Anabel Medina started working with Jelena Ostapenko in Stuttgart end of April and less than two months later, her 20-year-old Latvian charge has become a Grand Slam champion.
Medina, a former world No16 in singles, who still competes in doubles, is one of just a few female coaches working on the tennis circuit. The Spanish describes herself as a “rookie coach”, but has no doubt caught the attention of many due to her successful start with Ostapenko.
Ostapenko, who has risen to No12 in the world on Monday thanks to her French Open triumph, is the highest-ranked player in the WTA being coached by a woman. Her mother, Jelena Jakoleva, is her main coach, and adding Medina to the team was an experiment that paid dividends immediately.
World No13 Kristina Mladenovic doesn’t have full-time coach per se but works with her mother Dženita Mladenovic, while No14 Madison Keys is coached by ex-world No1 Lindsay Davenport.
Still, female coaches are hard to come by on both the women’s and men’s tours. Medina, 34, believes women can be great coaches and it is not a lack of know-how or capability that is holding them back.
“In my case it’s like something amazing,” she told Sport360° of her brief but highly successful time coaching Ostapenko.
“The truth is there aren’t so many female coaches, but it’s not because we’re not able to do it. I think because maybe after our singles and doubles career, after a long time traveling on the tour, after that I think most women want to take a break and start a family and have kids and everything.
“So if they want to have that it’s very difficult to be a coach because you’re traveling for more than 30 weeks a year and with kids you can’t do that.
“So I think in my case I didn’t find this moment yet, because I’m still playing doubles, so I didn’t really feel that I want to be out of the tour so for that reason I started to try to be a coach. I think that’s the main reason why there aren’t so many women coaches on the tour.”
Prior to the French Open, the last women’s Grand Slam champion to be coached by a female was Marion Bartoli, who has Amelie Mauresmo in her corner when she won Wimbledon in 2013.
Medina’s initial agreement with Ostapenko was to help her during the clay season but they will now discuss whether they will continue their partnership.
For now, the Spaniard is still yet to fully comprehend their whirlwind fortnight in Paris.
“I think I haven’t realised yet what happened these two weeks and after I’ll understand everything. It’s very exciting, I’m also trying to feel what coaches are feeling because I’m a player and it’s different. It’s really nice and I’m really enjoying it. I think that after I finish playing completely, I found something that I really enjoy,” said Medina.
There were plenty of tear-jerkers throughout the fortnight in Paris. Here are the top five most emotional moments from the 2017 French Open.
1. Pablo Carreno Busta could barely speak during his Eusosport Spain interview with Antonio Arenas after the Spaniard battled past Milos Raonic in five sets to claim the first top-10 win of his career and reaching a first Grand Slam quarter-final.
2. Between Nicolas Almagro’s agony over another injury and Juan Martin del Potro’s incredible act of sportsmanship, this was a heartbreaking yet equally heartwarming moment.
3. Garbine Muguruza broke into tears midway through her press conference after she lost to Kristina Mladenovic. She had to leave the room but then came back and bravely continued the press conference. It’s not often you see raw emotion from the Spaniard but hats off to her for how she handled the situation.
4. We have to admit that the moment Toni Nadal walked on court and handed his nephew Rafael Nadal the 10th French Open trophy really tugged at our heart strings. Not only was it Rafa’s first Slam win in three years and a milestone 10th in Paris, it’s also the last Roland Garros for Rafa and Toni together with the world No2’s uncle stepping down as his coach end of this season. Toni could barely hold back his tears when he spoke to us after the trophy ceremony.
5. Steve Johnson broke down after defeating Borna Coric in the second round but it wasn’t about the win. The American lost his father Steve Johnson Sr. just a few weeks before Roland Garros. He died suddenly in his sleep at the age of 58. Our heart goes out to Steve and his family.
Since Rafael Nadal was three years old, his uncle Toni Nadal has been his coach and mentor guiding him to historic success.
So when the Mallorcan stood on Court Philippe Chatrier to celebrate an unprecedented 10th Roland Garros title, it only made sense the French Open organisers would arrange for Toni to be with him there to share that special moment.
