Franco Davin Is A Master Coach

Franco Davin is rarely credited as a top coach. Despite achieving career best results with Juan Martin Del Potro, Gaston Gaudio and Fabio Fognini (they just split), Davin is largely under the radar for his professional tennis acumen. I read some of his Instagram posts and decided to share some of his interesting insights and advices here.

The importance of first shots

Let’s imagine whenever a match starts. What do we know from kickoff?

1) The first shot (serve) is gonna be disputed in every single point.

2) Second shot (return) is going to be disputed on the same or minor percentage. Whenever an ace or double fault takes place, it’s not happening.

3) The third shot will be disputed whenever we lack aces, double faults, winner returns or mistakes during the devolution. It’s logical to think that the third strike will appear in a less frequent way than the first two shots.

4) So here we can follow up with an endless succession of strikes, which will happen in a less frequent way than the previous one.

So let’s say, we can conclude that the important thing is to learn how to play for the first strikes, because they are the most frequent ones. Whenever we play a 10 or 15 rally, we cannot avoid the first one, two or three shots.

We can add also that the way a point develops is deeply influenced by the first strikes.

And something else: if we can direct our ball to one particular spot on the court, we are shortening ours rival area of responses (Tennis is very geometric). With the first strikes, we can force our rivals to direct the ball wherever we like.


Avoid thinking out loud

In my opinion, one of the most important subjects as a coach is to avoid thinking out loud.

Whenever I think a player needs to improve some aspects of the game, I don’t let them know immediately.

Why? Because I think improvements come after a series of steps:

1) Realizing certain observations from different perspectives.

2) Being sure that the change is necessary and imagining what I want to accomplish.

3)Designing a strategy to achieve the improvement, starting on how to approach the player, creating new exercises, the moment we should force the change and measuring the effectiveness of the work.

We should not forget: every single player is unique and a different strategy should be adapted to everyone.

I really think by highlighting a defect, we are not pushing towards progress. Actually it seems more counterproductive.

Watching, analyzing and take as homework building a strategy is, for me, the most effective thing.


In my opinion, one of the most difficult as a tennis coach, is shaping our player’s profile during their formative process.

And what I mean with this is, imagining how our players will perform whenever they reach the pro level.

It’s right here when a lot of things happen: some of them will wonder how they would like to play, some other will try to adapt the game due to their characteristics and so on. An infinite number of variables will come up at the time of settling a conversation with our player.

Asking our players to highlight 4 main characteristics they would like to acquire to their game in their future help to us coach to organize and guide our work. Incredibly, this question marks us how well our player is walking towards their goals and it also shows us their perception of the game.

I always try to be creative in this process. A few years ago, we asked several U14 players if they could name 4 animals that may have a useful characteristic for playing Tennis.

Answers were pretty good but there were only two of them that came up to me as a complete surprise: “The ant because it will try to win every single point of the match: both the good ones and also the bad ones” (I really thought about Nadal) “The condor, because it will raise to a considerable height and would watch the match from above, understanding everything better” (I thought about Murray)

By watching a Tennis match from above (we’ll discuss this topic during the next post), we can assure that Tennis is a solely geometric sport and this, brings up some consequences.

Knowing where are we going, allow us to choose the best path.


As regards pressure (the main subject we discussed during our last post), we reached @pablo_pecora and he told us: “Whenever players feel under pressure, it’s easy to notice how their systems become unorganized. It’s easy to witness how they give up quickly, they try to avoid the moment with complaints and excuses, they irritate, defeat is just around the corner.
Players who are submerged in their emotional world, absorbed by the consequences of the tie, are inmature as regards competitiveness and may be a victim of high pressure sports.
Only a small group can handle uncomfortable situations, can play to their 100%, continue struggling without a complaint, they stick to a pre-shaped plan, even if it’s the one for an emergency situation, they compete DEFYING THE MOMENT. What happens with the other players? The ones who even responding to an unconscious pattern are not able to overcome, to win. They travel to a predictable model of failure because they are not sufficiently prepared regarding their mentality.
Not knowing our player in order to anticipate pre-expected reactions and not finding these times to practice moments of tension, anguish with the work team, it’s an inconvenient.
We must break pre established beliefs, knowing which kind of emotion may kidnap our player during the middle of the match and have physical, mental routines to face the moment and overcome the situation.”



In my opinion, it’s great to introduce young players into the conversation and discussions about Tennis. I think it’s both useful for them and us.

Not long ago, they told me that yesterday’s players wouldn’t be able to match up against the current players.

I’ll add something: I think that the best players from past times, would play differently in today’s Tennis. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t do the same things they’ve done during their peak: they’ll design a game strategy to overthrow the ones who are higher.

