Pospisil chooses ’18 coaching team

Save

There have been a lot of coaching changes for Vasek Pospisil in the last few years. (It feels like a Canadian virus; fellow Canadians Milos Raonic and Genie Bouchard also have had their share).

But after spending the late summer and fall testing out some options, the 26-year-old from Vancouver has made his choice.

In 2018 and in the preparation leading up to the new season, he’ll work with two coaches who operate as a tightly-knit unit: Dirk Hordorff and Rainer Schuettler.

It seemed as though Pospisil and Woodford – seen here during last year’s preseason with Pat Cash – were a good fit. But reality proved otherwise, and Woodforde was gone by May)

Pospisil spent last year’s offseason and the first part of 2017 with Aussie doubles legend Mark Woodforde.

But that one really didn’t work out even if began with a bang, as Pospisil upset then No. 1 Andy Murray at Indian Wells in March.

After the split during a series of Challenger events in Asia in May, Pospisil immediately won a $150,000 Challenger in South Korea. But the rest of the season lurched along in fits and starts, with his reoccurring back issues often surfacing at just the wrong times.

Experience and Tour knowledge combine

THE GOOD LIFE: Hordorff probably wouldn’t argue if you said that being able to sit courtside on a lovely Aussie summer day chatting with the charming Mrs. Tipsarevic while supervising her husband’s practice has been a major perk of his long association with the Serb. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Hordorff, best known in recent years as the coach of Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic, has always coached other players. He worked with Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu for a decade.

Schuettler spent more than 15 years on Tour, reaching a career-best No. 4 in singles. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

But his longest coaching relationship was with Schuettler.

Through 20 years together, Schuettler reached a career high of No. 4 in singles back in 2004. He was a surprise finalist at the Australian Open in 2003.

Now – much in the way former Raonic coach Ricardo Piatti and longtime former pupil Ivan Ljubicic worked together – they are a team.

The two combined to coach Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis from 2014-16.

(Purely coincidentally, Berankis is nearly exactly the same age as Pospisil – two days older, born June 21, 1990).

Hordorff, 56, also is vice-president for High Performance Sport at the German Tennis Federation.

Good candidates, tough call

Pospisil also considered another combination. Jan de Witt and Jan Vacek, both from the Germany-based BreakPoint Academy, were with him in New York at the US Open. 

Pospisi listens to Jan de Witt as Jan Vacek watches on, on a practice court at the US Open ahead of his first-round match. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

DeWitt has coached many players, notably including both Gilles Simon and Gaël Monfils. Vacek (imagine this tandem: Vasek and Vacek), a giant of a man, played on the ATP Tour for a decade and reached a career high of No. 61.

In the end, the Canadian liked what the Hordorff-Schuettler team had to say.

The pair will be the anchors as Pospisil rebuilds a solid team around him, and works to get his mojo back and get back to winning on court.

Currently ranked No. 109, Pospisil likely will have to play the qualifying at the Australian Open in January. He will begin his season at Hopman Cup in Perth, teamed up with Bouchard.

#OlympicDay – Rio tennis flashback

Save

There were a lot of big names missing at the Rio Olympics – especially on the men’s side.

But it was a fabulous event just the same.

Here’s a sample of pics taken during the tournament.

Among those featured are Eugenie Bouchard, Canadians Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil, Venus Williams, Fabio Fognini, Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Daria Kasatkina, Andy Murray and many more.

There’s a special collection of epic Barbora Strycova moments in there, too. 

Enjoy.


 

No French Open for Canadian Pospisil

Save

Canadian Vasek Pospisil has decided to skip the French Open this year.

For the first time since 2013, the 26-year-old was to play in the singles qualifying after a rankings drop. Had the deadline been this week, he likely would have been straight into the main draw.

The 2014 Wimbledon doubles champion with American Jack Sock will also miss the doubles, which he had planned to play with Poland’s Marcin Matkowski.

“I need to reset. The last few weeks have been draining and I don’t feel that I’m in the best state to be going to Roland Garros right now without a team, and being tired mentally and physically,” said Pospisil, who split with new coach Mark Woodforde during his current tour of Challenger tournaments in Asia.

Pospisil with former coach Mark Woodforde at Indian Wells in March. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

After one final tournament in Busan, Korea this week and a break at home, Pospisil will head east. He will train with former coach Fred Niemeyer, who coaches with Tennis Canada out of Montreal. The preparation for grass and the summer hard-court seasons will begin.

Pospisil has never done well at the French Open in singles. As it happens, he has arrived there nearly every year carrying an injury, or rusty from lack of match play. In five visits, he has lost in the first round each time, last year to top-10 player Tomas Berdych.