Not only is it a milestone triumph for Nadal, it’s also his final year working with Toni, who will end his 28-year partnership with his nephew at the end of this season in order to focus on the Rafa Nadal Academy and finally take a break from traveling the tour.
Toni stepped on Centre Court carrying the Coupe des Mousquetaires and presented it to Nadal in what was an incredibly emotional moment for both of them. The French Open organisers then played a video of all Nadal’s standout moments in the tournament that has defined his career so far.
“People said that Rafael would never win anything, that he was finicky – that I understand – but he has again demonstrated that with effort and dedication you can get things back,” Toni told reporters after the trophy ceremony while fighting back tears.
Nadal himself had doubts about how far he could go.
“In 2005, I thought in 2017 I’d be fishing on my boat in Mallorca. I didn’t really think I’d have such a long career and win so many tournaments,” said the 15-time Grand Slam champion.
“So this video was very special. It showed great moments of my career. And back then, of course, I couldn’t even think a second that this would ever happen to me.”
Throughout Nadal’s life, tennis and family have been intertwined with his uncle Toni playing such a crucial role in his career. Sunday looked and felt no different as the entire Nadal clan watched from the stands as he made more history on the court.
His other uncle, former FC Barcelona football star Miguel Angel, was in attendance and explained why it was such an emotional moment for his brother.
“For Toni, it’s a special day. Without a doubt, Toni has marked Rafael’s career. It’s a complicated day knowing that he has said that he will stop next year,” said ‘The Beast’.
“I believe it’s a difficult day because we cannot imagine that in a year, Rafael will be without Toni.”
Nadal’s comprehensive win over Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final on Sunday was the culmination of a dominant clay season for the Spaniard, who is now back at No2 in the world and has extended his lead at the top of the Race to London.
The 31-year-old has pulled off one comeback from injury after the other – the latest being a wrist problem that forced him to withdraw after his second round at Roland Garros last year, and one which ended his season prematurely last fall.
How does he keep coming back each time?
“Because he has the mentality and he has the motivation to be here,” Toni said simply.
Nadal dropped just 35 games over his seven matches in Paris. He didn’t drop a set and was never tested – if anything, he was more devastating as the tournament progressed, despite his opponents getting tougher in the latter rounds.
Wawrinka described Nadal’s tennis on Sunday as the best he’s ever played on clay but neither the Spaniard, nor Toni, can say that definitively.
“Winning 81 consecutive matches now (like he did in 2006-2007? I don’t know. I think technically he’s now better than before, his backhand has improved a lot over the past few years. His serve, especially his second serve has improved a lot. I think he’s playing at a very good level right now,” explained Toni.
Wawrinka had beaten Nadal on clay once before, but that was in Rome 2015, when the Mallorcan was far from his best.
He was out of solutions against Nadal in the final on Sunday.
“When you play against him, he’s amazing fighter. On clay he’s just tough to play. There is always one ball coming back. There is always spin on the ball. There is always a different bounce that’s what the other player make on that surface. He create a doubt that you cannot have if you want to beat him. And on clay especially, because the way he’s moving, it’s even more difficult,” said the Swiss world No3.
Nadal will have to switch his focus quickly to the grass season as he hopes to recapture his previous form on the surface that saw him reach five Wimbledon finals and win two of them in the past.
“It has been a while since I’ve played well at Wimbledon. It’s true that after 2012 what happened with my knees have been tougher and tougher to compete on grass for me. That’s the reality, no? Let’s see if I’m playing well since the beginning of the season,” said Nadal when asked if he believes he can do well at the All England Club in three weeks’ time.
“I love grass, everybody knows, and it’s a surface that I really enjoyed a lot playing there. And I miss play with Wimbledon again. So I hope that my knees hold well and I can have the preparation that I really need and the preparation that I wanted.
“So if that happens, why not? If I have pain on the knees, then I know from experience that it’s almost impossible. Because I need to feel strong, low, and powerful legs to play well in Wimbledon. If I don’t feel that, then probably my chances are not there, no?
“But if I am healthy and I am able to have the right preparation and feel healthy during the Wimbledon, then probably gonna have my chances to play well.”