Actually, it’s the same thing they did during their times. They designed a game strategy to defeat their rivals.

Needless to say, they wouldn’t be able to perform the same game in today’s Tennis.

I close my eyes and I imagine myself watching a 14 years old Guillermo Vilas and I’m sure he’ll be planning a way of surpassing Federer, Djokovic or Nadal.

And I’ll go one step ahead: maybe present young players are not thinking about how they can defeat the top players, instead, they are probably copying them. Maybe, this is the main cause why they won’t overthrow them until the Elite players have a low performance due to their age or injuries.

In 2019 Davin published a book in English and Spanish titled “Game, Set and Math.”


  • Andrew Miller · November 25, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    Davin is amazing. Gosh, would have never known. And Del Potro plays like this! Wastes few shots.

  • Andrew Miller · November 25, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    Davin and Stefanki, based on what they say, are great minds of the game. I’d add to them Gilbert, Agassi, the female coach that taught Djokovic and Seles, Jelena Gencic, Lansdorp, Medvedev coach. Like what Mayotte says a lot and wish US men would listen to him.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 25, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    Andrew, I fully agree, Davin is the most underrated, unheralded coach today, maybe the best, he guided Gaudio and Del Potro to majors and took the enigma Fognini from 49 to 9 in the world. This is an excellent coach. And he’s currently available to be hired.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 25, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    Davin was no slouch as a player, 3 ATP titles, 30 in the world in singles and won his first pro match at 15 and 1 month vs Hans Gildemeister. Just like Cahill, Gilbert, a second tier not quite elite pro player but a first rate coach.

  • Andrew Miller · November 25, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Scoop, check this out on Jelena Gencic, who passed away in 2013. “I kept repeating (to Djokovic) that money should never be his main motive for the sport. We prepared mentally by lifting a plastic vase, pretending it was the Wimbledon trophy.”

    Told ya. These players are on court assasins. Off court nice, pleasant etc. On court trained tigers.

  • Andrew Miller · November 25, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    Niki Pilic book is called Thorns on the White Road. He says he was personally disorganized and as a coach he wasnt. Check out this again from Sveto tennis. Sheesh this stuff is like the Holy Grail. Seriously get the Davin and Pilic books and hand this stuff out.

    “The eve of the finals with Nastase in Paris” – rains for two days straight. Pilic stays in Paris and can hardly train. Nastase takes off for Southern France, trains non stop, beats Pilic. Pilic was like never again.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 25, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    Jelena Gencic should be in the Hall of Fame for what she created – the man who is on path to be the greatest player of all time. She saw his talent and gifts and nurtured them. Djokovic thought enough of her to go back to Serbia and share with her the Wimbledon trophy.

  • Andrew Miller · November 25, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    Gencic – Seles, Djokovic, Ivanisevic…I like this new emphasis on the formative people in player’s lives. So different from me me me me me me. Richard Williams, Jelena Gencic, Pilic…these characters arguably some of most important people in history of sport. And rarely at absolute zenith of the sport. Lucky to have gotten the slam final like Pilic, who I understand was a big part of the game but he wasn’t the best player – he was exceptional.

    There are some wise people in the sports history. Rarely who we believe they are!

  • Andrew Miller · November 25, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    Gencic indeed nurtured. Wow she focused on the competitor but also the heart, Djokovic read a lot including poetry. As we know Serena Williams reads notes she takes. These players are different beasts. There’s a reason we may not see Fritzy at the top. He may not have this kind of motivation forged from some different forces and sources. Not his fault it’s a fate thing!!!

  • jackson · November 25, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    Oh please Scoop. Don’t try and make Djokovic out to be a saint. Once he started to have some success in tennis, he didn’t give the time of day to Jelena Gencic. There were many stories in Serbia about how badly she felt about how Djokovic ignored her and didn’t give her any credit for teaching him how to play. She went through some very tough times later in her life and Djokovic didn’t offer her any help. She only saw him and his Wimbledon trophy when he unexpectedly showed up on her doorstep with a tv camera crew that was filming a story about him.

