Saturday, March 14, 2009

Changing coaches as priorities change

Though both are outstanding professional tennis players, Andy Roddick and James Blake (who have 37 titles between them) "have taken a radically different approach when it comes to the voice in their ears."

Over nine years, Roddick's "engaged no less than seven coaches on a part- or full-time basis. Blake, who spent two years at Harvard before jumping to the pros in 1999, has had one."

In fact, the 29-year-old Blake has had the same coach since he was 11 years old.

"I've always said about tennis, it's a very individual sport," 13th-ranked Blake said in a conference call last month. "What works for one will never work for another. For me, I would not be nearly as successful with someone that didn't know me as a person, and know my strengths and weaknesses on the court. I credit him with making me the best player I can possibly be, and absolutely maximizing my potential. We are going to be friends for life, that's not even a question."

According to this article, "Blake is much more the exception than the rule. Most players switch coaches throughout their playing days as priorities change and relationships become stale."

Unlike Blake (at right in photo above), Roddick, 26, "likes to pick the brain of some of game's best minds, and it has often paid quick dividends."

"There's been a couple of times in my career where it's really jump-started my playing just by having a fresh voice," Roddick says. The downside is the getting-to-know-you process, along with periods of transition. "Obviously, continuity is a good thing, and there have certainly been times where I've been without someone or in transition and you're just kind of trying to make due."

Blake contends it's simply a personal preference and that one style doesn't fit all.

"If he had the same coach the whole time he wouldn't be as good as he is," said Blake of Roddick. "If I had changed coaches, the way he has, I wouldn't be as good."