your Academy is widely considered as the best in the world? What are you doing that you feel sets you apart?
A: Definitely a few things.
First, our coaching methodology is based on the customization of the training. We take into consideration what the player needs, rather than simply applying a method.
Second, all our team is following very clear guidelines both in terms of behaving and discovering the player’s profile to make him progress and have an impact on his game on a short period of time.
Third, we have a very strong culture of excellence that we have demonstrated with our results in the last 25 years, bringing players to the top of the game every year.
Lastly, our infrastructure is quite unique in Europe and our location is one of the best, being in the heart of the French Riviera. For the clients who come for a week of intense training, they can also enjoy the best restaurants and feel the magic of the region, it is a unique experience.
Q: Are there plans for another Hotel/ Academy concept in other parts of the world?
A: We have already opened two tennis centers: one in Dubai and one in Greece. The first one is at the Jumeirah Hotel, the biggest and best resort of Dubai and the second in Costa Navarino, one of the best resorts in Europe. Together with them we have created a unique experience for the clients of those resorts centered around tennis leisure.
We are just starting our International expansion and have big plans for the future. We just always make sure that wherever we go, we are able to deliver the same quality and we are always partnering with top level resorts that share the same standards as us.
Q: What has been your biggest personal satisfaction from creating this incredible Resort?
A: My only satisfaction lies in the quality of the service that we offer to our guests. I want people to feel special, to feel at home, and to experience something unique.We have a fantastic infrastructure, we have an incredible Team, and we always strive for more and better. Every day I feel grateful to see my dream come to life.
Finish this sentence…
It would be incredible to have Serena Williams & Novak Djokovic…….. play an exhibition match here for charity. (and we have already had that for our official opening ceremony in 2016.
To learn more about Patrick follow him @patrickmouratoglou