    We had a poster on Vamos Brigade from Belgrade very involved in tennis and she had many stories to tell us about the Djokovic crime family and the people that Novak was involved with. Trust me, Novak had/has a very good p.r. team that has had to work very hard to clean him and his life and his background up and make him seem a good guy just playing tennis.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 25, 2019 at 9:32 pm

    Jackson, Djokovic is a ruthless vicious killer on the court. He has to be. Rafa and Federer tried to kill his career but he endured all those beatings and ended up turning the tables on both. They created a monster in Djokovic. It’s incredible and one of the most amazing feats in sports – that Djokovic overcome and bested the two greatest players of all time in their primes. So to do that, Djokovic had to be a fierce, vicious, ruthless competitor. But he also has a nice kind side too. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. His parents and camp were horribly behaved early in his career – a friend sat by them at US Open and said their behavior was “disgusting.” Very rude, nasty, unsportsmanlike. But the sport needs some villainry to balance all the nice guy stuff. We loved Nastase, Connors, McEnroe, they took the sport to unprecedented heights. You’re going to have to prove Djokovic is a mafia family, otherwise it’s slander. Though some of those characters in his box do look mafioso. Djokovic has been fantastic for the sport, he’s given the sport even better tennis than Federer and Nadal on many occasions. You should appreciate that Jackson. Great tennis is great tennis, regardless of who plays it. We should all appreciate genius magical fantastic tennis. It takes a special person to be able to play it.

  • catherine · November 26, 2019 at 3:43 am

    Preview of documentary about Murray in which he talks, briefly, about dificult times in his childhood and the part tennis has played in his emotional life. Should be an interesting programme. American viewers may find some differences in how people from other countries deal with trauma. The British are famous for bottling things up, though less so now, and Scottish perhaps more so.

  • Hartt · November 26, 2019 at 7:47 am

    It looks like a terrific documentary. I hope there will be a way for people who don’t get Prime to see it.

  • Hartt · November 26, 2019 at 8:17 am

    OK, another attempt in the gossip dept. Since this comes from Sabalenka herself, it should be true.

    “Aryna Sabalenka confirms she is engaged.

    “It’s just an engagement. I am little bit against weddings, against it as an event like it is. It’s not Tursunov (laughing). He is not from Belarus”.

  • catherine · November 26, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Her boyfriend is a Belarus hockey player. Seems a bit young to get engaged/married ? Is she planning an early retirement ?

  • catherine · November 26, 2019 at 8:33 am

    Re documentary – yes, just another way Amazon are taking over the world 🙂

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Djokovic is amazing. The reason we have a big three is Djokovic, and he is the only player, in history, other than Federer capable of retiring with every record except clay win streak and French Open titles. Reading what Gencic wrote about him, it’s really wow, even then this guy had more desire than a hundred people combined. He does, Nadal does, Federer does, Sampras did, Lendl did.

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 9:23 am

    Scoop, Gencic said Djokovic was a little assasin at a young age. One of few players other than Seles she knew would be a super champ. For those that couldn’t access the link from Sveto Matovic and his blog, here is his Gencic on Djokovic excerpt. As you know Gencic passed away in 2013.

    Jelena Gencic

    S. M. – You are the well known coach of many top players and people give you credit for your early discover of some of the biggest talents.

    J. G. – My last major discovery is the number one ranked player of today, Novak Djokovic. When I first met him at the mountain resort Kopaonik, in Serbia, where I ran a summer tennis camp and his parents had a small restaurant called Red Bull, he was six years old. He would watch my training through the fence. One day I asked his name and if he would like to join us. He replied “That is what I was waiting for”. The next day he was at the playground half an hour before practice. When he took the racket in his hand, I immediately noticed that he was different from other children. I talked to his father about him and told him that he was a golden child who one day will be a great champion. The next five years, Novak and I spent time learning about tennis and the preparation for life. He would like to listen to classical music and read serious literature. I kept repeating to him that money should never be his main motive for the sport. We prepared mentally by lifting a plastic vase, pretending it was the Wimbledon trophy. We also practiced on how to behave in tournaments. He has always had a strong will and he knew what would be important for him to succeed. I wanted Novak to play a one-handed backhand, but one day he politely asked me if he could try a two- handed backhand because he thought he could hit the stroke harder with more accuracy. Today his two handed backhand is one of the best strokes on the tour.

    S. M. – When did you feel it was time to say good-by to Novak?

    J. G. – In his early years it would be beneficial for Novak to have appropriate training and sparring partners. I helped him over the course of the next four years to move in with my friend Nikola Pilic who owns the tennis academy near Munich in southern Germany. Niki was known as someone who knew how to polish players and prepare them for success. He is the only coach in the history of tennis to win the Davis cup with three different teams: Germany, Croatia, and Serbia in 2010.

    S. M. – Have you had successful experience with other young players over the years?

    J. G. – From an early age I trained Monica Seles and Goran Ivanisevic. I coached them in junior tournaments for four years. I taught Monica almost everything she needed to know to be successful in tennis. Her father, Karoly really sacrificed much for her career. He was very persistent and attended nearly every session. He never interfered and always co-operated. Goran was a little fussy and prone to outbursts which followed him through out his professional career. He always stayed in my memory as an extremely good guy who was serious about training and was very coachable.

