Magnus Norman on French Open feelings & a coach’s most important job

Interview with Magnus Norman by Sebastian Güstafsson for SweTennis.

A week has gone by since Stan Wawrinka hit the winning point and won the French Open.  His successful coach Magnus Norman is back in Sweden. SweTennis spoke with the Filipstad native about what is most important for a coach of a top player and of his feelings after the win.

“The two minutes Stan and I had in the dressing room after the final—they’re moments you remember.” Magnus Norman

Magnus Norman isn’t someone who needs big headlines.  Since Stan Wawrinka’s win in Paris, he’s been praised by all; but Magnus keeps both feet firmly planted on the ground and almost excuses himself for being called the world’s best coach. When, on the Good to Greats home page, he wrote down his thoughts after Wawrinka’s win he was was praised as much for his wise words as his coaching role with Wawrinka.

No time to enjoy

Magnus has now been home in Sweden for a few days, and on Tuesday it’s his Good to Great job that’s the focus.  On Wednesday it’s back to London where Wawrinka’s grass season starts.  Has he managed to land after the Paris success?

“I haven’t had time to enjoy it, actually.  So much happened after the final, but Stan and I had a couple of minutes together in the dressing room after the match. Those are the moments you remember,” says Norman.

Raised his game at the right moments

Stan Wawrinka announced his separation form his wife in the middle of April, and there was a question whether he could steady himself mentally.

“The mental part, it’s no secret.  We worked well day-to-day since Monaco.  Every day was focused on the right things.  After, Stan has managed to raise his level at the right moments when he’s had self-belief.”

Many ask what the most important job is for the coach of a top player, the mental or the tactical.

“It depends on the individual’s reactions in different situations.  It can vary day to day and match to match.  It’s up to me as coach to figure out what’s most important for the player on the day.”

He’s made some tactical mistakes himself.

“I’ve made a ton of bad decisions through the years when I coached important matches.  [For example,] in London, when Stan played serve and volley against Federer on match point.”

There’s a hair’s breadth difference between genius and folly

“If it had worked, it would have been a brilliant tactic.  But it didn’t and the whole world questioned it.  The margins are very small and it’s a personal choice every time.”

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Who is Brazilian WTA tennis player Beatriz Haddad Maia, or simply Bia Haddad? Read on.

Beatriz Haddad Maia, or simply Bia Haddad, a tennis player who was compared to Russian Maria Sharapova in the beginning of her career because of her beauty, turned 19  obsessed with exercise: not just physical, but also mathematical.

“Taking care of my body is my nerd side. I wake up before the other girls, at 6 a.m, put a towel on the floor of my bedroom and start to stretch, to release, I do all the exercises for abdomen, hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, wrist. There are people who think I´m crazy. But I love it,” says Bia.

The other nerd side she is applying is in her academic career. The Brazilian tennis player has been attending on-line university since the beginning of the year studying business administration.

“If I didn’t play, I would be studying civil engineering or medicine.  I love mathematics, physics. But with our careers it’s impossible,” she says.

“I need to exercise my mind off court. If it stays only on tennis, when you lose, you want to kill yourself,” she finishes.

With all the energy spent on the court or studying between matches, Bia goes to sleep around 9h30 p.m. “I get very sleepy, I shut off.”

On July 16 in Toronto  she found another reason to stay awake: The 2015 Pan American Games, a competition she will play for the first time in her career. “I dream about playing the Olympics and the Pan Am Games. I grow up a lot playing for Brazil. I’ll meet a lot of new people, open my mind, learn and have fun”.

At 13 years old, Bia already captured attention on the Brazilian circuit playing against older girls. But it’s been in the last months that her career got back on track and she started grabbing attention outside of Brazil.

It’s not just the recently acquired driver license  at a driving school that gets Bia excited.

This year, she won her first WTA title on doubles playing with Paula Gonçalves (who alongside Gabriela Cé are the Brazilian women’s tennis team at the Pan Am Games), in Bogotá, Colombia. Bia also made quarter-finals of the Rio Open and reached her career high singles WTA ranking of 148.

A revolution after some suffering which she sums up this way: “Two years ago, I was unlucky, I fell on court and hurt my right shoulder. After that, I had three herniated discs, my right leg was paralysed, I had back surgery, I was feeling so bad, I didn’t know if I was going back to play. In those six months, I became somebody else,” she recalls.

“We learn through love or pain,”says Bia.

The pain never returned after October 12 2012, the day she had the back surgery.

