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Rediff.com  » Sports » Game, set, match: high-profile tennis partnerships

Game, set, match: high-profile tennis partnerships

Last updated on: January 9, 2012 08:33 IST

Game, set, match: high-profile tennis partnerships

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Bikash Mohapatra

With Ivan Lendl teaming with Andy Murray, Bikash Mohapatra takes a look at tennis players who made the perfect transition to coaching.

For tennis aficionados it is something to look forward to. Going strictly on face value, it seems a perfect combination.

One of the two happens to be a legend of the game, a former world No.1 who has to his credit a whopping 94 ATP titles, including eight majors.

The other is one of the most promising young players on the tour who, at the moment, seems capable of winning everything save a Grand Slam.

And that is probably something that made Ivan Lendl accept Andy Murray's proposal to be his coach, the challenge to make the Scot win that elusive Grand Slam title.


Photographs: Getty Images

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Murray ensures perfect start for Lendl

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Lendl, a veteran of 19 major finals, is, without doubt, the best person to help Murray end his drought. The Scot, on his part, has ensured the Czech-born American a perfect start to his new assignment by comprehensively winning the Brisbane International on Sunday.

While the upcoming Australian Open will be the first big challenge for Lendl and his ward (a finalist in Melbourne in the last two years), it will be exciting to see what the duo will do at Wimbledon in six months time.

While Murray remains under pressure to be the first Briton to win the coveted All England title since 1936, the grass court tourney also is the lone major trophy missing from Lendl's cabinet.

For the moment, though, Lendl, courtesy Murray's triumph in Brisbane, has had a winning start to his coaching career. In the coming days, the 51-year-old will attempt to join the selective coterie of successful players who had an equally successful (or probably better) coaching career. Rediff.com takes a look at a few such names who made a perfect transition.


Photographs: Getty Images

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Tony Roche

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He is the man who coached Ivan Lendl to greatness.

Tony Roche won the 1966 French Open and reached five other major singles finals. However, it was in doubles that he found his true calling.

The Australian won a whopping 13 major doubles titles -- five each at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, twice at the French Open and once at the US Open, all but one in partnership with compatriot John Newcombe.

After hanging up his racket, Roche went on to establish himself as a high-profile coach, his client list included names like Lendl, Patrick Rafter, Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt and Jelena Dokic.

However, it was his partnership with Lendl, coming in the wake of the player losing four straight major finals, which proved to be the most productive.

The Lendl -- Murray partnership has similar tones considering the Scotsman has lost all his three major finals.


Photographs: Getty Images

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Ion Tiriac

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Ion Tiriac is a multi-faceted personality in a true sense of the term.

A successful ice hockey player-turned-tennis-player-turned-coach-turned-manager-turned-promoter-turned-entrepreneur-turned billionaire.

The Romanian was a fairly successful player, winning over 40 international titles, most notably the men's doubles title -- with compatriot Ilie Nastase -- at the 1970 French Open and playing in over 150 games in Davis Cup as Romania made three straight finals in the early 1970s.

After retirement, Tiriac went on to coach eminent players like Nastase, Guillermo Villas, Henri Leconte, Boris Becker, Mary Joe Fernandez, Anke Huber and Goran Ivanisevic to varying degrees of success.

At present the veteran owns two ATP tournaments, played in Bucharest and Madrid respectively.

For the record, he was the first Romanian to make it to the Forbes' list of world's richest people.


Photographs: Getty Images

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Paul Annacone

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The name is synonymous with the success of a certain Pete Sampras.

Annacone and Sampras joined forces in January 1995 and worked together till the end of 2001 and we need not mention what the latter won during the period. Annacone also coached Tim Henman for a brief period.

While his achievements as a coach are well-known, not many are aware he was a fairly competitive player.

Annacone won three singles titles, achieved a career best ranking of No. 12 (in 1985) and also pocked 14 titles in doubles (where he was ranked No.3 in 1987), including the 1985 Australian Open.

In Ausust 2010, Roger Federer hired Annacone to be his full-time coach and the American has led the Swiss to the world titles in the last two years.


Photographs: Getty Images

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Brad Gilbert

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A formidable player in the 1980s, with 20 ATP singles titles in 40 final appearances and a career-best ranking of No.4 (in 1990), Brad Gilbert became more famous as a coach

Gilbert's resume as a coach includes high-profile clients such as Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray.

The American coached compatriot Agassi for eight years (from 1994 to 2002) and the latter won six of his eight majors in the period, describing Gilbert as 'the greatest coach of all time'.

In June 2003, Gilbert took Andy Roddick under his tutelage and helped him the US Open that year -- it remains Roddick's lone major success -- while also helping him end the year as the No.1 player. The duo parted ways in December 2004, but before Roddick had reached his second Wimbledon final.

Thereafter, Gilbert worked with Murray with comparatively lesser success. In August 2008, the American admitted not knowing the Scot personally before affected the professional tie-up that ended prematurely.


Photographs: Getty Images

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Mats Wilander

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A former World No.1 and winner of eight major titles (seven in singles), Mats Wilander has also coached the likes of Marat Safin, Wayne Ferreira, Tatiana Golovin and Paul-Henri Mathieu.

The Swede's partnership with Safin was the most talked about of the lot. The Russian had had a supremely successful 2000, highlighted with the US Open triumph, but had also made the headlines for breaking his rackets.

To replicate the success of 2000 proved to be a tough ask, with Safin winning just twice in 2001 (as compared to seven times the previous year). However, Wilander was able to control the Russian's habit of breaking rackets.

The Swede introduced a $100 penalty per breakage and the rate subsequently decreased. The partnership ended earlier than expected largely due to the Swede's inability to travel with the Russian on a regular basis.

However, Wilander's comments a few years later, about Dinara Safina's inability to win majors, ensured Safin jumped to his sister's defence.

"We worked together for a year and I think he (Wilander) should at least show my family some respect," the Russian was quoted as saying.


Image: Mat Wilander (extreme right)
Photographs: Getty Images

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Jimmy Connors

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This is probably the most high-profile of all partnerships.

In July 2006, Andy Roddick announced his partnership with the legendary Jimmy Connors.

The decision came in at the right time for Roddick, who had earlier in the month suffered a shocking third round loss at Wimbledon, one had caused his ranking to drop below the top 10 for the first time since 2002.

Under Connors' tutelage, Roddick started his resurgence, reaching the final of Indianapolis in his first event with his new coach and winning the lucrative Cincinnati Masters. Roddick also reached the final of the US Open that year (losing to Roger Federer).

Despite of being plagued by a series of injuries in the subsequent year, Roddick managed to pocked title wins at the Queen's Club (London) and Washington, DC and helped the US team win their 32nd Davis Cup title.

The American started 2008 strongly, winning titles in San Jose and Dubai. However, en route to the Dubai triumph he announced the end of his 19-month partnership with Connors, one that promised a lot, delivered some but was not let to blossom.

Here's hoping the Lendl -- Murray combination will get enough time to make a mark.


Photographs: Getty Images

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