    Jelena Gencic with Ivanisevic
    S. M. – Many parents have come to you to evaluate their children; they say that you are honest and rarely mistaken.

    J. G. – I never make a mistake in judgment. Let’s take Novak Djokovic for example. I told his parents that he would win his first grand slam before he would turn seventeen years old. It actually happened when he was nineteen years old. The reason was financial in nature because he was not able to play in all the tournaments that I planned for him in preparing him for professional tennis and winning the big one.

    S. M. – What is it that you see in young players that will determine a future champion?

    J. G. – In early identification of young talent I do not use measuring instruments or tools. I trust my natural instinct and life experience. It is important that the child has good hand eye co-ordination and quick reflexes. The child must recognize the incoming ball to have enough time for early preparation. Also, recovery time plays an important role. The basic motor skills are necessary and later technical upgrade is an easy job for the coaches and players. It is important to recognize the level of motivation of young players as well as their strong mind set that later will make a difference between champions and average players.

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Gencic only mistake so far is Aleksa Bucan. She pegged him at twelve as a top player but at age twenty, no big deal, he is in the thousands. So Gencic makes mistakes but I wouldn’t hold it against her or her record, which seems rock solid!

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 9:34 am

    Scoop already wrote on Gencic here, link below. Basically: she was incredible. Djokovic was already merciless and she have him strategies and tools. A far cry from most of the coaching I have seen my entire life. Is there a Gencic in US? Canada? Maybe Lansdorp.

  • catherine · November 26, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Hartt – you’re ahead of all the regular sites there.

    The WTA is becoming a marriage market. Or a dating agency. A player has only to hang around long enough and her rivals will distracted by flashing engagement rings and the sound of wedding bells 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 26, 2019 at 10:12 am

    If Djokovic does indeed push to become the best player of all time with more majors than Fed and Rafa then Gencic arguably may be one of the best coaches of all time. She saw the talent and generated that raw talent into a super machine which has surpassed even Federer and Nadal! Hat’s off to Jelena Gencic, the most underrated coach in tennis history. Deserves more respect. She also created Seles foundation. Love this interview with her Andrew thanks for sharing it. I couldn’t open the link.

  • Hartt · November 26, 2019 at 10:15 am

    On the Match Point Canada podcast they finished with a look at the recent WTA coaching changes, and mentioned in passing that 2020 is an even year, so that should be good for Kerber, who has great success on even years. 🙂

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 10:34 am

    The translated Gencic-Djokovic interview one of most important conversations in history of the sport. Required reading for any player anywhere, any coach anywhere.

  • catherine · November 26, 2019 at 10:36 am

    Scoop – another great woman coach, now forgotten, was Eleanor Tennant, who coached Maureen Connolly, Alice Marble, Pauline Betz, Bobby Riggs and a number of show biz luminaries. Also had a short time with BJK as a girl but they parted in some acrimony. She died sometime in the ’70s.

    I read the link re Jelena – different kind of story..

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 10:42 am

    Scoop thanks for blog on Gencic. There are some historic figures in sport. Gencic, Pilic, Richard Williams, Bolletieri, many others. Davin looks like one, Uncle Toni (whoever contributed to Nadal’s rise), Lansdorp. Some other supporting cast that made a huge difference Harold Solomon, Mary Pierce’s brother, etc, Peter Carter for Federer, I think the Canadian coaches that spotted the last ten years of strong Canadians post or even including Dancevic. It’s obvious the players have the desire of a hundred people, the superchamps are not normal at all, but their training is ALSO not normal.

    If I had Djokovic’s training and of course maybe five percent of his desire I think I’d be a tough out. If any U.S. player had ten percent of it I think they’d do very well. If challenger players read these interviews and had coaches work with them like Gencic they’d be top fifty annually.

    We already know they DON’T. We know it.

  • catherine · November 26, 2019 at 10:43 am

    Hartt – I’ll let you know about Kerber and that even year theory after the AO – and by the time we get to Europe we’ll know if my theory re Angie’s coaching changes is correct.

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 10:44 am

    Gencic has one mistake, she thought Aleksa Bucan would be next great Serbian player.
    But of course Gencic passed away not too long after the interciew. I will post the Svetotennis interview with Niki Pilic.

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 10:46 am

    Go Kerb…umm. Yeah I don’t think Sabalenka or Kerbie are doing much in 2020. But ya never know. Kerber or Sabalenka could win the Aussie…I doubt it but they have a chance if the draw shakes out and luck finds them.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 26, 2019 at 11:01 am

    Not really a mistake, maybe Bucan did have the talent but it was mismanaged out of Gencic’s control, or who knows what happened, injuries, inferior coaching from someone else, family issues, who knows? Lots of big time can’t miss juniors do miss. Pressure and expectations and Xs on backs are major obstacles.