The love comes from family. Her mother, Laís Haddad is a tennis teacher, her father, Ayrton Maia Filho, was a basketball player.

From the Maia family, she inherited the height. Today, at 1,85m, only Sharapova in the top 10 of  the WTA is taller than her .

“Being tall is beneficial. A lot of tennis players wanted to be tall and left-handed like myself,” she says.

“But Sharapova is not a player who I copy. Petra Kvitova, Serena Williams and Simona Halep are the players I look at to improve. From Sharapova, only the mental side. But I prefer just being myself, Bia”.

Bia Haddad has some of the best tennis professionals of Brazil on her team. In Balneario Camboriu, located in the Santa Catarina State, where she lives, she is coached by Larri Passos, former mentor of Gustavo Kuerten, who also travels with her.

Bia’s technical coach is Marcus Vinicius Barbosa, known as Bocão, a pupil of Passos. She has Gustavo Magliocca as her physiologist (who also works with Olympic swimming gold medalist César Cielo ), her psychologist is Carla di Perro (also Thomaz Bellucci’s), as well as a physiotherapist, a personal trainer, an orthopedist and an osteopath.

Translated by Sara Tavares.

Interview with Piotr Wozniacki: “I’ve forgotten to enjoy myself and I regret that.”

Interview with Piotr Wozniacki in the Danish Jyllands-Posten online by Thomas Møller Kristensen

Manners: Piotr Wozniacki is the man behind Denmark’s first world tennis star. In this retrospective he’s annoyed about always having hunted progress, but most of all he’s grateful that his daughter has become a good person despite the pressure and criticism.

WIMBLEDON – The smile. There really are so many kinds. Some create happiness, others anger, some reach as high as the eyes, others need time in front of the mirror to master. Then there’s the special kind that’s reserved for that special person.

Like the smile a father has thinking about his daughter.

That was the sort of smile Piotr Wozniacki was wearing a little over a week before Wimbledon.

He’d just been with the stringer, one of Caroline Wozniacki’s racquets needed tightening and she quickly ripped the packaging off when he returned.

After smacking it a couple of times with the palm of her hand she looked questioningly at her father: it didn’t feel right, it felt strange, and it ended with a bit of an argument about how tight the stringing should be.

No one would give in, and numbers flew around the room, there was head shaking and arguing back and forth before Caroline Wozniacki exclaimed, “yeah yeah”, turned around and left.

One had the feeling the discussion was far from over, but she’d been training hard, it was time to eat, and the discussion would have to be continued later.

And that’s why Piotr Wozniacki sat there with that smile.

Daddy’s girl, an independent person, own opinions and the guts to deliver them.

“Girl” is perhaps the wrong word.

Caroline Wozniacki is approaching 25 and her 10th anniversary as a professional, and that’s why Piotr Wozniacki has agreed to an interview. He admits that the anniversary is a good reason for a retrospective, but he punctures the premise immediately.

For him it hasn’t been 10 years, it’s been a lifetime project.

Caroline Wozniacki was interviewed for the first time as an eight-year-old, when she spoke about her dream of being the world’s best and winning a Slam. She travelled to Japan, Australia, indeed the whole world as a new teenager. In the family’s and Caroline Wozniacki’s own mind she’d become a professional long before 2005.

“Maybe people mostly notice the strawberries on top of the cake, but we’ve spent many years making the cake itself,” is how Piotr Wozniacki put it.

A half hour soliloquy

He didn’t get up and leave the table after making the statement; he wanted to talk. He had to get things out, emphasise points. Actually, he had so much on his mind that the interview became almost one-way communication.

Asking the question about what he was most proud of about Caroline, not as a player but as a person, pushed a button somewhere.

32 minutes and 18 seconds later he put so many headlines into the Dictaphone that there hadn’t been room for a single follow-up question. The words poured out of him, one word lead to another, and all the titles and the money and the experiences weren’t what were mentioned the most.

His soliloquy was more about the personal, of his concerns about having followed and pushed his daughter so focussed in one direction.

It was about regrets about not having allowed himself to enjoy all the big moments and of the joy of seeing her grow into a woman of substance and energy and not the least humanity in a world lacking the same.

That doesn’t mean that Piotr Wozniacki is a softy.

He’s been extremely focussed on pushing obstacles out of the way and helping his daughter, but there have been many practical situations that required alternative solutions.

A very young interpreter

He came to Denmark from Poland, from the Eastern Bloc, where he didn’t learn English, only Polish and Russian. Not very useful when they started travelling outside the country, so it was 11-12-year-old Caroline who used her school English to book hotels, order food in restaurants and contact tournament leaders.

