Costa del tennis: You’ve had success with Maria Sharapova and now great success with Jessie Pegula. How do you train them to compete on all surfaces?
Michael: I think the most important thing is that they don’t change their games too much depending on the surface. Obviously the biggest difference is the footwork when you change surfaces. So it takes some time to adjust the footing and footwork. But your mentality on how you play needs to stay pretty much the same with a few little adjustments. One of the biggest mistakes players and coaches make is trying to change their game for the surface. This causes big problems. Both Maria and Jessie grew up playing a lot on both hard & clay courts which helped them as they got older to adjust faster and easier.
Costa del tennis: In Spain, coaches & players go the long haul together. Coaches not only develop their game from an early age but their personal development. Coaches commit to learning about the entire player and in turn players gain trust in that relationship. I find players in USA & coaches often times are short lived. Thoughts?
Michael: You are exactly right! The development of a tennis player is so much more than just hitting balls and playing better tennis. I knew Maria since she was 11 years old so it was easy for me to start working full time with her at 17 . I knew her personality and what made her click pretty fast. Jessie was a little different, but I first started to work with her when she was 16. In America you see some good players who are use to a coach from a young age start doing well & then start working with USTA coaches because of money! That’s a big problem. The USTA has some great coaches, but again it’s tough to get to know the players and how to get the best results from them in a short period of time.
Costa del tennis: You’ve had the opportunity of traveling, watching, playing & observing our sports international appeal throughout the world. Besides the tennis experience, for high school & college players, what would you say traveling and experiencing international play offers these young experienced players?
Michael: One of the biggest gifts tennis has given me is the opportunity to visit different countries, learn different cultures & see the world. In America many kids have so many opportunities to do different things that in the long run it makes them a little soft. In other countries, if you’re a young kid committed to being a tennis player they’re thinking and training like real professionals at a very young age. So when they reach the professional level it’s a lot easier for them to make the transition.
Costa del tennis: Do you believe it’s important to college tennis coaches for their players to experience International match play before meeting foreign players on their own team and opponents?
“Costa del Tennis travel teams are a fantastic opportunity for any teenage tennis players”
Michael: I think the biggest advantage for juniors and international play is getting use to playing on different surfaces, staying in unfamiliar places, jet lag, food & just feeling being away from home. Obviously it makes a big difference traveling and playing. Even a guy like John Isner struggles playing over seas. It’s normal for kids from other countries to travel to America or elsewhere to play, but Americans don’t leave the USA often.
Costa del Tennis travel teams are a fantastic opportunity for any teenage or college tennis pre-season. One of the best things about playing professional tennis and being a coach these last 9 years is using my tennis to visit many countries, learn different cultures and make friends all over the world! Also for kids looking to play professionally one day it’s great to get the experience at a young age to play on different surfaces, against different game styles & learn to manage, travel & live like professional players must learn to deal with.