  • catherine · November 26, 2019 at 11:04 am

    Andrew – no chance Sabalenka – engaged girls don’t win big…oh wait…

    Kerber – a few months ago there was a conversation here with Vijay and he outlined the plan Angie would have to follow if she has a chance next year of halting her rankings plunge. Good ideas, but she hasn’t shown much sign of following them (of course she pores over T-P). I kind of gave up on her before the USO – looked like she wasn’t even trying. IG told all. I still follow her but with my eyes open and no great hopes.

  • Hartt · November 26, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    When we are talking about influential coaches, we need to include Louis Borfiga, head of high performance and athlete development for Tennis Canada, whom Scoop wants to steal. To be fair, Canada did steal him from France, over 13 years ago now. He’d worked with players like Monfils and Tsonga, so he knew something about tennis.

    When Borfiga arrived at Tennis Canada his message was simple, the players and coaches did not set their sights high enough and did not work hard enough. He brought over a few experienced European coaches and set a new tone for Canadian tennis.

    Tennis Canada did recognize the talent of several players, including Milos, FAA, Bianca, Pospisil and Denis, although the latter two chose not to join the formal training program. But Tennis Canada did help those 2 make the transition to the pros, setting them up with coaches like Fontang and Laurendeau.

    I think there has been a lot of work into improving coaching in Canada as well.

    So if one man deserves a ton of credit for the current success of Canadian tennis, it is Borfiga. There is no doubt that youngsters like Denis and FAA are very ambitious and work very hard. It was a pleasure to see Borfiga watching the Canadian team doing so well at the Davis Cup.

    Tom Tebbutt did an extensive interview with Borfiga a little over a year ago. I think I posted this earlier, but it bears repeating.

    “TT: What is the first thing you look for in a young girl or boy when they’re staring out at 12 or 13 years old?

    LB: The first thing would be whether they have athletic ability, whether their technique is relatively good and also sometimes you can tell in a young child whether they really have that desire to play – if they kind of have that look that sparkles. That’s what we’re looking for but it’s always difficult to tell what could happen in the future.”

    Also from the interview:
    “TT. What made you leave the French Tennis Federation to come to Canada?

    LB. It was to have a new challenge, and also the chance to be the boss and to initiate a policy. As well, it’s obvious that the attraction of Canada was the goodness of the Canadian people (la gentillesse des gens canadiens). That’s what made me decide because to have my job you also have to be sentimentally attached to the country. You can’t take a job like this for the money. Well I guess you could but that’s not the way I am. You have to have a passion for the country.” (Tennis Canada site)

    Scoop, bad news for you, Borfiga will never leave Canada – we’re so nice! 🙂

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    Muguruza’s star rises again. If anyone can still lose big then win huge it’s Muguruza. One of the least likeable players yet that’s tennis. You can own a lethal forehand and be mean, then hoist the trophy and all’s well and forgiven.

    The sport isn’t an likeability etc, but it’s been better for the sport to have champions that are gracious after thrashing opponents. We love our split personality sport 🙂

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    To be fair to Canada, there were top juniors doing just as well: Peliwo 2012, Phil Bester 2006, Polansky 2006, Dancevic 2001 (when I saw him on an outer court beating up on a tall guy from Sweden that would eventually rip up the tour briefly).

    Raonic sparked “something” in Canada in terms of motivating players. Maybe seeing someone who shattered the idea that Canadian players would never again match the level of good but forgotten players.

    The Canadian juniors whose careers were lackluster didn’t quite get enough on the ball. They’d play inspired matches and get excited for a hometown tournament. It’s surprising because they had more exposure than that, but clearly not the same mentality. You’d think with thar much talent one would break through, but I don’t think Canada cared enough.

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    Pilic, excerpts from SvetoTennis – all rights to Sveto Matovic, link,

    “Nikola -Nikki Pilic as a player, first amateur and later as professional, was one of the best tennis players in the world in the 60’s and 70’s of the 20th century, but what will be remembered is certainly his contributions as one of the pioneers of professional tennis , and his special coaching tennis skills which brought three different countries to the winning throne in Davis Cup competition.”

