Wim Fissette: Still Coaching at the Top

An interview conducted by Carole Bouchard and published on DH (Belgium).

After Simona Halep, our compatriot is now taking care of Victoria Azarenka. Wim Fissette quickly recovered from the ending of his collaboration with the Romanian Simona Halep, finalist at Roland Garros last year.  Here he is now in charge of ex-number one in the world Victoria Azarenka, a challenge that is meant to be long-term…

Wim Fissette, how did this new adventure begin?

I received a message from her agent Meilen Tu, but because I’d just started my academy in Belgium and my wife and I were expecting our first child in July, I replied that it was going to be complicated.  She then said we could find a solution and we succeeded.  What’s more, I really appreciated that Vika called me after. We’ve had very good contact from the beginning and she’s been very honest with me. I felt she was someone very ambitious and determined to return to the top. It’s a great opportunity for me and I really think we can get good results together.

Is it complicated coming after Sam Sumyk, since Azarenka had a very strong relationship with him?

She had some great moments with Sam, but 5 years is a lot and both needed new challenges.  I know Vika was sad when he told her he was leaving, but I told her that perhaps it was good for her to try something new, to find new motivation and a different approach.  I spoke a lot with her; I’m not a dictator on court.  We work as a team—I’m not her boss.

What areas are you working on?

My goal is to make a more aggressive player and her goal is to become the most complete player possible.  Her returning is a weapon: it allows her to get on top of rallies straight off.  I also want to better her serve and get her to go to the net more often.  She’s very good defensively, but she’s even better when she attacks, especially when she stays glued to the baseline.  And I’m also trying to boost her confidence because 2014 was a very difficult year for her.

Do you feel any particular pressure?

There’s always pressure—we’ll just do our best.  We can’t do more.  She’s working very hard, and her conditioning is very good, too.  She’s very much a perfectionist: she really wants to progress.  We have a long-term agreement because Vika is like that—there’s no end date, she’s in for the long haul and that suits me.

There are a lot of coaching changes on the women’s tour, reflected by what happened with you and Simona Halep.  How do you explain that?

Some players are perhaps too concerned with short-term results.  And for a coach, it’s not always easy at the start because you need to think short-term because maybe you won’t have the time to build something long-term.  You need to find a balance.  I don’t like coming in and changing too many things right away. For example, I don’t know what the story is with Vika and her serve—how long has she been working on it?  Has she had shoulder problems?  You need to go step by step to get a better overview.  Yes, it’s a bit like what happened with me and Simona Halep…  We had a very good year.  OK, we might sometimes have communicated a little better with each other, but it was difficult sometimes when, like in Singapore, half of her team doesn’t understand English.  But she was progressing and I had the impression that my job wasn’t done, and I could have made an even better player.  But it was her choice and I’m proud of what we accomplished.  On the other hand, we didn’t win a Grand Slam—and that was my goal…

Translated from the French by Mark Nixon.

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