Those paying attention to the tennis action in Dubai over the past couple of days may have noticed a new trend developing.
Evidence of it has come with 2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina making an on-court coaching visit to Svetlana Kuznetsova, ex-world No60 Julie Coin doing the same for Madison Brengle, while former world No1 Justine Henin was courtside for Elina Svitolina’s clash.
The presence of female coaches in the tennis world – both on the men’s and women’s tours – has not necessarily been a common sight, but it looks like quite a few former WTA players are getting back into the game as coaches with Henin being the latest to join the pool, as she serves as a consultant to Svitolina’s team.
On the men’s side, Andy Murray became the highest profile player to hire a female coach when he started working with French ex-world No1 Amelie Mauresmo mid-2014.
Coin, also a Frenchwoman, retired from the sport at the end of last season and immediately joined Brengle as her travelling coach.
“She’s a friend of mine so when I told her I’m going to stop at the end of the year, first thing she said was ‘oh cool, can I hire you?’,” Coin told Sport360 ahead of Brengle’s second round against Petra Kvitova Wednesday.
The 33-year-old was taken by surprise but accepted the offer and has been travelling with Brengle since the start of 2016.
“She has her coach in Florida and I’m travelling with her for certain weeks so she’s not all alone on the road. And with this new rule of on-court coaching and stuff, it’s also helpful to have someone,” explained Coin.
“So far it has been really easy, she’s really easy-going, she has the American fighting spirit, she’s not scared of anyone or anything so it makes it a lot easier.
“The French tend to be a little more negative and stuff but so far it’s really easy, I don’t feel pressure, it’s really good. And she’s having good wins so far.”
Brengle beat Ekaterina Makarova, who was ranked inside the top-10 last year, in her Dubai debut match on Monday and will face off with another lefty in Kvitova Wednesday.
“She’s played (German lefty Angelique) Kerber twice in Australia (last month), and now she’s playing twice in a row, I don’t know how many lefties are on tour but she’s going to play all of them,” joked Coin, who added that she can sense a rising trend in former female players rejoining the tour as coaches.
“I think I can understand what she’s going through sometimes because women, we all think the same, and because I played on tour also, I know some of the feelings she can get during a match,” she added.
“So it’s easier maybe for her also to talk to me and share some stuff,” said Coin. “It’s good to have some women on the tour coaching because I think maybe we’re the best one that can understand everything because we went through that.
“I hope more and more players are going to do it. It’s not that easy because as women we want to have a family. If you can travel with the whole family then it’s okay but it’s like having the same life as you had on tour so it’s about whether you’re willing to do it or not after retiring.
Yesterday Caroline Garcia and I claimed our first win together in Dubai in doubles against Raquel Atawo and Abigail Spears.
It wasn’t easy on paper because they are good players, they have won a lot of titles and were at the Masters in Singapore as well. They were unseeded, which was quite surprising and just shows how strong the draw is, so we’re really glad to get this win.
Playing singles and doubles at the same tournament is something that I’m used to.
It’s a routine and I’ve always looked at doubles as a perfect practice for my singles.
For example, yesterday I wasn’t scheduled to play singles so I just had a little fitness in the morning and doubles in the evening and that’s great practice for me and I prefer that over going for a random practice with my coach.
Nothing compares to having a competitive match because if you want to work on something, it’s quite easy to do it in practice because you don’t have this adrenaline, this pressure that you have to make it, while in doubles, I’m a competitor, I want to win. And we have also interesting and exciting goals with Caroline, so you push yourself to do better, it’s the way to improve.
Because that serve you have to make on an important point, you can’t replace it by hitting 100 serves in practice. So it’s very good. Of course, I’m used to it now. I’m just having fun and I love it, there’s no doubt about it.
Obviously it’s 2016 and we all know Rio is coming up but playing with Caroline was more of a personal project and we’re not just focused on qualifying for the Olympics together.
There is Rio but there are also so many exciting events, grand slams, super nice tournaments, like here, that you dream of. As professionals, it’s your career, you want to win and bring as many trophies and titles that’s why it’s exciting that in tennis you have every week a tournament and an opportunity to do great.
We’re very excited because there are so many great events like grand slams, which are also like a dream for any player. And of course Rio, it’s a main goal and we realise we’re lucky to be two great players in the same country so if we form a great team we have a chance to bring a medal which is a big thing to do for France.
Jelena Jankovic joked on court on Tuesday about the age difference between her and the Belinda Bencic, the opponent she had just beaten to make the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
“I’m 12 years older than her… almost her whole age,” laughed the Serb after completing a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over the 18-year-old Bencic.
Jankovic has a point. When she made the Dubai final 11 years ago, Bencic was only seven.
But age was not a factor in Tuesday’s affair that saw both players, the veteran and the teenager, trade punches for two hours and 31 minutes before Jankovic came through.
Lots of credit must be given to both – Jankovic for her comeback and Bencic, for the way she went down fighting.
The Swiss, who this week makes her top-10 debut, arrived in Dubai barely 24 hours before her match having played and lost a final in St. Petersburg on Sunday. Against Jankovic, she saved a whopping 14 of 17 break points but it still wasn’t enough.
“It was a really difficult match. Belinda is playing very well, and she’s in form and she’s coming from a final in St. Petersburg. Of course she was coming with confidence here,” said Jankovic, who faces Andrea Petkovic in the second round today.
“I came into this tournament with not a lot of matches. I’m just getting my rhythm and kind of basically starting the season.”
Jankovic had a rough start to 2016, losing in the first round in Brisbane, in the second round in Sydney and Melbourne and falling in both her Fed Cup matches last week.
But against Bencic on Tuesday, she found answers, mixing up her game with the odd drop shot or slice, and taking care of her service games from midway in the second set until the end.
Bencic drew first blood, breaking for 2-1 and it was all she needed to take the first set in 39 minutes.
The Swiss youngster looked on her way to a straight-sets win when she broke for 4-3 in the second set but Jankovic had other ideas, breaking back immediately.
In a marathon 12th game, Bencic saved five set points but faltered on the sixth as Jankovic broke to take the set and force a decider.
The new world No9 saved four break points in the sixth game of the third set to hold for 3-all. She went down 0-40 two games later but again she found her shots and saved all three break points, winning five points in a row to hang on.
Jankovic struck a sensational backhand down the line to get two match points on the Bencic serve and the Swiss fell to the ground trying to retrieve that shot and looked like she was cramping. She got up but netted a backhand to surrender to Jankovic.
“I think the match could have gone either way. It was just one or two points that made the difference,” said Bencic.
“It wasn’t easy being in Saint Petersburg over the weekend and then in Dubai since yesterday but that’s part of being a professional tennis player and it’s something that we all have to cope with.”