    “He started practicing tennis in his native Split (Croatia) and the beginning wasn’t much promising because of the circumstances he faced. The first time (as a 13-year-old) holding the racket in his hand in 1953 when his good friend expressed a desire to try Nikola’s bike in exchange for the time he was able to try his racket. He loved this feeling of having a tennis racquet in his hand and continued more often to come to Firule(one of the most beautiful parts of Split, Croatia), especially when he managed to save money and buy himself an 11 years old racket. Firule,with only two tennis courts, and a priority for their use for their members (recreational players), so often Nikola had no place to practice. In addition, there was no sparring partner, not even tennis coaches who would help him improve his tennis skills. At home he had no ally in his father who wanted for his son to continue to study to become an engineer or to continue the family tradition – being a butcher. Often later Nikola repeated that it had been more difficult to convince his father to allow him to play tennis than to win a big tennis tournament. Yet ,despite all the difficulties, but with great enthusiasm he managed to become one of the best players in former Yugoslavia and those initial obstacles remained deeply engraved in his memory and helped him to develop perseverance and discipline and made it easier to handle all challenges that later imposed a life of a tennis professional.”

    “Once, many years ago, while we were sitting in his restaurant of his newly opened tennis Academy near Munich, when Mr. Pilic noticed through the window that was separating us from indoor courts, that a group of players were fooling around. He apologized, took off his jacket, took off his shoes at the entrance to the hall, grabbed the racket from one of the coaches, and said to the most mischievous among the players to stay on the base line, and hit the ball to Mr.Pilic who was standing at the net. In those five minutes I witnessed the most accurate volleys possible and I saw the young player moving all over the place to get to the ball and hit it back. After finishing the drill, making no volley mistakes, Mr. Pilic returned to the table and said “The young one will be quiet for a while.” “You see, he continued,” all these kids are very talented, but to succeed in professional tennis requires a lot of elements, in addition to good coaching, a high level of confidence, sometimes luck with the draw, players must have a high level of self-discipline and to do a certain routine over and over when there is, or there is no desire for practice and to practice when no one is looking. “The fact that Mr. Pilic said is confirmed in the case of his most successful student Novak Djokovic, who besides his undisputed talent had also the discipline to prepare for competition or to have the discipline to execute the game plan itself. Not to mention that Novak’s dietary discipline has helped him to become and stay number one for a long time. It is known that Novak’s greatest treat after winning the Grand Slam was a – piece of chocolate! For Djokovic Pilic says that he was always been very coachable, and adds that Djokovic also had what it takes, in places that no coach can really reach, in the heart and in the head!”

    *Nikola Pilic And Novak Djokovic

    That the road was not always paved and safe in his game of tennis I learned more than 4 decades ago, when I was reading the book “Thorns on the white road ” where he describes his tennis career and and his travels around the world as a player, first as a junior and then as an amateur and in the end as a professional tennis player. And this third part of his interesting and rich career is what Nikola Pilic separates from the players of his time. As a very good player he was one of the ” handsome eight,” a group of players signed by Lamar Hunt in 1968 for the newly formed WCT (World Championship Tennis). The group was founded a year earlier by sports promoter David Dixon. WCT successfully existed till 1989 until the emergence of the ATP Tour in 1990. A number of tennis tournaments around the world were affiliated with the WCT and players were ranked in special WTC ranking according to their results in those tournaments.”

    “As his highest achievement in professional tennis career, Pilic stands out at first when he won in 1970 the mens’ doubles title at the US Open together with his French partner Pierre Barthes, by defeating Australians John Newcombe and Rod Laver in four sets. His best singles performance at the Grand Slam tournament came in 1973 when he reached the final of the French Open but lost to Ilie Nastase in three sets. Pilic says that he paid the price to his personal disorganization and passivity and learned a great lesson that he later used in his coaching. The eve of the finals with Nastase in Paris, it was raining for three days, and while Nastase (who lived in France at that time) went to train 20 kilometers south of Paris, where the weather was still dry, Nikola Pilic has simply spent his time in Paris waiting for rain to stop. When the match finally began, the clay court was damp and heavy to play, Pilic was out of playing rhythm and match result is well known. Later, the experience of that unpleasant episode was certainly installed in his tennis coaching philosophy , which the part of that I realized immediately upon arrival at his tennis academy where young players were practicing almost military discipline and also the way of thinking to always be ready to fight. Daily training plan was hung at 7 am at the door of his office. The duty of the players was to inform them self about the training schedule for the day and to get ready for the practice. Sometimes, the first thing in the morning was conditioning, sometimes- technical training, the next day according to plan – nothing until the afternoon. Everyday’s plan was different ,so the player had to organize his free time on his own. By imitating the way how everything works: unexpected situations with travel and tournament schedule, weather delays etc, coach Pilic was trying to implement that element of flexibilities into his player’s DNA, which later helped making their carriers less stressful.”

