Great players don’t always make great coaches but in Roger Federer’s case, it looks like the Swiss is a natural at both.
Federer briefly put on his coaching hat on Friday when he approached the bench and gave Alexander “Sascha” Zverev some advice during the German’s match against Denis Shapovalov in the inaugural Laver Cup in Prague.
The video of that on-court coaching visit has gone viral of course as Federer reminded Zverev to stay closer to the baseline after the return of serve.
And while on-court coaching on the WTA tour has been criticised by many, the way Federer’s brief pep talk was received indicates perhaps how big of a hit it is with tennis fans.
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Asked how much he’s been enjoying having an advisory role during this Laver Cup, and whether the experience has piqued his interest in perhaps turning to coaching in the future, Federer quickly cut me off and said with a laugh: “Yeah, 40 weeks a year, not so much.
“No, I mean, look, I always try to be at the service of the team, and if I can give some advice, I’m happy to do so, even more so with the younger guys who are going to go through more emotions, ups and downs, and maybe a bit of advice from myself or Rafa (Nadal) or somebody else, it’s just going to settle your nerves and give you a better understanding that maybe you’re not doing so bad.
“It is a first round. Don’t expect yourself to hit every ball in the corners yet. Really trying to calm down the nerves sometimes. I only feel I should be up there if I can be of any help.
“In the Davis Cup you sit much closer to the coaching bench, so there I would always try to speak to the captain and interact with him and then also try to help the players as much as possible. It’s just something I like doing.
“In the future, a coach? I’m not sure. I’m always going to be helping juniors along the way. A touring coach, it’s going to be hard for me with four kids that need me more than the coaching needs me.”
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal has also paid a visit or two to the bench to support his Europe team-mates and Dominic Thiem admits having the Spaniard and Bjorn Borg give him advice during his match was an “unbelievable” experience.
“They were cheering me up, which was unbelievably nice,” said the 24-year-old Austrian.
“I mean, it was, I think, unbelievable great experience for me and for all the other guys to see these two legends.
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“They really have great team spirit. I mean, we saw them on the bench how they were going with us and everything in the first match and also in mine.
“So this was really nice to see, and that they came down was amazing. It was already a big boost that they were cheering me up.”
Zverev, 20, explained how hanging out with his team-mates Nadal and Federer has involved the pair recalling many stories from their past battles.
“Oh, there has been a lot. Rafa and Roger have been talking about I think the Wimbledon final that they played in 2008, the Wimbledon final before that they played, as well, those kind of things,” said Zverev.
“Also, all around, other subjects, not only tennis, other subjects that they have opinions on. It was quite fun.”