In a move that definitely comes out of left field, the highly successful coaching-player relationship between world No. 1 Simona Halep and Aussie coach Darren Cahill is over – at least for next year.
Cahill wrote on Instagram that the decision was his.
“After much thought and discussion, and many years with 30 plus weeks on the road away from my family, I’ve decided to take a 12-month break from coaching to be home more for support as our children enter important stages of their lives with the final year of high school, sports and college preparations all becoming more time consuming,” he wrote.
It means that Halep is on a coaching search. And in that, she has plenty of company as so many top players are also picking over the same pool of candidates.
Madison Keys, Genie Bouchard, Angelique Kerber and Jelena Ostapenko are just a few of the better-known names looking for fresh starts with new guidance.
Thank you so much @darren_cahill for all your hard work and incredible support over the past four years.
I was lucky to have you and what a journey we had. Wishing you and your family nothing but the best and I'm sure I'll see you soon! 🙏 https://t.co/hFl28gdXfu
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) November 9, 2018
Short break turned the tide
The 26-year-old Romanian had worked with various coaches, including Wim Fissette and Victor Ionita. But it was the arrival of Cahill that eventually paid dividends as she ascended to the very top of the game.
Halep ended 2018 with a back injury, but she also ended it as the year-end WTA No. 1 for the second straight season.
Not that there weren’t bumps in the road.
Notably, Cahill took a break after the Miami tournament in 2017, after Halep lost the third set 6-2 to eventual champion Johanna Konta in the wake of this startlingly honest on-court coaching consult.
It may have been just the wakeup call she needed. And there aren’t many coaches that would walk away from a gig with a top player.
Cahill had seen enough improvement during their time apart that he was ready to return by Madrid, less than two months later.
Reunited in Madrid
“I just felt that it was like a shock, because I lost the coach. So I have just to improve in this way, because he never had something to complain about my game and about the work that I do, because I’m working. But just with my attitude. I knew that is the only one thing that I have to change to have him back.” Halep said at the French Open.
“But just with my attitude. I knew that is the only one thing that I have to change to have him back. So I work hard, and I changed.”
It didn’t pay off right away. Halep had disappointments in the 2017 French Open final against Jelena Ostapenko, and again at the 2018 Australian Open against Caroline Wozniacki.
That elusive first Grand Slam title was finally earned in Paris this spring. And no doubt it’s the first of many.
But in 2019, Halep will have to take the next steps in her career without Cahill.
Tribute to Halep
“Her understanding, personality, work ethic, generosity and professionalism made it a pleasure to stand by her side as her coach. She’s a young woman of total class and someone I respect greatly which is something more important than any result achieved,” Cahill said.
“Basically, I had the dream job and I want to thank her for making it that way, and the opportunity to work with someone so talented and dedicated.”
Cahill remains with ESPN as an analyst, and will be at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open for the network.
I was given a special gift last week. A video that means a lot to me as the words have been repeated to me over the past two years, especially after tough losses.
It was meant to be private but I'd like to share it with you because it tells you my story.
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) November 2, 2018