The latest in the tennis coaching carousel

Published by Matt Trollope

Venus Williams (R) and David Witt train at Melbourne Park during Australian Open 2018; Getty Images
Struggling to keep up with developments as the coaching carousel cranks up again towards the end of the season? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.

Towards the end of each year, the firing and hiring of coaching staff – or often a more simple and amicable parting of ways – becomes the topic du jour in tennis.

This season is no different. So to keep up with it all, here’s a look at which players have recently made changes their coaching personnel.

Venus Williams
After 11 years, Venus decided to end her fruitful partnership with David Witt. Speaking to the New York Times, Witt admitted Williams’ decision came as a surprise. “When it happened, both of us were emotional about it,” he revealed. “After, you sit there and go: ‘Man, after 11 years, it’s over after a two-minute phone call. Wow. After 11 years.’ Part of you sits there and says that, and the other part says that it was a business decision, which I totally understand, and I respect her decision. I don’t even need to know why; it’s just her decision. It is what it is, and we had a great run, and nothing lasts forever.” After a resurgent season in 2017 when she reached the Australian Open and Wimbledon finals and returned to the top five, Williams fell sharply in 2018. She failed to clear the third round at any major tournament or reach a final of any kind, dipped outside the top 30 and did not play after the US Open. According to the same NYT article, Williams is also no longer working with hitting partner Jermaine Jenkins.

Lucas Pouille
Pouille announced former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Amelie Mauresmo as his coach, before Mauresmo then stepped down from her appointment as France’s Davis Cup captain. Pouille had previously worked with Emmanuel Planque for six years; that relationship ended in November and Planque has since linked up with French teenager Corentin Moutet. Mauresmo, meanwhile, famously guided Andy Murray for two years and has also worked with Michael Llodra and Marion Bartoli. She was France’s Fed Cup captain from 2013 to 2016.

Madison Keys
The American will team with Jim Madrigal in 2019, after working with Dieter Kindlmann and David Taylor this year. Madrigal was a former head coach of the Belmont University tennis team before guiding Tennys Sandgren to a career-best season in 2018. Keys has worked with a variety of coaches over the years, including Lindsay Davenport, Lisa Raymond, Jesse Levine and Thomas Hogstedt.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
The former world No.5 announced he would be adding Sergi Bruguera to his team for the 2019 season. “I look forward to being able to start working together and meet new challenges,” said Tsonga, in a translated version of his tweet. The Frenchman is currently ranked outside the world’s top 250, having returned to the tour in September after seven months away due to left knee surgery. He continues to work with Thierry Ascione as well. Bruguera, meanwhile, will also continue his role as Spanish Davis Cup captain.

Sam Stosur
The Australian revealed she would reunite with childhood coach Nick Watkins for the Australian summer in January. Stosur recently completed a two-week training block on the Gold Coast with Watkins and loved the experience. “We (Watkins and I) did a lot things on court obviously, we kind of went back to basics I guess in a lot of ways. Worked on a number of different things, I really enjoyed it,” she said. “We had breakfast on Sunday so I was like ‘so what do you reckon (about continuing)?” Earlier in November, Stosur parted ways with Josh Eagle, her coach of two years.

Simona Halep
After several fruitful years – the zenith being Halep’s victory at Roland Garros earlier this year – the Romanian and coach Darren Cahill will no longer work together. In what appears to be an entirely amicable parting of ways, Cahill wrote on Instagram: “After much thought and discussion, and many years with 30 plus weeks on the road away from my family, I’ve decided to take a 12 month break from coaching to be home more for support as our children enter important stages of their lives with the final year of high school, sports and college preparations all becoming more time consuming. I’d like to thank Simona for the last 4 amazing years.” Halep replied on Twitter: “I was lucky to have you and what a journey we had. Wishing you and your family nothing but the best and I’m sure I’ll see you soon!”

View this post on Instagram

I would like to announce that Simona and I will not be continuing our partnership in 2019 purely for family reasons on my part. . After much thought and discussion, and many years with 30 plus weeks on the road away from my family, I’ve decided to take a 12 month break from coaching to be home more for support as our children enter important stages of their lives with the final year of high school, sports and college preparations all becoming more time consuming. . I’d like to thank Simona for the last 4 amazing years. Her understanding, personality, work ethic, generosity and professionalism made it a pleasure to stand by her side as her coach. She’s a young woman of total class and someone I respect greatly which is something more important than any result achieved. . Basically, I had the dream job and I want to thank her for making it that way, and the opportunity to work with someone so talented and dedicated. . I wish Simo and her team nothing but continued success and I look forward to supporting her from the sidelines next year. . A special mention to Theo Cercel, Andrei Cristofor and Virginia Ruzici for all of the support, belief, friendship and great work through the years. . And finally, to the Romanian fans that show unwavering passion and support for their girl. You guys rock, seriously. Thanks for adopting this Aussie as one of your own for the last 4 years and making me feel welcome in your country. Mul?umesc ?? . I will continue to work with the ESPN team at the AO, Wimbledon & US Open tournaments in 2019. . Cheers, Darren

A post shared by Darren Cahill (@dc10s) on

Halep has since said she will start the 2019 season without a coach. “I thought about it and I will not have a coach in the following period. I want to go to some tournaments on my own and we’ll see how that goes,” the world No.1 told Romanian press.

