Tennis365’s Top 10 player-coach combos
In days gone by, you barely knew the names of the coaches of most of the top-ranked players on the ATP Tour, but it is a different story these days.
Think Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker, Roger Federer and Stefan Edberg, Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl. It is fair to say that more and more of the world’s top-ranked players are turning to former professionals, who were once the best in the game themselves, to coach them.
10. Novak Djokovic-Andre Agassi
This one is still in its infancy as eight-time Grand Slam winner Andre Agassi only took over as Djokovic’s coach in May 2017 and the partnership has barely had time to blossom.
Together they won the 2017 Eastbourne International, but it was an injury-disrupted season for Djokovic as the Serb’s season campaign shortly after Wimbledon.
Agassi will continue to act as consultant during Grand Slams so there is plenty of potential.
9. Milos Raonic-Ivan Ljubicic
Ivan Ljubicic reached a career-high ranking of No 3 and his best performance in a Grand Slam was a semi-final at the French Open, but he took over as Milos Raonic’s coach in June 2013.
The Canadian would reach the 2014 Wimbledon semi-final under his tutelage and also finished runner-up in two ATP Masters 1000 finals.
However, Ljubicic joined Roger Federer’s coaching set-up in December 2015 and Raonic was forced to look elsewhere.
8. Kei Nishikori-Michael Chang
Before 2014, Kei Nishikori had won only three ATP singles titles and his best performance in a Grand Slam was a quarter-final place.
He turned to Michael Chang, the man who won the 1989 French Open as a 17-year-old and was ranked as highly as No 2 in the world, and the Japanese player would reach the US Open final in 2014, finishing runner-up to Marin Cilic.
Since their partnership began, Nishikori has added eight ATP titles to his collection, made it to three ATP Masters 1000 finals and also reached the semi-finals of the 2016 US Open and made four other Grand Slam quarter-final appearances.
7. Roger Federer-Stefan Edberg
Stefan Edberg, owner of six Grand Slam titles, joined Roger Federer’s team in December 2017 with the Swiss maestro saying he was “more of a mentor than a coach”.
Having failed to reach a Major final in 2013, Federer bounced back as he finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon that year. Djokovic again stopped him at Wimbledon the following year as well as the US Open.
Although he didn’t win any Grand Slams while being mentored by Edberg, Federer did win three ATP Masters 1000 trophies and the 2014 ATP World Tour Finals.
6. Marin Cilic-Goran Ivanisevic
If someone told you in the 90s that a player would win a Grand Slam title under Goran Ivanisevic’s guidance, then you would’ve found it difficult to believe. But that is exactly what the Croatian has done.
Ivanisevic, who reached a career-high of No 2 in 1994, was one of the most eccentric players during his heyday and also gave Wimbledon one of its biggest fairy tales when he won the title as a wildcard in 2001.
Marin Cilic turned to his compatriot in 2013 and after he went from a journeyman into a Grand Slam winner after beating Kei Nishikori in the 2014 US Open final.
The two went their separate ways in July 2016 with Jonas Bjorkman taking over from Ivanisevic.
5. Roger Federer-Ivan Ljubicic
Ljubicic joined Team Federer in 2016 and their first year together was a slow one as Swiss player missed the bulk of the season because of injury and only reached the Australian Open and Wimbledon semi-finals.
At the start of 2017 many wondered if we had seen the best of Federer, but he proved his critics wrong as he turned things around with the help of Ljubicic.
Federer beat his old foe Nadal in an epic match in the Australian Open final and then went on to win a record-breaking eighth Wimbledon title without dropping a set during the tournament.
4. Rafael Nadal-Carlos Moya
Toni Nadal has been Rafael Nadal’s coach since he was four years old, but after a couple of difficult years Rafa decided to add Carlos Moya to his team in 2016.
Moya was once the world’s best player himself and won the French Open in 1998 while he previously worked with Milos Raonic.
However, helping Nadal to return to the top of his game after injury and a loss of form was not an easy task, but the Spaniard managed to pull it off in some style.
First Nadal made it to the 2017 Australian Open final where he lost against Federer, but he then added a 10th French Open title to his tally in June and another US Open in September.
Nadal also finished as the year-end No 1 for the first time since 2013 and with Toni Nadal stepping down after 2017, Moya will lead Team Nadal.
3. Stan Wawrinka-Magnus NormanStan Wawrinka was always a player with plenty of potential, but many feared he would never be able to break the stranglehold that the so-called Big Four of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray had on the Grand Slams.
The Swiss appointed Magnus Norman in 2013. The Swede never reached the top of the world rankings as No 2 was his highest position while he also finished runner-up in a Grand Slam only once.
However, by the end of January 2014 he helped Wawrinka to make his Grand Slam breakthrough as he beat Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final.
He added the French Open title to his CV in 2015 after seeing off Federer in the quarter-final, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semi-final and Djokvovic in the final. He would finish the year as the world No 3.
Another Grand Slam, the US Open, followed in 2016 while he was also runner-up to Nadal in the 2017 French Open final.
Wawrinka, though, was forced to start looking for a new coach at the end of 2017 after Norman “decided to dedicate my future to my family”.
2. Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl
Andy Murray was one of the first current players to turn to a former world number one when he appointed Ivan Lendl as his coach in 2012. The pair initially started working together in 2011, but Lendl took over the full-time job the following year.
With eight Grand Slam singles trophies and a career tally of 94 ATP titles, Lendl arrived with plenty of pedigree, but not all former players become successful coaches.
However, Lendl didn’t waste much time to help turnaround Murray’s fortunes as the Brit won his first Grand Slam, the US Open, in 2012 and followed it up with gold at the Rio Olympics before he ended years of Wimbledon heartbreak for Britain with the title in 2016.
The pair went their separate ways in 2014, but Lendl was back for a second stint in 2016 and again the partnership sparkled as Murray appeared in the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon final, winning the latter and a second Olympic medal at the Rio Olympics.
The two, though, split for a second time by “mutual agreement” in November 2017.
1. Novak Djokovic-Boris Becker
Former world No 1 Boris Becker, a man with six Grand Slam titles to his name, had coaching stints with some lesser known players on the Tour, but he went high-profile in December 2013 as Novak Djokovic turned to the German after he lost his top-ranked spot to Rafael Nadal.
They made a slowish start as Djokovic only added the 2014 Wimbledon title to his collection in their first year together, but eventually clicked and they won another five Grand Slams trophies together.
Although Djokovic won the Australian Open and French Open in 2016, he decided to end his working relationship with Becker after the season.
Novak Djokovic ‘met the goal he set out at the beginning of the season’, says his coach
A good season for Novak Djokovic.
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