“Just think about it. Such a little girl together with adults who are talking business and management. She had to translate everything for me because I was hopeless at communicating. There were sometimes serious negotiations or other things, so it was important that she did it well, because I needed to go on and do the right things with a contract or some such,” declares Piotr Wozniacki.

“She enjoyed it and felt very grown up, but I was nervous that I was stealing her childhood, that she would grow up too quickly. I spoke with Anna (Caroline’s mother) and friends about it. I knew nothing about pedagogy and child psychology. I’d only been to a sports university so I had to research all the information because I didn’t want to hurt her. I worried a lot about that, and I’m proud about how well it went and relieved that she wasn’t hurt.”

Piotr Wozniacki has seldom shown this sensitive side.

He was quickly branded as something of an eccentric from the East, obviously obsessed with living his sports ambitions through his daughter because it was impossible that she could have those sorts of thoughts at such a young age.

The sport of tennis has seen too many of those kinds of family tragedies, and Piotr Wozniacki still feels personally insulted by the stories and the accusations. The repeated attacks brought the family and their near friends closer together and they used the “us against the world” feeling as fuel and gathered the necessary economic backing to realise the visions.

The suspicions about his motives have disappeared, but Piotr Wozniacki is still tired of seeing his daughter’s achievements demeaned. Technically, Caroline Wozniacki still isn’t over the finish line because she still needs to win that Slam title and that’s constantly mentioned at least four times a year in connexion with the Australian, French, US Opens and Wimbledon.

A little perspective

Piotr Wozniacki is ready for constructive criticism, but some retired Danish tennis players have raised his hackles.

“Yeah, they’ve been on the tour once, but how much have they won? How high have they got in the rankings? They’re two different worlds, and they still come with their condescending talk. She was a young girl when she heard it for the first time. She’s put in a huge effort, travelled the world and she’s proud of her results, and then she reads, yeah, yeah, she only won because Serena wasn’t there, or it was a small $100,000 tournament, but is that really a small amount of money?”, asks Piotr Wozniacki rhetorically.

“Sure we can talk about whether she played well and needs to work on things, but I don’t understand the other stuff. Tennis is the only sport where girls earn the same as boys, so naturally a million girls in the world want to be good at tennis. And despite that, Caroline from Denmark is one of the world’s best. It’s evil coming with the kind of crap she’s had to put up with, so I’m proud of the way she’s tackled adversity without becoming bitter. I hope one day there’s a Dane who can achieve the same things as Caroline, so people can understand how much she’s accomplished.”

At one time it appeared he’d be a father to another talent with the potential to go further.

Patrik Wozniacki, four years older than Caroline, had the same relationship with a football as she had to a tennis ball, but he never got higher than the secondary divisions.

Piotr Wozniacki has earlier regretted that he’d had to ‘choose’ between the two and back Caroline, and he’s grateful to see that his children have a fine relationship right up to today.

Patrik could have been disappointed over being number two and not breaking through, he could have not felt sorry about his little sister’s tribulations, but they worry about each other and take care of each other.

On the other hand, Piotr Wozniacki regrets that he hasn’t had the same energy.

He’s been so absorbed by the striving for achievements that he hasn’t allowed himself to stop and enjoy the feeling of a great result.

“I’ve forgotten to enjoy myself, and I regret that. We’ve won titles, had weeks as number one, so men great things I haven’t spent time enough thinking about because I’ve always thought about the next practice or the next tournament,” admits Piotr Wozniacki.

“I’ve lost happiness in a way, and it’s wrong to sit here and know that we’ve never been satisfied with a final or a semi-final even if it’s a super result.”

To explain his feelings, Piotr Wozniacki paints the picture of a dream car a man has fantasized about for several years. He can finally afford it, he’s deeply in love, but after a few months he’s no longer spending time sneaking to the window just to look at the wonder.

Happiness over the result

That’s not the way it’s going to be in the future, Piotr Wozniacki has promised himself. In the future he’ll try and find satisfaction in the moment, but he can’t go back into the past and be happy in retrospect.

“That’s why I’m just happy to look at Caroline every day and see the real thing. So I just have to accept the things I might have been able to do better or differently. I’m proud that she thinks of others. She doesn’t just take money from her account and give it to charity, she runs marathons to raise money. She uses herself,” says Piotr Wozniacki.

