Taylor navigating “tough” women’s coaching landscape

Published by Matt Trollope

David Taylor will begin working with Australia's Daria Gavrilova during the European clay-court season (Getty Images)
With players rotating through more coaches on the women’s tour than perhaps ever before, veteran Australian coach David Taylor says it is a tricky environment in which to work.

David Taylor admits he does not like the current climate of high player-coach turnover in the women’s game.

The Australian, who will start coaching compatriot Daria Gavrilova in the clay-court season, has worked with four different players – Naomi Osaka, Jelena Ostapenko, Madison Keys and Elise Mertens – since September 2016.

He is not the only coach to recently part ways with players after short periods.

Osaka and Sascha Bajin separated after 13 months, despite winning two Grand Slam titles together. Angelique Kerber and Wim Fissette didn’t even last a year together, despite Kerber winning Wimbledon last year during their partnership. Daria Kasatkina split with Philippe Dehaes, who helped guide her to the top 10, after 16 months. Keys and Mertens have worked with multiple coaches during the past 12 months.

Meanwhile, a rash of partnerships ended in late 2018: Simona Halep and Darren Cahill, Sloane Stephens and Kamau Murray, Venus Williams and David Witt, Sam Stosur and Josh Eagle. These relationships, it must be noted, lasted several years.

Yet Halep’s new arrangement with Thierry Van Cleemput lasted just one week in February.

“The women’s tennis tour for a coach, even at a very high level, is a very difficult environment at the moment. There’s just so many changes,” Taylor told Tennismash.

“It’s tough, to be honest, because coaching normally is repeating a movement or tactic or technique under pressure over a period of time; that’s a big part of it. You’re now just sometimes lacking the ‘over time’ bit.

“You’re not going to see quick results – and even if you do it’s probably not so much the coach anyway (laughter).

“For someone like myself, who had very long-term jobs with almost everyone up until the last few years, yeah, I’m part of that trend.”

Taylor coached Stosur for six years, and also coached another Australian top-10 star, Alicia Molik, for several years before that.

But his time working with Molik came back in the early to mid 2000s, and by the time he finished up with Stosur in June 2016, the landscape had already begun to change.

“Prize money has increased dramatically in women’s tennis in the last five to 10 years. And I really think there’s a lot more vested interests in the women’s game. I think that’s got a big part to do with the change,” he observed.

“There are a lot more other people involved: parents, managers, federations, whatever. There’s a lot of external influences (on a player) that probably weren’t there before, because there’s more money involved.

“What used to happen was top players kept their coaches a long time, because they were having success. But now the top players are really changing quickly now, especially when they’re having success, which is hard to understand.

“I don’t like it – I’m someone who’s quite structured and likes stability. So for me it’s a tough environment to work in now.”

RANKINGS WATCH: Halep under pressure on clay

Taylor recognises that a change in a player’s coaching set-up can sometimes be a good – or even necessary – thing.

He adds that, on more occasions than being asked to leave a coaching job, he has been the one who has ended the relationship.

“Probably players now aren’t taking as much responsibility for their results,” Taylor said. “I think the coach probably gets too much credit and too much blame.

“In all my experience over many years. I can see how I’ve really made a big impact on players, and then I can also see (players) where I didn’t have hardly any impact at all. It’s good having those experiences, because you don’t know that going in.

“There have got to be good decisions made by the coach choosing the player, and obviously the player choosing the coach. But once you have a good one, (you have to accept) that there are going to be ups and downs. The standard (of women’s tennis today) is so high, there’s not going to be a lot of clean sailing.”

Taylor will begin working with Gavrilova at her first WTA clay-court tournament of the year in Rabat.

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