Patrick Mouratoglou, the man who creates champions

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This article is published in issue 28/29 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until July 19, 2022

His face is marked by an American actor, one of those accustomed to playing characters who have lived a life of excess and found redemption only at the end. The unkempt beard, the lean physique and two turquoise eyes that illuminate his tanned face. In sport there are not many figures like him. Perhaps Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics in basketball and a little’ José Mourinho in football. But nothing more. Because Patrick MouratoglouFrench of Greek origins, is not alone the most famous tennis coach in the worldhe is also a successful entrepreneur, a guru adored by his pupils who dream of a day to tread the fields of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, and a cast testimonials (Zenith, of which he is an ambassador, even dedicated a watch to him with the name Defychallenge).

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His Tennis Academycreated in Biot, a few kilometers from the white and glamorous beaches of Cannes, is a paradise for those who love smash and volley. Here they come from all over the world with one thought: to become champions. How Ksenia, a twelve year old Russian blonde, followed like a shadow by mother Julia. Since she was in kindergarten, the little girl has only one thing in mind: to become number one by the age of 16. To most she might seem crazy, but no one here looks at her like crazy. On the contrary. Then, there is Mael, 11, arrived on the French Riviera from New Caledonia together with dad who eats it with his eyes. Petite, big eyes, with the height just over the net tape, but hits the forehand like a pro circuit champion. And there is Clervie, 15, African American and a personality so overflowing as to push Uncle Patrick himself to predict a future for her both in tennis and in politics (“Shall we bet he will become president of the United States?”, he says smiling). Mouratoglou if there pamper everyone like children. Exactly how he pampered himself for ten years Serena Williams, transformed into the most extraordinary tennis player ever seen in a pitch. For her, this 52-year-old Parisian from a good family who dreamed of becoming a tennis player against the wishes of her parents was a bit of everything: coach, sparring partner, life partner, spiritual guide, lifeline. That is why Mouratoglou in the environment is considered a legend. A kind of king Midas that turns what it touches into gold.

Today his team includes, among others, Stefanos Tsitsipasserious candidate for the position of number one in the world, 18-year-old Coco Gauffa recent finalist in Paris who many refer to – not doing her a great favor – the new Williams, e the former number one in the women’s ranking, Simona Halep. It seems like an idyll. Yet, despite the incredible string of successes (with Serena he won ten Grand Slams), Patrick’s life has been anything but downhill. To make his life hell, since he was a child, a shyness bordering on the pathological, panic attacks and exhausting sessions by the psychologist without ever saying a word. It is he himself who tells it. “As a child,” he says, “I was terrified of people. In order not to have to talk to her, I tried to avoid it. The silence then terrified me ».

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Patrick Mouratoglou with Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2019.

Tim Clayton – Corbis / Getty Images

How did a chronic introvert like you transform into one of the most influential coaches of the modern era?
“It was a catharsis. A great weakness that turns into a great strength. Being alone, away from everyone, I learned to observe people. To study the expressions, the single movements of the face, the grimaces. Gradually it is as if a world had opened up to me ».

Who is Patrick Mouratoglou today?
“A coach who takes care of tennis players, who have insecurities like all human beings”.

What is talent?
“A trap. Because those with it often forget that to be successful they always have to work hard. There are no shortcuts ».

Nadal said there is never a sense of humor in defeat. Do you share?
“Yup. My job is to make people win, there is nothing to laugh about when you lose. But sometimes a defeat can become an opportunity to grow. But it rarely happens, only when the loser is able to take responsibility. Very few do it. “

And what relationship do you have with defeat?
“Optimal. And he wants to know why? Because I’ve learned never to make excuses. It always depends on us. Both when we win and when we lose. Our responsibility is always ours. This is the first step to grow, in tennis and in life ».

A Tennis Academy in France, two centers in Greece and Dubai, various investments around the world. What do you respond to those who say that he is better as an entrepreneur than as a coach?
“Everyone says what they want, but ultimately the results count. And mine are there available to everyone ».

Many argue that he is more famous than the champions he trains …
“In some cases it is true, in others it is not. For example, I’m certainly no more famous than Serena ».

By the way, is there an anecdote about her that she never told?
“Yup. There is one that reveals her frightening level of self-esteem. She was eight months pregnant and she was due to give birth in September. She one day she calls me and asks me to find someone to train with that same month. I tell her: “Hey, but you give birth in September”. And she: “So what?” And I: “You can’t train”. Serena strikes me and says: “Don’t you dare underestimate me” ».

Why haven’t you and Federer given up yet at the age of 40?
“For two reasons: first, because it is difficult to give up. Second, because they are sure they can win again ».

Train men and women. What is their main difference?
“Women are very emotional, but they also have a good relationship with their emotions. They put them on the table without fear. Men, on the other hand, are more proud. They hide, they try to cover the moods. They are two different galaxies ».

Federer or Nadal?
“Federer”.

Who will win Wimbledon?
“Not Federer. Maybe Djokovic. The writer Martin Amis said that “tennis is the most perfect combination of athleticism, art, power, style” ».

Is this sport art?
“In a certain way, yes. Because it is harmonious and complex. It is the meeting point where technique, tactics, brain and body meet. If you modify only one of these components, it will skip everything ».

Who will take the place of the various Federers, Nadal and Djokovic?
“Sinner, Tsitsipas and Alcaraz”.

What do you hate about tennis today?
«Business at all costs. I love the game, not the freak behind it ».

Do you remember what poster he had in his bedroom as a child?
“Borg’s. But I wasn’t that much of a child. “

He is a Zenith ambassador. The claim of the Swiss maison is Time to Reach Your Star. Did you find her?
“Yup. In life I have achieved more than I expected. That doesn’t mean he’s not hungry yet. I always have stars I want to reach. That’s why I have been doing this job for 25 years ».

How would you like to be remembered?
“As someone who has helped others to fulfill their dreams.”

Is there a question you expected that I haven’t asked yet?
«I was expecting something about your tennis players. You have an extraordinary generation. Sooner or later the Italian journalists always ask you a question like this ».

Okay, so I’ll do it too: who do you think is the best of ours?
“Sinner. He has incredible potential. Berrettini is getting the best results but in the long run it will be the South Tyrolean who explodes. You have to know how to wait. In the end he too will find his star and it will be the brightest of all ». Trust me.

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Source: Vanity Fair

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