“She’s done a lot of things that aren’t publicised, and that’s what is most important to me. She’s been involved in hundreds of good things without shouting, “look at me, look at the good things I’m doing” to the whole world. I’m proud of that. She’s incredibly sensible, she’s a good person, she has what money can’t buy.”

Piotr Wozniacki didn’t go on any further because a dog in his pocket suddenly barked, an incoming call.

The telephone brought him out of his trance, it was time go move on, a meeting needed arranging.

And there was that little discussion about stringing to finish.

Interview with Wozniacki: The dream of the Wimbledon junior 2006 champion has become a reality

Translation of an interview in the Danish daily newspaper Politiken by Peter Pilegaard.

Nine years after her junior title at Wimbledon, Caroline Wozniacki is a grown woman and exactly where she dreamed she would be in her career.

It’s stifling hot on the Wimbledon practice court. Caroline Wozniacki has just spent an hour on Court 15 where she won’t be playing a match.

Father Piotr gathers up the balls while brother Patrick and mother Anna, who have been intensely following the session, remain seated on the bench by the practice court where the world number five has just practised ground strokes and volleys.

Caroline Wozniacki sits down and sniffs, but she’s not sad. Quite the contrary.

The feeling is the same every time

She’s happy, but she’s suffering from hay fever like 2/3 of the Danish population. The grass courts of Wimbledon can be a tease, but Caroline Wozniacki is happy to be here. She’s returned every year since she won the girl’s title in 2006. She’s now playing for the 2015 title as a grown woman among the world’s elite.

“I played here as a girl with the dream of being where I am now,” is the then and now analysis.

But the feeling of being in London and playing Wimbledon hasn’t changed.

“It’s the same every year, both as a girl and as an adult. I get butterflies when I’m here. It’s a special feeling. It’s great! That feeling is why I’ve trained so hard all my life. This is where I want to be,” says Caroline Wozniacki.

She’s more laid back in her private life than on the court

Her tennis game has changed in the same way she’s developed as a person. Tennis legend Billy Jean King has said that her great success in the 1960s as a player at Wimbledon was the result of her personality and playing style fitting the era she played tennis in.

Caroline Wozniacki agrees with that remark and thinks that you can’t change your personality in the hunt for the game you want to play:

“As a young player, you try and find your game, try to figure out what you’re good at, what your base is, what you can improve, and exactly what it is you win matches with. You can’t just change a player’s game because you think that’s what it takes to win. You need to find out exactly what type of player you are. How I am both as a player and as a person,” says the Danish tennis star.

Caroline Wozniacki is very conscious of who she is, both as a player and as a person.

For example, John McEnroe was a player known for his fiery temper both on and off the court. But Caroline doesn’t think she’s the same person at home as she is on the court.

“I think I’m completely different. I’m more aggressive on the court than I am at home. It’s not my natural instinct for me to go on to the court and just flail away at every ball, but being on the court brings out my fighting instinct. I get irritated and I get going. I love the big stage with lots of spectators. I’m hard on myself and I’m a perfectionist when I’m on the grass at Wimbledon—and every other court. At home, I’m more laid back and calm.”

She feels like an American at the US Open

Caroline Wozniacki opens up for the situations she finds herself in off the court, but, at the same time, she’s very conscious of adapting when necessary.

“I really think it suits my game and my playing style actually,” she adds.

Wimbledon is something very special to Caroline Wozniacki, as it is to all other players. Some tournaments are—as she herself admits—played on experience. But both Wimbledon and the US Open have always, since she was a girl, been something very special for the Danish top player.

But when the talk is about whether Wimbledon is the biggest, the feeling is that the US Open is really THE tournament Caroline Wozniacki would most like to win:

“Wimbledon and the US Open are both fantastic tournaments. They’re very different, but I love the US Open. That’s where I’ve been closest to Slam win. The support last year made me feel almost like a local American. It was wild. The tournament has a good vibe. It just suits me.”

Hey mum — I’m over here

Piotr Wozniacki has his coaching eyes on his daughter while the rest of the family watch Caroline closely. The whole family is here for one thing: to follow the wonder child.

“At home it’s my brother, Patrick, who usually gets all the attention. He’s the favourite child—so I get a bit of attention here,” says Caroline Wozniacki and smiles.

“My mother is always telling everyone how it’s going with Patrick. Hey, mum— I’m right here, me too,” she continues with a gleam in her eye and finishes:

“We have a good balance at home.”

The Wimbledon girls’ champion from 2006 has grown up.

Caroline Wozniacki continues to live out her childhood dream. Wimbledon’s grass is at her feet.

Translated by MAN