{ Interview & Photography by John Russo

In the world of professional sports, specifically tennis, having the right coach is the key for success. Patrick Mouratoglou is just that, the right coach.

From superstar Serena Williams to rising stars Coco Gauff and Stefano Tsitsipas, Patrick continues to take his players to the highest level. This legendary coach is shaping the future of professional tennis.

Q: You are by far one of, if not THE most iconic coach of any sport. With that comes pressure and scrutiny. How do you handle the pressure?

A: Thank you, that is the nicest way to start an interview!

Being a coach dealing with top level sport means a lot of pressure and expectations on one’s shoulders. In the eyes of the fans, media people in general, I am responsible for my player’s results so if he or she doesn’t perform, I am the one to blame. However the most pressure I feel is self-inflicted. When I start working with a player always consider that I have to make a difference, that I have to find a way to make him or her go to the next level; a level they have never explored. That is the only way for me to feel that I did a great job.

This being said, I love pressure and I need it, I live for being challenged. I also need to be out of my comfort zone. It is the place where I feel that my heart really beats.

So, to answer your question, I handle pressure well, because I love it.

Q: What is your number one strength as a coach?

A: I think that my number one strength is my psychology. A coach should not listen to what their player says but rather hear what they think.

Coaching means being able to enter into a player’s mind in order to discover the triggers to make them perform, the mental blocks that need to be unlocked. Communication is the key, both in order to get the necessary information and also to deliver a message and make a change.

Q: Was it always a dream to create a tennis academy?

A: I used to be a very good junior player, one of the best in my country, but I could not pursue my tennis career because my parents made another choice for me. I was completely devastated as tennis was my passion, my life and in my mind, my future.

Ten years later, after I spent 6 years working in a business company, I decided to come back to tennis because it was my passion with the idea to start my own tennis Academy.

I took that decision thinking that I would dedicate my life helping young players achieve their dreams and, in a way give them the chance that had not been given to me.

Q: At what point in your career did you decide to do this?

A: I started in 1996 at the age of 26 by renting two courts in a tennis club.

Q: Once you started the process, was there a time when you thought, “What was I thinking?” and felt a sense of being overwhelmed.

A: When I set my mind on something, I go full steam ahead and give it my all, and I don’t look back. This is what happened with Mouratoglou Academy. I felt that it was my life’s calling

I have been so excited since the first day I started the academy in 1996, so pumped by being able to wake up every day knowing that I work in and live my passion, so I’ve never felt overwhelmed.

Players give you back so much when you help them and give everything for their success. When you have down periods, the responsibility I have towards the players always gives me the energy to keep pushing.

Q: What gave you the idea for the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS)? (By the way I think it’s brilliant)

A: The father of one of the players from my academy came to see me a few weeks ago with the idea to create a tennis league. He knew my opinion that tennis needs to start to modernize and  the concept he proposed to me was exactly how I think that tennis should be broadcasted.

People are at home and can’t watch any live sport at the moment and from the start of Coronavirus, I was wondering why the tournaments wouldn’t be played behind closed doors.

For these reasons we decided to create a tennis league that would operate all year long and provide showdowns every weekend without a crowd. It will be an opportunity for players to participate in a competition which they miss, give fans the chance to see some live sport, and a great window to innovate and showcase tennis in a different way in order to see how the fans respond to it.

Q: Do you think this will be the way that major events are played this year?

A: I think it is almost impossible to answer that question. Nobody knows what will happen in the next few months. It depends on too many factors: how Covid-19 will evolve in the next months in every corner of the world, will people be able to travel, will the crowd be authorized at sport or leisure events ? On the other hand, if a cure or a vaccine is found, everything will be possible again. Time will tell.

Q: Do you think the grand slams should adapt to a similar format until the vaccine is created?

A: I am not in a position to give any lesson. I just understand that the business model of a Grand Slam requires ticketing and sponsorship to benefit and I am not sure that without it or with a reduced sponsorship, a Grand Slam could take place.

Our concept has been built with a totally different business model. From day 1 we know that it can work without ticketing and without sponsorship. It is built on a subscription model with an OTT Platform and is perfectly suited for the current situation we are experiencing.

Q: Of course, I have to add in one Serena question:

I personally believe Serena Williams is the greatest athlete of all time, period. I think comparing Margaret Court’s grand slam total number to Serena’s is like comparing apples to oranges. It was a different game, different time, different level, different technology. Do you think the added pressure, specifically by the media & commentators to reach and surpass 24 has been one of the main factors in Serena’s not crossing that threshold? 

A: I think that if Serena hasn’t already beaten the Grand Slam record it is because of a combination of factors. Is the pressure extremely high? Yes. And in order to fight the pressure well, one needs to be very confident.

Serena is a confident person and has been able to fight the highest pressure possible all of her career. These last 2 years, she has never been really 100% physically because first she was coming back from being a mother and all the changes that happen in a woman’s body, and then, she had to face knee issues that have affected her practices and as a consequence, her physical form.

So, when the preparation is not good enough, for the reasons that I explain, the confidence to fight pressure isn’t either and the result is not the one we expect.

Q: When you back at your career what do you think was your greatest achievement?

A: I never look back. What is done is done, and I do not like to look back and tell myself that I did well. I always think that the best is yet to come, and that I have new goals, new challenges to reach. Life is so much about the process of growing because one has dreams to fulfill. The Champions never look back. The Champions fix their eyes on new goals as soon as they reach one. I want to have this attitude.

Q: When sports commentators look back on your career what do you think they will say your greatest achievement was?

A: I hope they will say that my next one will be the greatest!

Rapid Fire Questions

Q: Which player do you think, past or present, has the best mental strength?

A: Serena and Rafa. Interestingly, both of them have had periods of doubt when their mental strength was their weak side. But both of them are the best mental players in the history of the game.

Q: Which past player, who did not win a grand slam, deserves more credit/admiration then they received.

A: Rios

Q: Which current male player, who has not won a grand slam, can you see winning one when tennis resumes.

A: Thiem

Q: Which female player do you think retired too early and did not reach their full potential?

A: Martina Hingis

Q: Which male player do you think retired too early and did not reach their full potential?

A: Bjorn Borg