Angelique Kerber
The Wimbledon champion will link up with fellow German Rainer Schuettler, the retired ATP player who reached the Australian Open 2003 final. As reported on WTA Insider, the former world No.5 will replace Wim Fissette, from whom Kerber separated before the WTA Finals after less than a year together. “I am really looking forward to the opportunity of working with Angelique during this phase of her career,” Schuettler said in a statement. “She has obviously shown what a great champion she is and I hope my experience can bring a fresh perspective to an already strong team.” In a statement re Fissette from Kerber’s management team translated by Germany’s Tennis Magazine, the split was “due to different views in regards to the future collaboration.” Added Kerber: “We were talking a lot. When you decide also like to not working anymore … if you know it (that’s) why I decide to split before (the WTA Finals). There were some details, but I don’t want to go too deep into the details.”

Belinda Bencic
Bencic has split with Slovakian coach Vladimir Platenik. Platenik, who previously coached Dominika Cibulkova and Daria Kasatkina, will be looking for a new partnership, while Bencic aims to build on a 2018 season that saw her move 128 ranking places to No.37.

Elina Svitolina
The Ukrainian has promoted hitting partner Andrew Bettles to be her new head coach after a career week at the WTA Finals. Bettles has been working as Svitolina’s main coach since she parted ways with Thierry Ascione after the US Open and worked briefly with Nick Saviano during the Asian swing. “I’m the kind of person that I like something fresh,” she said in Singapore. “I think we (Ascione and I) got a little bit stuck that moment. For me, was just, yeah, the time to move forward … the career is not that long.”

Victoria Azarenka
Azarenka has reunited with Wim Fissette, who last month split from Angelique Kerber (more on that below). Azarenka and Fisette were snapped together at the IMG Academy in Florida with revered coach Nick Bollettieri as Azarenka prepares for the 2019 season. She previously worked with Fissette from early 2015 until she became pregnant and stepped away from the tour in July 2016. At the beginning of 2018 Azarenka started working with US college tennis coach Slava Konikov and during the clay-court season linked up with Benjamin Ebrahimzadeh, who remains listed as her coach on the WTA website.

Kiki Bertens
Bertens has added former player and countrywoman Elise Tamaela as a part-time coach and travelling physio. Tamaela served as interim coach for Bertens’ during her title run in Charleston this year. Dutchman Raemon Sluiter will stay on as the world No.9’s full-time coach in 2019.

Maria Sakkari
Sakkari has hired Mark Petchey as her new coach for 2019. Petchey coached Andy Murray during his rise to the top 50 but more recently has been providing ATP analysis for BBC, Sky Sports and ITC.  Sakkari split with Thomas Johansson at the end of this season.

Johanna Konta
Former world No.4 Konta has locked up Dimitri Zavialoff – former coach to Swiss players Stan Wawrinka and Timea Bacsinszky – after recently separating from Michael Joyce. Following a first-round loss at the US Open, Konta said of Joyce: “I still definitely feel we’re doing good work. I think you need to give things time. I feel, yeah, happy with the relationship that we have.” Within six weeks, the relationship ended.

Dominic Thiem
The Austrian’s co-coach Galo Blanco has announced he will focus on his new role as part of the Davis Cup executive committee, and therefore cannot continue to work with Thiem. Blanco joined Thiem’s entourage in late 2017 to work alongside long-time coach Gunter Bresnik. “That’s a shame. That was a really good collaboration, but it does not work anymore. He can not go on tour with anyone,” said Thiem at the Vienna Open, in an interview translated from German. Thiem will continue to work with Bresnik, but admitted in the same interview he was looking for a new touring coach to replace Blanco.

Eugenie Bouchard
Meanwhile, the Canadian former top-five player has snapped up Joyce. Their first tournament together was last week’s WTA Luxembourg Open, where Bouchard started in the qualifying rounds and won six straight matches to reach the semifinals. Joyce is the fourth coach Bouchard has worked with in 2018.

Karolina Pliskova
Pliskova is one of the rare players showing faith in female coaches, revealing in Singapore she will keep working with Rennae Stubbs and Conchita Martinez in a co-coaching arrangement through the off-season and next year’s Australian summer circuit. Pliskova split with Czech coach Tomas Krupa at the start of the US summer and re-united with Stubbs, whom she worked with briefly in late 2017. Martinez came in for the US Open fortnight while Stubbs was unavailable.

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