The relationship with Woodforde began late last year with a trial and went through the offseason training period. It seemed promising at first; there were some good moments, including an upset of world No. 1 Andy Murray at Indian Wells in March.

But in the end, the relationship lasted just four months. Pospisil’s association with previous coach Frédéric Fontang lasted more than four years.

The Canadian will have to start from scratch again on the coaching front and rebuild his team. That’s a bigger challenge in the middle of the season than it is at other periods of the year.

Buss: The fans, from all over, the lifeblood of the BNP Paribas Open

Save

INDIAN WELLS – Saturday at the BNP Paribas Open, 36,361 patrons came through the gates and set an all-time session attendance record for the event.

Curious as to who these throngs were, I spent the better part of the day trying to meet some of them, to find out who exactly is out watching tennis in the desert.

Conversations about the BNP Paribas Open usually center around the stunning facilities, the top-shelf field, the gorgeous Coachella Valley and of course, Oracle founder and billionaire Larry Ellison. But without the fans, this event doesn’t happen. What began 40 years ago as a small pro tournament played at a private club is now an internationally renowned mega-sporting event that is growing in stature year after year. And it’s all fuelled by fan demand.

As I walked the grounds observing clusters of fans, one of the first things I noticed was an immediate need for a translator. From Europe to Asia, to South America and beyond, you’ll hear foreign languages a-plenty around the grounds.

Indian Wells used to be quite provincial. As the tournament grew, the event morphed in to a destination for winter-weary North Americans. Throwing an elite tennis tournament in to the equation just sealed the deal. An international fan base has grown roots at this event and with American tennis exceptionalism in decline at the moment, that’s a trend likely to continue.

I asked a couple from Seattle what finally brought them to Indian Wells after all these years, “Roger Federer. I’ve never seen him play live. I figured I better do it now before its too late,” the gentleman replied.

When I casually mentioned Federer wouldn’t play his first match until Sunday, he said, “Oh, we know. We just want to watch him practice for a couple days. We have to go back Saturday night, so we’ll take whatever we can get !”

All the way from Seattle… to watch Fed practice.

When Federer takes to the practice court, every nook and cranny is jammed. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

West coast tennis fans used to have an array of events to choose from: Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, La Costa, Carson, San Jose to name a few. Now, the BNP Paribas Open is the one time all year the top men’s players travel west of the Mississippi. (the women also hit Stanford, Calif. in the summer).

In part, that speaks to a larger trend. To host a major event and attract the top stars, it now takes a world class facility. With the cost out on the West coast, and no available slots in the ATP Tour calendar, Indian Wells is it here for some time to come.

As a result, everyone comes: the reunion crowds who meet up here every year, the celebration crowds who mostly hang out at the bars, the parents and children with their giant autographed yellow tennis balls clamoring for the attention of their favorite players.

When Juan Martin del Potro takes the court, the blue and white comes out. (Barry Buss/Tennis.Life)

There also is no shortage of industry people here. And as always, the crowds are divided into the haves and have-nots. The Stadium 1 box seats and suites are a mix of corporate marketing and personal discretionary spending, with the increasingly steep prices giving even some of my well-heeled colleagues pause.

Of course, there is also Fan Zero, Larry Ellison. He’s such a big fan of the game – he bought the tournament. He has a private luxury box within the private luxury seats, so that you don’t forget that.

Above the bourgeoisie is the proletariat, that guy who just loves his tennis. I flagged one down early Saturday stalking the outer courts alone.

He said he was first through the gate and set up shop on the back courts and watch until there were no more matches to watch. “I just love it!” he said.

Tennis brings out the patriotism in every fan. (Barry Buss/Tennis.Life)

In the space next to him lay an enormous backpack bursting at the zipper– what he called his “Indian Wells survival pack”.

He had fluids, hats, a blanket, extra clothing, sunblock, chargers, homemade sandwiches to last all day. “I won’t pull my wallet out once the whole day. It makes me laugh hearing what people spend out here. I park at the hotel and take the free shuttle. They aren’t getting any of my money!” he said.

Walking further through the crowd, you feel how special this event is for those in attendance. So much athletic greatness, one rock star after another practicing and playing beside each other all day long. You can just feel the pride the fans feel for the favorites, but you can feel their pride in their countrymen and women even more.

When Federer is playing, out come the Swiss red and white flags. The Argentines never miss a moment to flash the blue and white when their native son Juan Martin del Potro is doing battle. And last night on center court, Vasek Pospisil had to feel like he almost was playing a Davis Cup tie in his Vancouver hometown, with the amount of maple-leaf love he was getting on Stadium 1. There’s no doubt it was a factor that helped catapult him to a career victory over world No. 1 Andy Murray.