    “Pilic Sveto Visnja Players

    One event that took place right after that the French Open tournament in 1973, showed the determination and the unity in young organizations of Tennis Professionals, and also showed how Nikola Pilic was respected among his colleagues. Virtually all the world top male players (81 of them), boycotted the most prestigious Grand Slam tournament-Wimbledon, and the reason was to support Niki Pilic who was suspended by Yugoslavian tennis federation from playing in any tennis tournaments. Nikola Pilic the best Yugoslavian player at that time, decided to play (between French Open and Wimbledon)a professional tournament rather then to play Davis Cup tie in Zagreb,Croatia against New Zealand. Somehow “Kiwis” beat Yugoslavians (3: 2), and the Yugoslavian Tennis Federation blamed the whole thing on Niki Pilic not playing and they suspended him for the rest of the year. Wimbledon officials honored the suspension, but on the other side Association of Tennis Professionals decided to threaten a boycott over the right to play whenever and wherever they wanted. Some players did not go along with a boycott, and if you now ask Niki Pilic from the distance of over four decades, you would probably hear that the only reason those players played Wimbledon in 1973 was because they saw the opportunity to win in the most popular event in the sport.”

    “Upon termination of his playing career in 1978, and the age of 39, Pilic, after pausing for a few years (till 1982)he started his successful coaching career. Many agree that the period of his tennis career surpassed what he did as a player. He became the first coach to have won the Davis Cup with three different nations: Germany (1988,1989,1993), native Croatia (2005), and as consultant coach for the Serbian Davis Cup team (2010) which gave him a fifth victory. That’s why he is also known as “The DavisCup Man.” Also impressive is the fact that the coach Pilic during his tennis career of over 30 years has managed to “throw” more than 40 players into the top 100 on the professional list. His world famous tennis Academy near Munich,Germany was founded in 1997 and was put on the map when a young talented player form Serbia, Novak Djokovic made his name on the ATP Tour. Novak Djokovic often mentioned in his interviews coach Jelena Gencic as his tennis mother and Nikola Pilic as his tennis father. For all its merits in the development and advancement of tennis in Germany, Pilic is the only one of 11,700 other German coaches which owns the title of “Master Coach” of which he is very proud.”


  • Scoop Malinowski · November 26, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Hartt, I’m going to propose a plan for the USTA to clone Borfiga, Davin, Gencic, Stefanki, Hopman, Peter Lundgren and Brad Gilbert. Taking DNA from each and creating an all time super coach and then install him as USTA president of player development. USA will rule tennis again 🙂

  • Hartt · November 26, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    For whatever reason, Dancevic did not get the results you’d expect from a player with his talent. Some experts said he did not work hard enough when he was in his prime.

    Unfortunately, Bester and Polansky never graduated from the journeyman category. And Peliwo has been the perfect example of why we shouldn’t put too much emphasis on a junior’s results.

    In the interview Borfiga did make reference to Raonic’s influence.

    “Then we had the good fortune to have players like Milos and Eugenie and Vasek who had that (ambition) in themselves. That allowed us to bring along the other generations by changing their mindsets.
    . . .
    And there are more and more parents who want their kids to play – and that’s thanks to the results of the best players. When you have people like Milos and now Denis and Félix, they’ll attract young kids.”

  • Hartt · November 26, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    Scoop, sounds like a plan!

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Hartt, Dancevic had a decent career. I think he “should” have done better given his talent, but he also played a conventional tennis game, no surprises for opponents so it may have been easy to scout him. However he also had a fairly big one two punch, so it’s surprising that didn’t work better for him.

    Agreed on Vasek Pops, Raonic, Bouchard, they were clear examples of “if they can do it you can too.” I think if players don’t have examples it’s tough. I don’t think Canadian players with talent necessarily look at Dancevic as someone to copy or admire, even though as a junior Dancevic was a pretty explosive player at age sixteen! I think I caught him at sixteen, seventeen, and he made the big Swedish guy (Robin Soderling!) look slow. Soderling hit a big ball even then but Dancevic was about fifty percent better and much faster, hit just as hard, better strategist.

    Never saw Dancevic play that well again.

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    Scoop, I worry with the emphasis on great players we lose what went into that. There’s the heart of these players or their merciless souls, tigers all of them, but there’s also the people that sharpened up their game. Djokovic says this over and over. Agassi groundstrokes weren’t learned in the mirror. The Sampras mentality is from Sampras, but the fact he could hit the same shot four thousand times in a row speaks to other influences.

    There’s a big fat elephant in the room when it comes to the Williams, Capriati, Seles, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and any player of merit. Beyond the incredible competitiveness of these players, who would play people in checkers until they won hundreds of times in a row, there are the other people that taught them and gave them the skills so that their merciless nature had arms and legs etc.

    There’s no Djokovic without a Gencic. There’s just a kid with athletic parents.

