Darren Cahill has worked with the likes of Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt in the past, guiding them to Grand Slam titles and the world No. 1 ranking, but the Australian coach admits his success with Simona Halep in Paris on Saturday is “special”.
Cahill, who teamed up with Halep at the start of the 2015 season, said watching his charge’s final against Sloane Stephens felt like “torture” and his animated celebration when she won revealed just how much this maiden Grand Slam title for the Romanian means to him.
“I saw [his reaction], he wrote me, because I didn’t see him much [yet], that it’s his best day. I’m the only girl he has ever coached so maybe it’s special,” Halep said after her win.
Cahill explains why it is.
“This one here was kind of special considering the last three and a half years that I’ve been with her. There’s been a few downs for sure. We’ve had a rocky road as well, because for me to try to educate her and teach her the lessons and try to make sure she keeps improving,” said Cahill, who split with Halep briefly early last season because he wasn’t happy with her attitude.
“We’ve had a couple of clashes over the last couple of years, some of them everybody has seen, some of them not, but it’s all been to the learning process and she’s taken it the right way and she’s become a more mature better tennis player and this is for her, she did all this work.”
Halep knows all too well what the whole team has been through during her journey.
“I can say that half of my desire was for them because I know how much they were waiting for this moment, my family as well, all the people, the team, my coach he told me before the match ‘you go and take it today’ so he put the pressure on me but it was good pressure and he made me feel that I’m strong enough to do it so I was thinking of my people all the time,” said Halep.
Cahill’s role in Halep’s rise to the top spot and Roland Garros victory cannot be understated. The Aussie has figured out the right way to communicate with her, motivate her, and get her back on her feet every time she gets knocked down. He refuses to take the credit though and hails Halep’s maturity and growth, especially over the past year.
“I think she’s matured a lot in the last 12 months. It’s important to learn lessons from defeats, and a couple of stinging defeats. She’s handled them the right the way, the way she’s spoken about those losses, both with credit to her opponent but also going back to the practice court and working out why she’s had those losses and how she can improve. She’s a complete professional and I give her full credit for what she’s been able to achieve,” he says.
Part of Halep’s progress has also been due to her work with sports psychologist Alexis Castorri. The Romanian has been open about Alexis’ role and said she has helped her be kinder to herself.
“I think that addressing your weaknesses, being open with them, if you make a few mistakes just hitting them face on is really important in this sport,” said Cahill.
“I think the sport itself, or sport in general, has changed a lot in the last 15 or 20 years because of social media, the money, the pressure, every team now, every player has a minibus full of people traveling around.
“Just that pressure around the player is much more than it ever used to be so I think dealing with those pressures is really important. Simona has been able to do that, Alexis has been really important for her the last couple of years.
“And if you’re not addressing that side of things – whereas once upon a time in my era maybe admitting to that was a bit of a weakness, you had to suck it up and be tough.
“Now I think players are turning over every stone and making sure they are professional, if you need it, making sure you do it.”
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