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    Djokovic, rom Sveto Matovic from Niki Pilic: ““The fact that Mr. Pilic said is confirmed in the case of his most successful student Novak Djokovic, who besides his undisputed talent had also the discipline to prepare for competition or to have the discipline to execute the game plan itself. Not to mention that Novak’s dietary discipline has helped him to become and stay number one for a long time. It is known that Novak’s greatest treat after winning the Grand Slam was a – piece of chocolate! For Djokovic Pilic says that he was always been very coachable, and adds that Djokovic also had what it takes, in places that no coach can really reach, in the heart and in the head!”

  • Hartt · November 26, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    Andrew, the best I’ve ever seen Frank Dancevic play was the DC match vs Granollers a few years ago, when Frank was totally in the zone, could do no wrong. The Canadian fans were yelling “Frank the Tank” and even a guy with the Spanish team applauded him. There are few matches I remember so clearly.

    Frank must be thrilled with what he sees from the Canadian DC team. Rafa has given the team high praise, saying it is going to be tough to beat them over the next few years.

    But, although it is certainly true that the great players needed to be nourished by coaches, etc., they also have something that sets them apart. Rafa said of Denis: “He is special. he has a lot of things you can’t practice, either you have it or you don’t. And he has it.”

  • catherine · November 26, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    No Hopman Cup to look forward to in 2020 but the WTA Brisbane tournament will feature Barty, Pliskova, Osaka, Kvitova, Bertens, Kerber, Venus Williams, Svitolina and others hoping to acclimatise to the heat before the AO.
    New event in Adelaide as well.

    This is Barty’s home tournament – two years ago she lost in the 1st round and now she comes in as No 1.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 26, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    Hartt, Frank told me about that Granollers match in Davis Cup this year in Savannah, said he just blasted Granollers off the court. Best he ever played. He had very nice skills and form, nice player some very good results. A lot of struggling results too though.

  • Hartt · November 26, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    Scoop, it would be fun to hear Frank talk about that match. Indeed, he did “blast” Grenollers off the court. Grenollers was not a happy camper, and complained about the noise the Canadian fans were making, but they were just a normal DC crowd. If that is the worst he has experienced in a DC tie he has lived a charmed life.

  • Hartt · November 26, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    Catherine, the Brisbane tourney looks interesting. I think there are ATP Cup matches being played there at the same time, so I hope the women don’t get pushed aside for the men in terms of courts, etc.

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    Please forgive me Hartt for going to town on a pet peeve of mine when it comes to players talking about other players.

    If I had a $1 for every time I heard the phrase so and so is special… I’d own a tournament.

    Talent is as common as dirt. The Gencic quote said if you don’t know every possible angle it’s going to be tough to be a champion. What a good, epic coach.

    The reason Shapo isn’t Dancevic is easy: Youzhny, other coaches, rigor, practice. Federer didn’t go to Davis Cup because he’s in the middle of wherever he is practicing shots to take out the next gen if they play in Melbourne.

    I like Shapo a lot and he seems like a good guy. I like what I hear about Felix AA practicing after matches. I like what I hear about Andreescu taking nothing for granted. Those are all the kinds of stories that point out that many players hit a good ball. But if it’s not good enough you’re going to lose matches you otherwise would have chances to win going away.

    Scoop’s quote on the Djokovic shot in US Open 2010 was unreal. Djokovic had practiced that crazy shot thousands of times. And was developing an array of new ones to handle the next generation of players.

    These guys are sick puppies. But they are great and their greatness is hard won.

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    Jon King have you studied Gencic? I think you’d like her. She looked at player development in a healthy way.

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 9:03 pm

    Dancevic played inspired tennis in Indianapolis in 2007. I thought that tournament would boost him (frankly no pun intended I thought Dancevic would have been well on his way before 2007 – he was very promising in 2001. Still amazed he won the qualies match I caught).

  • Hartt · November 26, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    I just finished listening to an interview with Michael Joyce on the Under Review podcast with Craig Shapiro. Joyce is currently coaching Timea Babos.

    He discusses some of the things we talk about here, including the coaching carousel on the WTA, and it is interesting to hear from someone who is in the thick of things. He said he likes to have at least 2 years with a player. He started working with Babos after the coaching gig with Bouchard ended. He liked Babos immediately, but they are still on a week to week basis. He felt that the women players absolutely had to have a coach – any longer than a week or two without one and they were in big trouble. Although he did say that Babos didn’t need one for doubles, just singles.

    He discussed his own career as a player as well as his experiences as a coach.

    Then I found an earlier podcast with Bianca, taped at the beginning of this year’s USO. Much of it is not new, but a few things stood out. She said her worst match was in the qualies of this year’s AO, where she lost badly; it was as though she’d forgotten how to play tennis. In a quickfire round of questions, asked about on-court coaching she said “no.” Her toughest opponent was Kasatkina because Dasha was like her with so much variety.

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